The Leftovers “Axis Mundi” Review

Posted October 5, 2015 by Chad Waller in Nerdy Bits

The Leftovers is a show I’ve been almost nervous to return to. The first season was absolutely spectacular, and it ended in such a perfect way that had it not been renewed for a second season, I’d have been content. A season two means room for mistakes, to tarnish the world and characters Season 1 spent so much care developing. This is, honestly, a stupid and baseless fear, but it’s one that’s been nagging at me as I counted down the days to the premier of Episode 1. Sometimes it’s totally fine to quit while you’re ahead.

Well, the first episode of Season 2 has now come and gone, and yup, that fear was baseless and stupid. We’re off to an extraordinary start.

“Axis Mundi” opens up rather strangely, pulling the setting of the show far backwards into the past. A pregnant lady leaves the cave her tribe calls home to use the bathroom when an earthquake hits, burying everyone but her alive. As she moves rocks and boulders aside in an attempt to free her family and friends, her water breaks. It also starts to rain. Days later, or perhaps months, it’s hard to tell, she’s bitten by a snake and dies.

The whole sequence feels a bit like a non sequitor when compared to the ending of the first season, and as of now, it only loosely fits into the show. However, as a way to establish tone for a new audience, it works quite well. The Leftovers has always been very bleak, where things start at bad, get worse, somehow get worse, and now and then get worse still. It can be difficult and uncomfortable to watch at times, and while I’m happy it’s once again back in my life, it also means casual Sunday-night nightmares again.

Regardless, once the first twelve minutes are up, the show returns to the present, now set in Jarden–renamed Miracle–Texas and following a new family of characters: The Murphys. Miracle Texas certainly played host to a miracle; it’s the only town that had no one disappear during the incident that happened prior to the beginning of Season 1, yet it isn’t a miraculous place. There’s something outright venomous about it, where the local firefighters are apt to burn down houses instead of saving them from fires. The whole town is strange, and on a sequence that takes us through Miracle, passed homes and people, I honestly couldn’t tell what was real and what was fake at points. Even the church feels off. When Matt shows up to act as a substitute reverend, he’s openly dismissed by the person he’s temporarily replacing.

The Murphy family too, aren’t what they seem. They first establish themselves as your average, middle-class family: A mother, a father, a daughter, a son. They get along well, and their first real interaction together is over breakfast, laughing as John looks for a lost cricket that’s been living in their home for some time. They’re a religious bunch, as are most of the people in the town, and there’s an air of, “What could possibly go wrong?” to them.

A lot, as it turns out.

My immediate reaction was to compare John with Kevin. Both are adult males working for the people. John is a firefighter while Kevin is a police officer. Both also have turbulent pasts, though we haven’t learned what John’s is yet. However, they’re not one in the same. Kevin, for every rotten thing he did in Season 1, always felt like a good guy put in bad situations. He always had good intentions at heart. John isn’t that. As of now, I’m not sure what John’s real intentions are, but when he finally meets Kevin near the end of the episode, I saw the potential for not just drama, but outright violence.

There’s a lot to love in this season premier, from the new characters, the new town, and just the general way so much story is told through character action and interaction instead of outright exposition. The Leftovers has always been filled with little details, and “Axis Mundi” is no exception. Something seemed to stand out as strange or significant in every scene, and I look forward to seeing where this all goes.

Things haven’t gotten worse yet, but they soon will. This is The Leftovers, and that means things always get worse. We’re in for a hellova ride.

About the Author

Chad Waller

Chad Waller is the cofounder of Dual Wield Software, a two-man video game company that just published The Land of Glass on Steam. You should check it out! You can follow him on Twitter @DualWieldSoft and find his company page on Facebook with a quick search.