Recap: The Leftovers 2.1, "Axis Mundi"

Oct 05, 2015 by Sarah Moffatt

If you haven’t caught up on the first season of The Leftovers, I suggest you do that before proceeding as this article includes several season one spoilers and will be extremely confusing.

Before season two started, we already knew a few important things: We knew that apart from the return of Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), Jill Garvey (Margaret Qualley), Nora (Carrie Coon), baby Lily, and Rev. Jamison (Christopher Eccleston) and his wife, Mary (Janel Moloney), season two would feature a new cast. We also knew the Garveys and Rev. Jamison were moving to a new town in Texas called Jarden, which is part of Miracle National Park, a place that claims they had no departures.

Throughout this episode, I couldn’t help but notice the several references to water. If you think of water in a religious sense, it’s used to wash away the dirty and the sinful. It’s meant to symbolize a clean start, a rebirth. But, when you look at water in the toilet, you’re not going to baptize yourself in that stuff, right? It’s only special water that has been deemed “holy,“ right? I think this idea is something important to keep in mind as this season creeps along.

We start with a flashback to a time before civilization (perhaps before people started attaching religious meanings to things?), as an earthquake causes a pregnant woman’s water to break and forces her into labor. The new mom cleans her baby off in a pool of water (now known as "the pool” from here on) and looks for food. She finds bird eggs in a nest, and as she eats them a snake – or serpent, if you will – slithers over her child, presumably to eat it (essentially the same thing she did to those poor baby birds). She saves her child, but gets bit in the process and dies with the baby in her arms next to the pool. Another woman finds her dead body holding the baby and takes the newborn as a vulture circles overhead.

This is an unexpected way to kick off a season, but what does it mean? Perhaps it’s the best way to introduce the pool? Or perhaps it’s a distinct parallel to Nora embracing Christine’s baby? Maybe, maybe not, but a woman embracing a baby that’s not hers is a significant way to end one season and start the next.

We cut to present-day teenage girls – including one of our new characters, Evie – playing at the pool. There is a man who says he’s a doctor running tests on the water. Evie threatens to pee in the water, making the man visibly nervous. Her friends warn her not to scare the guy. If this particular body of water wasn’t important, who cares if she pees in it? People do it all the time, am I right?

Before getting in the car to leave with her friends, Evie dips her water bottle in the pool, filling it to the top. When she gets home, she gives the bottle to her brother, Michael (Jovan Adepo), who then fills up vials with it. He takes the vials to some sort of tourist welcome center. There tons of booths selling t-shirts and other souvenir type things. Buses drop of loads of people coming to experience Miracle. A German couple approaches Michael’s booth, arguing. They finally ask Michael if this water will save them. He tells them it’s just a souvenir and they walk away in disappointment.

There it is, people trying to make something a religious or holy experience. Perhaps that’s our answer to whether Holy Wayne was real or a fraud in season 1.

The biggest mystery of the first episode is John (Kevin Carroll); it’s not yet clear if this peculiar fellow and his wife are good or bad people yet. They seem friendly enough; they go to church and are neighborly. John’s wife, Erika (Regina King), is a doctor who has her own clinic and John is (or maybe was) a firefighter.

Ok, pause. Let’s talk a little deeper about John’s “firefighter” situation. We see him dressed in the uniform at what we assume is the fire station he works at with other firemen, geared up to make a visit to a “level 5,” whatever that is. This level 5 is a childhood friend of his named Isaac, and he seems to be our season 2 equivalent of Holy Wayne: He claims he can see the future in the palm lines of your dominant hand. Isaac gives John a reading and tells him something bad is going to happen to him, so naturally John labels him a “level 5” and burns his house down for selling people lies. However, John spends the rest of the episode waiting for this bad thing to happen, but it never outwardly does. Maybe it’s the Garveys moving in next door? Something tells me we haven’t see the worst of it yet.

If you read my analysis of season 1, you already know I think Reverend Matthew Jamison is a paramount character in this series. We knew he was returning this season but we weren’t sure in what manner. As it turns out, he and his wife, Mary, moved to Miracle a month prior to Nora, Kevin, and Jill. We learn he is taking over a congregation while the usual preacher, Reverend Calvin, has hip surgery in Austin. Rev. Jamison hints at something of interest happening to him and his wife between the riots and the time we are seeing now.

We see John watching the evening news and eating a bowl of melted ice cream as a reporter tells how Perfect Strangers star Mark Linn-Baker, who was among the departed, was found hiding in Mexico. Wait a second. Are we now saying maybe some of the departed are not departed and just started new lives somewhere else?

Kevin, Nora and Jill get to know the Murphys at John’s birthday dinner. John casually announces he was in prison for six years for attempted murder, which no one seems surprised by, while Evie has a health episode the Murphys call “going away.“ Erika explains it as a seizure from lapsed medication. Everyone who believes that, raise your hand.

Later that evening, after an earthquake hits and the Murphys realize Evie hasn’t come home, Michael and John go looking for her at a the pool (the one from the beginning). Not only do they find Evie’s friend’s car blaring music and all their stuff still locked inside the locked car, they find water in the spring gone, too. Another mystery in a show that’s already stacked them to the rafters.

I think it’s worth mentioning John’s obsession with finding a cricket chirping in their house. Crickets generally mean good luck, so I’m interested to see if and how that plays into John’s life. It’s also an interesting parallel with the deer Kevin was connected to in season 1.

Next week promises to deliver some answers. Mostly answering what in the heck happened since the riots at the end of last season and what prompted Kevin, Jill, Nora and baby Lily to move to Miracle.

New episodes of The Leftovers premiere Sunday nights at 9pm ET on HBO; all past episodes are available On Demand.

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