The pilot episode of The Leftovers was light on action; the second episode begins with a startling raid that gives some serious energy and a sense of danger, although it's too brief, confusing and dark to really get a clear idea of what happened. We now understand, via conversation between two feds, that Holy Wayne (Patterson Joseph) is a guru type who says he can cure people of their burdens by hugging them. He also has been in some trouble with the law regarding underage girls, which will maybe give Tom Garvey pause later on in the season. But right now, Tom is enough of a believer to kill an invading agent to protect his mentor.
After the pilot (which I had to re-watch to make sense of this) the Wayne plotline is The Leftovers' most fascinating but its hardest to grasp—we don't even have time to figure out just what is going on at his Nevada compound before it's raided, and now Tom is on the run with Christine at Wayne's behest. Damon Lindelof has always written self-appointed messiah characters very nicely, and Joseph makes Wayne that perfect mix of crazy and alluring. You get the appeal, but as he looks into Christine's eyes before saying goodbye, you also get that he's probably a nutcase.
Another person struggling with the "nutcase" label is Kevin, after the whole dog-shooting incident, since no one will believe that he was accompanied by someone and that the dogs were eating a deer. This is the first suggestion that many people, including Kevin, are just emerging from a stupor regarding the Departure and beginning to realize there's maybe something not quite right with the world. We've jumped forward a few weeks and there's now snow on the ground, but Kevin is just going about his day normally, trying to convince everyone he's not losing his marbles.
This mostly involves him with the Guilty Remnant, who we learn much more about today (see, this show is very unlike Lost—answers are dispensed casually and without much fanfare). Kevin has to look into the disappearance of Meg (Liv Tyler) and make sure she's safe and there of her own free will. From his routine manner, we know he already knows she's fine—but he also knows she's been targeted by the group, who exist to remind people that something terrible has happened.
Meg is our entryway into the GR, since Kevin's wife Laurie is already deep into the cult. Deep enough to insist (via written message) that they are NOT a cult as she tries to get Meg into it. Convincing Meg to join seems to involve robbing her of her possessions and telling her to chop down a tree. This is very, very Damon Lindelof. The Others were always pulling this kind of oblique shit on Lost, posing questions to which there was no real answer. But much like Lost, the GR are kinda entrancing in their commitment to the bit. Amy Brenneman is perfect casting for Laurie, and Ann Dowd similarly so for her boss—neither seem like fanatics, but they obviously believe in what they're doing.
So, Meg chops down the tree and moves closer to whatever ideal the GR are straining towards. Their concept is very powerful—just by existing and standing silently on the edge like ghosts, you can't dismiss them, and so they make it impossible for people to move on from the Departure. I don't know what else they want—if they want to investigate things further—but clearly their main purpose is just to remind everyone the world has changed.
So far the least interesting storyline is Jill and her teen friends (including the sultry Aimee and those hunky twin boys) which just continues to feel very inauthentic. Writing teenagers is hard; writing disaffected teens is even harder, and Jill is even beyond that, wrestling with puberty and with cosmic events she can't begin to understand.
But Jill's object of interest this week is Nora (Carrie Coon), the woman who lost her whole family in the Departure. The town is on eggshells around her, and maybe for good reason—Nora seems like an edgy lady, breaking a coffee cup in a diner just because she can and toting a gun in her purse. But she's also doing the civic work of collecting information about everyone who disappeared, likely for some giant government database trying to figure out which vectors crossed over for the vanished folks and why the whole thing happened.
The predominant question with The Leftovers remains why, but I think it's being asked by its characters more than its audience, and that's what makes it so involving. Perhaps the best scene of the episode comes near the end, as Kevin visits his father, the former police chief who "lost his marbles." He's played by Scott Glenn and seems to know exactly what he's talking about, but also seems to be addressing a lot of phantom people in the room. It's arresting, sad, mysterious and a little frightening—it's what The Leftovers has to offer us.