Modern television has more than its fair share of dysfunctional families, but perhaps none have been as profoundly messed up as the Garveys of Mapleton, NY. What makes the four central characters of HBO's The Leftovers so intriguing is that they're this dysfunctional even though they didn't actually lose anyone in the Sudden Departure (the show's Rapture-like event in which two percent of the world's population suddenly disappeared without explanation). Loss touches us all in different ways, whether directly or indirectly, and a Leftovers Season 1 recap will remind you that it was a fascinating examination of a family — more fortunate than most, at least on the surface — who nonetheless shattered under the intense pressures of grief.
If the show's freshman season was a relentlessly bleak examination of humans' varied coping mechanisms when it comes to unexpected loss, Season 2 promises to be a more optimistic (relatively speaking) look at how people move on after a life-changing disaster — like the catastrophic events that Season 1 ended on. But, before we move to Jarden, Texas along with the Garveys (who are leaving upstate New York behind this year), let's briefly recap where each of the family members left off, as well as where a couple of the show's other major players stand now.
The chief of Mapleton's police department was cheating on his wife when the woman he was sleeping with vanished into thin air mid-coitus. That'll mess with anyone's mind. Add onto that the fact that his wife soon left him to join a speechless cult and his son ran away from home to follow a different creepy cult leader and his daughter pretty much blamed him for all of that, and you have a sense of Kevin's deep malaise. Season 1 saw the protagonist struggle with not only keeping his beloved town from imploding, but with keeping his own mind from slipping.
Throughout the season, he frequently experienced dreams/hallucinations/blackouts — including one period in which he unknowingly abducted the leader of the Guilty Remnant and tied her up in a shack in the woods, only to have her kill herself when he tried to free her. The only semblance of normalcy in Kevin's life came from his relationship with Nora Durst. (More on her in a bit.) Season 1 ended with Kevin saving his estranged daughter from a fiery doom, and the pair headed home to create a new makeshift family with Nora.
Before the Sudden Departure, Kevin's wife was a successful therapist. But, when she couldn't reconcile her logical worldview with the inexplicable event that had occurred, she left her tidy suburban life behind to join the Guilty Remnant, a cult known for wearing all white, never speaking, chain-smoking, and stalking the citizens of Mapleton. Laurie was close with leader Patti (who was revealed to have been a patient of Laurie's pre-Rapture), and helped recruit and train new cult member Megan.
In the finale, Laurie spearheaded the GR's dastardly master plan in Patti's absence. (The leader had just offed herself in Kevin's cabin.) The Remnant had secretly purchased hundreds of "Loved Ones" (wax replica corpses so people could bury their missing family members), which they dressed in the clothes of the Departed and placed them around town in their last known locations. This led to quite the shock for the residents of Mapleton, who unsurprisingly rioted, burning the GR's houses — one of which had Kevin and Laurie's daughter Jill inside. The finale ended with Laurie uttering her first word of the season: Her own daughter's name, as she shrieked for her ex-husband to save their child.
Dealing with her mother's abandonment and her brother's absence, Jill blamed her father for letting their family fall apart. She spent most of the season acting up — whether stealing the baby Jesus doll from the local manger scene or just generally busting her dad's balls — until she finally decided to join her mother in the Guilty Remnant. However, her decision couldn't have come at a worse time, with the cult about to execute their stunt with the Loved Ones. Jill ended up caught in the crossfire of the town's retribution, although she was ultimately saved by her father.
Tommy Garvey (Chris Zylka)
Kevin's stepson (Laurie's child from a previous marriage) had something of an existential crisis after the Departure, dropping out of college when he witnessed two classmates commit suicide. He found meaning in a meaningless world by following Holy Wayne, a man who claimed he had the ability go hug people's pain away. When Wayne's compound was raided, Tommy was tasked with protecting the leader's pregnant young groupie Christine, who Wayne claimed was carrying a son who would be their savior. However, it was revealed that Wayne was a fraud when Tommy and Christine ran into another pregnant groupie and her own protector — and eventually Christine gave birth to a baby girl, not the boy that was promised. Christine abandoned her child in a rest stop bathroom and Tommy subsequently deposited the kid on his father's doorstep.
Nora Durst (Carrie Coon)
Nobody lost more during the Sudden Departure than Nora Durst. As far as anyone knows, she's the only person in the world to have lost her entire family: Her husband and both of her young children, all of whom disappeared from the dining room table while eating breakfast. Nora has since become a notorious figure around Mapleton, and she lives as something of a recluse, continuing to buy her children's favorite cereal and listening to her children's favorite tapes, until she meets Holy Wayne while at a conference in NYC. As much of a fraud as the man may be, his compassionate hug worked on Nora, who was finally able to start moving on. She struck up a relationship with Kevin and, in the season finale, she found Wayne's baby that Tommy had left on the Garveys' porch. As Kevin and Jill trudged home from the riot, she greeted them with a smile on her face: "Look what I found!"
Matt Jamison (Christopher Eccleston)
Nora's brother Matt was a beloved local preacher before the Departure, but has since alienated himself from almost everyone thanks to his persistent attempts to refute the idea that the Rapture had occurred by publishing exposés attempting to prove that the Departed were terrible people. It turns out that broadcasting love ones' worst secrets around town isn't the best way to make friends. Reverend Jamison, whose wife has been a vegetable since getting hit by a car during the Departure, suffered quite a bit throughout Season 1: His church was bought out from under him by the Guilty Remnant, and his efforts to free the GR members from their brainwashing cult was met with hostility and physical violence. In the season finale, Matt helped Kevin bury Patti's body before returning with the chief to find their hometown in flames.
Will these tortured souls finally find solace in Season 2? Find out when the new season of The Leftovers premieres on HBO this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. ET.
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