[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from the Season 2 finale of HBO's The Leftovers. Read at your own risk.]
Home is where the heart is, even on The Leftovers.
That old adage might seem too quaint for a show as unique and challenging as this, but for the second time in as many seasons, that was the note on which the HBO drama ended. On Sunday's Season 2 finale, Kevin (Justin Theroux) pulled himself out of the ground following his stint as an international assassin on "the other side," and when he came back to life, he remembered something significant: He saw Evie Murphy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and her friends fake their "departure" the night he jumped into the lake with a cinder block tied to his ankle. (Of course, viewers learned the girls were alive and well -- and part of a new Guilty Remnant chapter led by Meg [Liv Tyler] -- in the previous episode.)
However, Kevin's sudden memory of the events comes a little too late, because Evie's father John (Kevin Carroll) also learns it was Kevin's handprint on the girls' car, and he believes Kevin has been lying all along. Of course, when Kevin explains that he just remembered after his miraculous resurrection, John, skeptical as always, doesn't exactly know what to make of Kevin's story. (Let's not forget who coined the phrase, "There are no miracles in Miracle.") When Kevin offers proof of his story -- he tells John he knows what Virgil did to him as a boy -- John becomes enraged. So much so that when Kevin, as a way of explaining why Evie would possibly fake her own departure and hurt the family she loves so much, says that maybe Evie didn't love them, John shoots Kevin point blank and leaves him to die.
Meanwhile, of course, Meg puts her plan into action. She crashes her truck and trailer through the guard gates and parks on the middle of the bridge into Jarden with 35 pounds of plastic explosives. (Or so she claims.) Although Meg is arrested, Evie and her friends eventually step out of the trailer, revealing themselves to the townspeople and starting a one-hour countdown, presumably toward a devastating explosion. John is relieved to see his daughter is, indeed, still in Jarden, but he's troubled to realize that perhaps Kevin is right. When John finds Erika (Regina King), she barrels past the park rangers and attempts to hug her daughter, who remains cold and distant. Erika vows to stay and be blown up as well, but as the clock winds down, she discovers the trailer is empty. There will be no explosion.
Instead, when the countdown clock reaches zero, many of the crazies camping just outside of town strip down and reveal themselves to also be part of the Guilty Remnant. They then storm the bridge, which leads the entire mob of onlookers to take their chance to also make it into the magical city. And pretty soon, the place is a madhouse. Signs are destroyed and set on fire, the streets are filled with revelers who sing and dance and have sex. Meg's plan seems to simply be proving that Jarden is no longer protected from the outside world. They have not been spared.
But that's a determination John and Erika's son Michael (Jovan Adepo) had already made for himself long ago. He interrupts a church service remembering the Great Departure four years prior to tell his mother's favorite story about the time Evie and Michael flooded the bathroom just to see what would happen. But Michael says he did it for a different reason - he did it to protect his mom from knowing how sad he and his sister were that his father was in prison and why he had done wha he didt. As he says, "Nobody disappeared from here on Oct. 14 four years ago, one departed that day, but they did before and after. We are the 9,261, but we are not spared." Perhaps those feelings remain in Evie to this day, and perhaps that explains why she agreed to be a part of Meg's plans.
But "perhaps" is the best we can do because, as always, The Leftovers isn't concerned about answers. Just as the Guilty Remnant makes a case that Jarden is a fraud, that it's just like any other place, Matt (Christopher Eccleston) seems to have his faith in the town rewarded because his wife Mary (Janel Moloney) finally wakes out of her vegetative state, this time seemingly more permanently than the night she and Matt were able to conceive. So, do miracles happen in Miracle?
Even John Murphy is eventually forced to reconsider his stance. After Kevin has a second (abbreviated) stay at Hotel Afterlife -- he earns his way back this time not by drowning someone, but by singing karaoke to Simon and Garfunkel's "Homeward Bound" -- he wakes up from certain death to realize the bullet went straight through him. He makes his way through the disaster of Jarden to the urgent care, where he is too weak to patch himself up. Fortunately, John shows up and, despite his bafflement that Kevin is alive, he accepts that miracles do happen and fixes Kevin up, and the two men go home. But after having his whole world turned upside down, John is afraid to go inside.
"What if there's nobody home?" John asks. Again, we don't get that answer. But we have to know that Kevin, who tells John to come over to his house if that happens, has to fear the same emptiness could be behind his door. His mental issues already ran Nora (Carrie Coon) away earlier this year, and his relationship with Jill (Margaret Qualley) has never been that solid. But instead, Kevin finds a surprise. Not only are Jill and Nora waiting and relieved to see Kevin, but so are his ex-wife Laurie (Amy Brenneman), his son Tommy (Chris Zylka), and Matt and Mary. "You're home," Nora says as Kevin tears up, realizing his second journey back from the dead was perhaps as successful as the first one was of ridding him of the tortures of Patti (Ann Dowd).
For my money, this ending was pretty much the perfect emotional note to end on. While the finale perhaps dealt with ideas that were weaknesses of the first season (looking at you, Guilty Remnant), their purpose here still seemed to feed into Kevin's emotional journey. When Meg asks Kevin why he's in Jarden, he simply says, "I live here now." That phrase, the episode's title, speaks volumes about Kevin. No matter how much the world around him is crumbling at that moment, he is no longer running. He isn't seeking to start again. He's been given a second, and now, a third chance to get things right, and he only wants to go to the place he calls home and be with the people he cares about.
It's hard to not think of the Season 1 finale when watching this ending. In that episode, Kevin was watching his city burn thanks to the Guilty Remnant and only found some peace after returning home to find Nora and the baby on his porch. The same is true in so many ways here, but this time Kevin seems ready to accept that perhaps his life -- and his stints in the afterlife -- has just been a series of repeating cycles. Like the cavewoman who opened this season, Kevin struggled to figure out how to move on after losing something. But unlike that cavewoman, who lost her entire family and community when that cave collapsed, Kevin no longer has to go it alone. As Meg told Tommy earlier in the episode (perhaps suggesting her motives were more educational than villainous): "Family is everything."
Again, it's a simple, sentimental note for a show this bleak and often insane to end on, but it seems right. So right, in fact, that I have trouble actually deciding whether I want another season of this remarkable show. Because The Leftovers isn't interested in solving the mystery of the Departure, its continued existence is simply about the further exploration of these characters. And while I'm sure Damon Lindelof & Co. could keep these characters fascinating for a while to come, the story feels complete in a way. And, like Kevin, I'd hate to see the show repeating cycles.
But if HBO sees fit to renew the show, I'll happily go back down the rabbit hole to be dazzled, confused, angered, saddened and, hopefully, uplifted all over again. (And perhaps they will solve this mystery.) After this season's creative leap, I have full faith that wherever these storytellers decide to go next, it will be quite a ride. But the question will remain: How much more does this show have to say -- and is there a way to say it more beautifully than the show already has?
What did you think of the finale? Do you want a third season of The Leftovers?