More than three years ago, 2% of the world's population inexplicably vanished. 140 million people, gone in an instant. No country, no state, no city was spared, except for one small town in eastern Texas. Population: 9261. Departures: Zero. This is the setting for a tale of two families: the Garveys, who have moved to this special place, and whose lives were forever changed by the Departure, and the Murphys, a local family, who seem to have been spared from an event that shook the rest of the world. But even in the town of Miracle, you can't escape your past. This "immersive, deeply satisfying drama" (Jen Chaney, Esquire) delivers profound mystery, heart-pounding action, shocking controversy and startling beauty in all 10 gripping Season Two episodes.
I have to be honest here. I was so disappointed with Season 1 of HBO and Warner Bros.' 'The Leftovers', that had I not been given Season 2 to review for High-Def Digest, I probably would have skipped it altogether. I thought the actors in the series were good, but the storylines and scripts were – for the most part – so darn depressing and dismal, I questioned who would want to endure sitting through more of these episodes. It didn't help matters that showrunner Damon Lindelof had publically stated that he had no intention of ever revealing the mystery behind the disappearances on the show, either. With all that in mind, all I can say is thank goodness I was more or less 'forced' to watch this second season. Not only is the series better this year...it's vastly better, with a new location, new mysteries, and finally (yes, finally!) an ongoing plot that viewers can become invested in.
From the very beginning of Season 2, it's obvious that the showrunners want to emphasize that this is going to be a different show than the one we watched last time. The original opening title, which featured dour music by Max Richter (who remains the composer for Season 2), has been replaced with the 1992 song 'Let the Mystery Be' from singer Iris DeMent along with 'happier' visuals. Then, the first episode of this new batch of shows goes back in time...way back in time...to show a pregnant cavewoman being separated from her tribe and giving birth all alone - only to die shortly thereafter and have another woman rescue the child. Does any of this opening have to do with what follows? Maybe.
The primary location of 'The Leftovers' has also changed this year – from Mapleton, New York, to the small town of Jarden, Texas, which has been dubbed 'Miracle' because it is the only place in America (and possibly the world) of a significant population where the 'Departure' did not take a single person. Therefore, it has become a pilgrimage location for tourists of all kinds, and the town is profiting off the notoriety – setting up a visitors' center, giving wrist bands to visitors (lest anyone try to stay permanently without authorization), and monitoring very closely who is visiting the town at any given time.
The first episode also introduces us to the Murphy family, with firefighter father John (Kevin Carroll), wife Erika (Regina King), and twin children Evie (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Michael (Jovan Adepo). At first, they seem very much like the all-American family, but as the episode – and this season – unfolds, we find that there's much more to the Murphys than we thought, particularly John (Carroll is so good here, you'll wish he'd been part of the series all along). In case you're wondering what happened to all the characters from Season 1, don't worry...many of them are back for Season 2, starting with Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), Nora Durst (Carrie Coon), Jill Garvey (Margaret Qually), and their newly adopted daughter – who move into a house next door to the Murphys (the how and why they've come to the Texas town is explained in the second episode of this season). Also in town is Nora's brother, and former reverend, Matt Jamison (Christopher Eccleston) and his still-unresponsive wife, Mary (Janel Moloney) – although Episode 5 provides some big surprises with their situation.
As for the group I had the biggest issues (and annoyances) with in Season 1, the chain-smoking nihilistic cult known as 'The Guilty Remnant', their participation has been dialed way back this season, although some of their members (and former members) do still play a part in the storyline and the group is featured prominently in this second season's finale. Kevin's former wife Laurie (Amy Brenneman) is still back in Mapleton, but no longer part of the Remnant, instead offering support services and 'a way out' for members she and her son, Tommy (Chris Zylka), target as possible people they can 'rescue' from the cult. As for Patti Levin (Ann Dowd), the Remnant member who committed suicide in front of Kevin Garvey in Season 1, she's still very much around – constantly talking to Kevin and making him question his own sanity.
While there are many mysteries and questions posed in Season 2, the driving force of the storyline is the disappearance (which happens in the first episode, so it's not a major spoiler) of Evie and two of her friends – who simply vanish one night. Are they 'departed'? Have they been murdered? Or is something else going on?
I can't remember the last series I watched where the first year was so mediocre (not to mention downright depressing to watch) and the second year provided so much energy and interest. Season 2 is a vast improvement over Season 1, and if you're one of those (and I'm guessing there may be a number of you) who gave up on this show after the first year, you need to come back and see what it's offering now. You won't have to wait long either – it's remarkably better right off the bat. The upcoming Season 3 has already been announced as the final season of the show. When I first heard that news, I thought 'good riddance'. After watching Season 2, I think HBO might be making a big mistake.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
Season 2 of 'The Leftovers' heats up on Blu-ray in a packaging design that is pretty much identical to the Season 1 release. The two 50GB Blu-rays come housed inside a standard Elite keepcase, which also includes a pair of inserts – one containing a code for an UltraViolet digital copy of Season 2, and the other a single-fold listing of all the episodes on this release, with a short synopsis of each. The keepcase slides inside a cardboard slipcase with identical artwork. Surprisingly, not only has Warner Bros. nixed any bonus material on this title, but there's no front-loaded trailers or advertisements either. The main menu is of the standard Warners' design, with a still image of the box cover and menu selections across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-rays in this release are region-free.
Each episode of 'The Leftovers' is shot digitally on the Arri Alexa, and is presented here in the original television aspect ratio of 1.78:1. As one might expect from a series shot on the Alexa, most of the outdoor segments are lush, colorful, and contain plenty of detail, while scenes shot indoors and on sets have a slightly flatter look to them, although still nicely detailed. While not inky, the black levels here are pretty solid, so even in darker moments things aren't hard to distinguish.
Perhaps as a result of Warner Bros. cramming five episodes on each of these discs, I did notice some slight banding issues in the episodes. Other than that, however, these are mostly glitch-free and without any major transfer issues. Other than the banding, I didn't see any noticeable aliasing or excessive noise.
Looking back at my video review of the first season, I see I had some issues with the frequent use of hand-held ('shaky' cam) shots throughout. Either that was used much less this season than last, or I was so engaged in the storylines this time around that when it did happen, I really didn't notice it. Regardless, despite a few minor issues, I think my overall consensus here is that this second season set's video is marginally better than the first season's.
The only available audio for each episode of this release is a 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio track, and it sounds quite good. Dialogue is crisp, clear, and distinct. There's a lot of ambient noises going on in most scenes, allowing for a feeling of immersiveness to the viewer/listener. There's even the occasional subwoofer fun, as the town of Jarden, Texas, is the victim of an earthquake or tremor every now and again, providing an LFE workout for one's home theater system. Both the series musical soundtrack (much of which has been carried over from Season 1, including that haunting piano melody) and the frequent use of pop tunes sound great on these episode tracks. The mix here is also well done, so neither the soundtrack nor the frequent use of ambient noises ever drown out or sound improperly loud compared with the spoken word.
There were also no evident glitches to be found – so no issues with any dropouts, muddiness, or problems with the track's dynamic range.
Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish, French, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish.
There are no bonus materials on this Blu-ray release. Maybe they...departed?
What a difference a single season can make. The showrunners, whether through fan reaction to the first season or intended design, have thrown out pretty much everything that was wrong the first time around, kept what was good, and given viewers a fantastic second season of the show that is superior in every way. From characterization to story to just pure entertainment, Season 2 of 'The Leftovers' lives up to the potential that was only hinted at in Season 1. It's a shame Warner Bros. has decided to nix any bonus materials on this release or it might have been a 'Must Own'. As it is, it's still recommended.