This essay is a part of our collection Episodes, a bi-weekly column through which senior contributor Valerie Ettenhofer digs into the singular chapters of tv that make the medium nice. This entry revisits “I Stay Right here Now,” one of the crucial profound and stunning episodes of Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta’s collection The Leftovers.
There’s a saying that’s frequent in non secular circles: God doesn’t provide you with greater than you’ll be able to deal with. Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta’s punishing, rewarding, and near-perfect existential drama The Leftovers imagines precisely the alternative. What if, it asks, the next energy gave all of us greater than we may deal with each single day and left us to stay with it? What if we have been all Frankenstein’s monsters, created for some function however rapidly overwhelmed and remoted by the sheer drive of the world’s tragedies? How would we go on dwelling, and why?
If that sounds bleak, it’s as a result of it’s. The Leftovers breaks each rule of palatable storytelling throughout its three-part run, from the canine deaths of the pilot episode (RIP) to the darkish prolonged standalone sequences that kick off the second and third seasons. These big flashing narrative warning indicators do an efficient job scaring off anybody who isn’t able to deal with a present that’s this heavy, however the viewers who do stick round are rewarded with an audacious, awe-inspiring open-ended query of a narrative.
The Leftovers imbues the psychological dreaminess of The Sopranos with Misplaced’s twin cravings for spirituality and skepticism, in the end evolving into an excellent exploration of grief, despair, and all our different mortal discontents. The second season finale, “I Stay Right here Now,” boldly and vigorously explores all these colleges of thought and extra, and the result’s a profound, explosive hour of tv.
Miracle, Texas, is coming undone. The idyllic city of Jarden was refashioned into Miracle Nationwide Park in any case 9,261 residents managed to keep away from the seemingly randomized Rapture-like occasion referred to as “the Sudden Departure” that precipitated two % of the world’s inhabitants to fade. It was a peaceable place, each a sanctuary and a vacationer attraction till Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) and his household confirmed up. On his first evening on the town, Kevin went sleepwalking and threw himself right into a lake with a cinder block in tow. On the similar time, his neighbors’ teenage daughter, Evie (Jasmin Savoy Brown), vanished in a Departure-like occasion with two associates.
“I Stay Right here Now” opens with a genuinely stunning recap of the mysterious evening that jump-started the season, this time from Evie’s perspective. Evie and her associates didn’t vanish. They weren’t kidnapped. They left by selection, to affix the white-clad, cigarette-smoking silent cult referred to as The Responsible Remnant. The season’s central miraculous occasion — their disappearance — is a sham, and it’s one which Kevin witnessed whereas half-asleep.
In a lesser collection, this reveal would act to strip our religion within the present’s non secular thriller away, however in basic Lindelof style, it’s much more sophisticated than that. Evie could have faked her Departure, however Matt’s (Christopher Eccleston) spouse Mary (Janel Moloney) simply miraculously wakened from a years-long coma, and, oh yeah, Kevin Garvey was additionally simply resurrected from the useless. Kevin has simply undergone a harmful ritual to do away with the persistent spirit of Patti (Ann Dowd), the GR’s also-very-dead former chief. He rejoins the land of the dwelling simply in time for Evie’s dad, John (Kevin Carroll) to search out out that his fingerprints have been on Evie’s automotive the evening she vanished.
“I Stay Right here Now” is a grasp class in directing, enhancing, scoring, writing, and extra, however certainly one of its most emotional scenes is a results of unadorned, powerhouse performing from Carroll and Theroux. Their two characters, each protecting fathers and husbands, have had an more and more tense relationship all through the season. Neither appears stunned when Kevin turns into the prime suspect in Evie’s disappearance. John leads Kevin to the city’s animal shelter, the place the Garveys’ canine has been quarantined since they moved in. In between the cages, he confronts Kevin, who makes an attempt to elucidate his recovered reminiscence of Evie’s disappearance.
“I do know you don’t assume it may well occur right here, John, however it did,” Kevin says. He’s not speaking a few Departure, however about on a regular basis familial disconnect.
John’s barely holding on; lip trembling, eyes brimming with tears, he denies Kevin’s concept. Evie liked them, she says, so why would she do that?
“Possibly she didn’t,” Kevin says, his voice damaged with resignation.
“What?” John asks.
“Love you,” Kevin replies plainly.
His subsequent sentence is lower off by a gunshot. A lot of The Leftovers is concerning the line between what a human thoughts can imagine and what it may well’t, and what it appears prefer to proceed present when you’ve thought past that breaking level. John can’t imagine that Evie doesn’t love her household. That is his breaking level, He shoots Kevin within the intestine and leaves him to die.
At that very second, Evie herself is standing on the bridge that separates picture-perfect Miracle from the hippies and believers who camp exterior its borders in hopes of catching a touch of the city’s magic. Her arrival is epic and ominous, with slow-motion close-ups of her and her associates’ white cult sneakers saying their intent to explode the bridge. Liv Tyler’s Meg, the brand new de facto chief of the GR’s radical faction, tells park officers who ask her for a voucher: “I’ve 35 kilos of plastic explosive. Will that work?” A countdown clock begins, with an hour till the bomb goes off. Evie stands purposely within the line of fireside, her household forsaken for some inscrutable function. She’s on a suicide mission.
By the episode’s finish, Evie’s mom Erika (Regina King), her father John, and Kevin’s companion, Nora (Carrie Coon) can have every made their method throughout the bridge in moments which might be touching, overwhelming, and harrowing in flip. Every of those scenes on the bridge is astounding. Like a lot of The Leftovers, their that means is much less necessary than the sensation they evoke. Episode director Mimi Leder makes use of the identical silence that the Responsible Remnant has weaponized to focus our feelings through the moments when John and Erika first see Evie. We see John’s face, all love when he acknowledges her and mouths “my daughter.” We additionally see his face fall as he realizes the harmful circumstances surrounding her return. The sound rushes again and his voice breaks by as he screams her title. “What occurred?” he asks, uselessly.
This chapter of The Leftovers asks one query after one other, lots of them unanswerable and unfathomable. “Why are you doing this?” Erika asks when she sees Evie and runs to her at breakneck pace, passing the police barricade with no considered her personal security. She hugs her, however Evie is stiff and unresponsive, avoiding her eyes. What occurred to the world to make a younger lady need to die simply to remind others of their very own sorrow? The time period “a mom’s love” is nearly meaningless at this level, calling to thoughts the saccharine and nostalgic, however it’s simple in Regina King’s gut-wrenching efficiency. We see it in the way in which Erika continues to hug and converse to her daughter, even after it’s turn out to be clear that she gained’t get a solution, even because the seconds on the bomb timer tick down. We additionally see it when, moments later, in one of the crucial anxiety-inducing scenes I’ve ever watched stay, Nora makes use of her full physique to defend her adopted child from a stampede of campers who rush the bridge. The bomb by no means goes off, however we’re left gutted nonetheless.
There are a half-dozen completely different plots converging on this episode, every one a minor apocalypse of its personal. It doesn’t actually matter if the world is basically ending, Lindelof appears to be saying, as long as it looks like your world is ending. The mysteries of life and dying are greater than anyone individual, besides once they occur to you: then they’re precisely the dimensions of 1 individual. Living proof: whereas the bomb scare and stampede are underway, Kevin is dying once more. He wakes up within the lodge afterlife that he went by within the earlier episode, “Worldwide Murderer.” Final time, he needed to push a child-sized model of Patti right into a effectively in an effort to escape this non secular wormhole and make it again to earth. This time, in a testomony to the small, earnest moments that make up the incomprehensibly big factor we name life, he simply has to sing.
There are a half-dozen moments in “I Stay Right here Now” that carry me to tears, lots of them due to Max Richter’s string-heavy, emotionally uncooked rating. But it’s a testomony to the present’s unusual, rueful genius that the most important tear-jerking second of the season includes Kevin, in his outdated Mapleton Police getup, singing Simon and Garfunkel’s “Homeward Certain” off-key in a doubtlessly imaginary lodge restaurant.
Earlier than he hits the stage, he talks to a thriller man and makes his case for not staying useless. “Why must you return?” the person asks.
Kevin begins to make excuses, however quickly solutions, “As a result of I should.”
He could as effectively be saying that it’s as a result of he needs to. After two seasons spent wading by grief and concern and disgrace and rage, he has individuals to stay for. He places all of his will to stay into this shaky, tearful rendition of “Homeward Certain.” Flashes of his life go by in tandem with the lyrics. Kevin is confronted with the possibility to see what occurs once we go away the earth, to know the thriller that has sat like a weight on his household’s shoulders for years, however now he lastly cares extra about how he needs to stay.
The ultimate scene of The Leftovers’ second season completely exemplifies every little thing the present is. It’s an unlimited chasm, common, however it’s additionally acutely private. Kevin wakes up once more. John, having discovered Evie and decided Kevin’s innocence, helps sew his blood-soaked neighbor up on the city’s clinic. He cries as he does it.
“I don’t perceive what’s taking place,” John says.
“Me neither,” Kevin replies. Their earlier face-off was all frayed nervousness and machismo, however now there’s a palpable sense of catharsis.
The 2 attain their respective homes and prepare to half methods. A piano cowl of The Pixies’ “The place is My Thoughts,” already acquainted from the primary season, resonates by the scene. The “Welcome to Miracle” signal is burning on the bottom, the city overrun by outsiders. John appears nervously at his personal entrance door.
“What if there’s no person residence?” John asks, in a second of shattering vulnerability.
“Then you definitely come over to my home,” Kevin solutions with out hesitation. They share a weary wave goodnight.
When Kevin opens the door, his entire household is inside. It’s the ecstatic reverse of the profound loneliness that has pushed every character up till this level. The digital camera pans throughout each damaged, lovely individual in Kevin’s life.
How can we go on dwelling? With one another, after all.