If the Season 2 premiere of The Leftovers infamously added a bunch of characters into the mix, then the Season 3 premiere took some away… including a fan-favorite played by an Emmy-winning actor. Where is Erika on the Leftovers Season 3? She wasn't in the April 16 premiere of the HBO drama.
Erika Murphy's absence is far from the only question the episode — titled "The Book Of Kevin" — raises. Viewers are also treated to such game-changing events as the apparent deaths of Evie Murphy and Megan Abbott (along with all their Guilty Remnant cohorts); the revelation that Laurie Garvey and John Murphy are now married; the introduction of a new gospel of the Bible written by Matt Jamison about Kevin Garvey; the return of a long-forgotten face from Season 1 (dog-shooter Dean, who shows up in Miracle and tries to kill Kevin); the promise of an impending apocalypse on the seven-year anniversary of the Sudden Departure; and, of course, that shocking flashforward involving an aging Nora Durst.
But amidst all those twists and turns, the absence of Regina King's Erika — a Season 2 standout for her acclaimed performance as the fierce matriarch of the Murphy family — continues to nag. Not only is she never seen, but she is never even mentioned — not by her husband, who's now married to another woman; not by her son, who you would think would be mourning her absence; not by her former next-door-neighbors; not by anybody. So where the heck did she go?
Well, given that nobody mentions her, it's kind of hard to tell. It's clear that Erika and John got a divorce; but whether it was a mutual decision or one instigated by a single party is unclear. Equally unclear is whether Erika is still living in Jarden — but somewhere separate from the rest of the Murphys/Garveys — or if she has left Miracle National Park entirely.
Perhaps the best clue regarding what what happened to Erika is to remember where she was left in Season 2. Although that finale, "I Live Here Now," was a stunningly emotional hour that provided an unexpectedly upbeat ending to Kevin's storyline, one character who actually got very little resolution was Erika. The last time she was seen was on the bridge leading into Jarden, begging her daughter to talk to her and trying to get Evie away from a bomb Erika assumed was inside the trailer. Of course, there was no bomb, and the Guilty Remnant simply swarmed the bridge and forced their way into Miracle… and Erika was never seen again.
The key here is likely in her final interaction with Evie. "I don't understand," Erika said to her mute daughter as the GR approached. "You understand," Evie wrote on her notepad. And clearly, Erika did understand: that just because none of Jarden's 9,000 citizens disappeared in the Sudden Departure doesn't make the town different than any other. A statistical fluke doesn't make them special; they still have problems… and putting on a smile and proclaiming yourself to be "spared" doesn't make those problems go away.
Earlier in the season, Erika confessed to Nora that she had been planning on running away from her family, and that she had made a wish that her children would be OK without her. When she and Evie reached that moment of silent understanding on the bridge, I think Erika got the permission she needed to finally leave. She realized that her daughter knew about the pain Erika thought she was hiding so well — Evie had known since she was five years in old, in fact, according to Michael's story about his sister crying in the bathroom — and Erika was finally able to stop pretending and take the action she'd been putting off for so long.
Of course, this is all just speculation; and this being a Damon Lindelof show, any speculation is bound to turn out to be at least 50 percent wrong. I just hope the show doesn't take too long to solve this mystery, since Regina King's compelling performance was one of the things that made Season 2 so great. I need her back on my TV screen, stat!