|Kevin drowning plays into much of Season 2|
Where season 1 of The Leftovers was rather blatantly a metaphorical exploration of loss and depression, season 2 is a lot harder to peg. The tonal shift is pretty immediate, starting with the opening theme, which you would almost think that you've started watching a compltely different show. Moments later things kick in during prehistoric times, following a primitive human woman as she gives birth, forages for food, and defends her baby from a snake, ultimately succumbing to its poison. Helpless, the baby is found by another primitive woman and the season begins. It's a new town - Jardin, Texas - and a new family to follow -the Murphys, leaving the audience to wonder if each season is going to explore the aftereffects of the departure from a wholly unique perspective.
Jarden itself is wholly unique in this universe. It's now "Miracle National Park" because it's the only place in the world where none of its residents departed. As such it's become a place of legend and faith, where people believe all manner of spiritual and superstitious rhetoric... the city's tourism thrives on it.
Soon, we see remnants of the past season. Father Matt Jamison is taking over the local parish for a time, his comatose wife Mary in tow. We follow John Murphy as he makes his rounds, ignoring some of the superstitious actions of the townsfolk (like a man slaughtering goats in random establishments) while violently rejecting others (John throws his childhood friend - who does palm readings on visitors - out a window and run him out of town). John, doesn't believe in the miracle of Miracle.
Season 1 and 2 collide by the end of the episode when the Garveys move next door. Kevin and Nora obviously together, with Holy Wayne's baby (which they found on Kevin's porch in the final minuest of season 1) and Jill as a decidedly different nuclear family. Episode 2 catches us up on Kevin and Nora's journey from Mapleton to Jarden, and throws us deeper into Kevin's troubles. Still sleepwalking, and still haunted by Patti, Kevin awakes from the mud at the bottom of a newly-drained reservoire with a cinder block tied around his ankles after an earthquake. Up at the top of the reservoire John and his son search frantically for John's daughter and her two friends, who appear to have departed, a bold rejection of Jardin's miracle.
These events shape the rest of the season, but are by no means the only focal moments or curious incidents. Season two is far more upbeat, far more curious, and far more bizarre than season one. Less grounded in emotions, season 2 takes wild stabs at the characters lives, upending them in surreal ways, just to see how they react. Kevin's trying to be a good, honest man for Nora, but he questions his own sanity (despite Patti telling him otherwise), and he knows his nightwalking can lead to sever trouble. It's a season where the characters are looking for security and normalcy and belonging in a world where surreal and supreme upheaval can happen in an instant.
Strange things happen in Jarden, and keep happening, but are they metaphysical in origin, or man-made? A trick of the mind, or a trick on the mind? The reality in this show is all of the above, it's determining which is which that's both fun and frustrating.
In my write-up of season 1, I noted that I was drawn to the show because of the critical reception, the label of "best show on TV". The truth is it is very engrossing, somewhat frustrating, but quite enjoyable. There's a lot of absurdity in this show and the twists get so wild and broad that they defy "good/bad" labels. It's really a show where "your mileage may vary" truly applies.