Let’s bitch it out…
For the first time this season, we’re not messing around with the timeline. The event chronicled by the end of both the first and second episode – the disappearance of three girls, as well as the water in the lake – is our jumping off point as the town of Miracle, TX realizes that Evie Murphy and her friends have disappeared in the post-earthquake hours.
The opening scenes are masterful as Carrie Coon’s Nora immediately goes into an emotional spiral when she thinks that Kevin (Justin Theroux) has disappeared in another Sudden Departure. The close-up, handheld camerawork keeps the audience trapped in her frame of mind, which is frantic* right up to the minute that Kevin walks through the door. As soon as she realizes that he’s fine, she calmly collects the baby and retreats upstairs with barely a word – unable to forgive him for making her go through it again.
*I love the small life-like details when Nora and Kevin become agitated: she forgets their wireless password and he can’t remember their home address. Yes, they’re new in town, but when the shit hits the fan, so too do mundane things like passwords and addresses.
When last we saw Kevin, he had woken up in the dry creek bed with a concrete block tied to his leg. As Patti (Ann Dowd) is keen to remind him, regardless of what he tells himself about loving his family, Kevin tried to commit suicide. On the whole Patti is quite verbose in this episode: offering unsolicited tips and advice when Kevin’s missing iPhone and muddy palm print on Evie’s car threaten to tie him to the scene of the crime*. While the phone turns up, the search and rescue for the missing teens comes up empty, driving John Murphy (Kevin Carroll) to extreme. It makes sense that John would go after Isaac (Darius McCrary) considering the reading he received in the season premiere, though the outcome (a bullet in the gut) proves that John’s quick to flare temper is nearly as dangerous as Kevin’s. One wonders what will happen John learns the hand print belongs to Kevin…surely it won’t result in something good.
*Some commenters have wondered why the residents of Miracle don’t panic more in the wake of Evie’s disappearance. Matt (Christopher Eccleston) offers one answer: they haven’t lived through this before and may not know how to react. The reaction to the handprint supports this: people seem far more willing to accept that the girls were abducted or murdered than they are to assume it is a second Sudden Departure.
As it stands, ‘Orange Sticker’ is a solid, if slightly less memorable episode in the S2 canon. Without a new mystery or twist to hang off of, the episode lacks the strength of the first three episodes, but Theroux’s agonized performance when he realizes that Patti (ie: himself) is being truthful about his suicide attempt, the calm-so-as-to-avoid-collapsing way that Erika (Regina King) recounts Evie’s “exceptional” birth and even the final scene of Michael (Jovan Adepo) scraping the orange sticker off the Murphy wall because they are no longer Departure-free all resonate deeply and powerfully.
At this point, The Leftovers remains the drama to beat.
- Jill (Margaret Qualley) and Michael continue to make baby steps in their burgeoning relationship, though here it is much more about connecting over their shared sense of isolation. Yes, they are nearly adults, but considering everything else that is happening, one would think that the adults would be less prone to running off.
- When Matt recounts his story about Mary (Janel Moloney) waking up on their first night in town for a miraculous evening of conversation, I wished for a flashback if for no other reason than to give poor Moloney something more to do than simply sit in her chair and stare.
- Not sure what to think of Virgil (Steven Williams) being a psychic / pain whisperer. He turned up at the visitor centre in episode two offering Kevin help and here he apologizes for Nora’s grief when she buys smokes and Wild Turkey at the convenience store. Is he the real deal in a town that is supposedly miracle-free? And why is he tolerated when Isaac is related to the motel on the other side of the bridge?
- It’s hard not to suspect, as Alan Sepinwall does, that Patti is simply rick-rolling Kevin about the girls’ disappearance. After all, she does sing Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” for most of the episode.
- Speaking of musical choices, I’m curious to read what others thought of Lo-Fang’s subdued, melancholy version of “You’re The One That I Want” (from Grease) in the final scene when Kevin returns home. I love the cover, but found it distracting because the lyrics are so familiar.
- Jill (after Michael discusses religion and fixes her tap): “Thanks for saving me.”
Your turn: what did you think of the aftermath of Evie’s disappearance? Which scene hit the hardest emotionally? Are John and Kevin doomed to come to blows? Is Nora so adamant that there won’t be another Sudden Departure because she needs to feel safe? Do you want to see Moloney do more? Sound off below.
The Leftovers airs Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO