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Review: ‘The Leftovers’ Season 2 Episode 4, ‘Orange Sticker,’ Brings Everyone’s Greatest Fear to the Forefront

Review: 'The Leftovers' Season 2 Episode 4, 'Orange Sticker,' Brings Everyone's Greatest Fear to the Forefront


“Are they gone? Are the people gone?”

Nora’s cry between silent sobs set up an episode steeped in mystery, as “The Leftovers” returned to the scene of the crime in “Orange Sticker.” Specifically, we finally got our answer to, “What happens next?” after a suspenseful Season 2 premiere that found the Murphy’s only daughter missing after a brief earthquake that somehow managed to drain a large pond. While Episode 4 didn’t spend much time digging into earthly matters — like, “What was with that blue light during the earthquake?” or “What happened to all that water?” — we did learn how Kevin (Justin Theroux) ended up in the pond with a cinder block tied around his ankle, who John (Kevin Carroll) thinks is responsible for taking his daughter, why Miracle may not be all it seems (posers) and why it just might (Matt’s wife). 

LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘The Leftovers’ Season 2 Episode 3 ‘Off Ramp’ Brings Back the Dead

But are these unproven assertions — a common thread of “The Leftovers” — actual facts, or theories waiting to be substantiated? Being able to even ask that question means we’ve got a heaping ton of questions. Let’s dig in.

Facts:

1. Kevin is telling his family most of the truth, and that’s good enough! Shut up Patti!
Patience, Patti. Patience. Kevin may not have told Nora and Jill about the cinder block tied to his ankle, but the fact he told them anything at all about his nighttime adventure — including why he might be a suspect in Edie’s disappearance — is a big freaking step. Kevin showed great growth by trusting Nora enough to explain that, just as she showed impressive (if worrisome) restraint in not choking him to death for making her think the Departure happened again. These people are somewhere between crisis and recovery, so any signs of progress should be applauded, not berated. Of course, what else do you expect from Patti? She’s obviously got ulterior motives, but more on that in a bit.

READ MORE: Carrie Coon on Nora’s Big Moment in ‘The Leftovers’ Season 2

2. Jill is attracted to Michael.
Damn, Jill. I know you’re alone in a new town with two pretty messed up parental figures, but did you ever hear of playing hard to get? After Michael was blushing all over Jill at the BBQ, his new neighbor stopped by a few times with more than just a sink in need of fixin’. “You don’t make me uncomfortable” has never sounded more sexual than when Jill said it to Michael with that eyes-wide stare. That being said, her interest in him doesn’t appear to be strictly hormonal. Her second visit, to return the wrench, was another desperate ploy for a connection, but his tearful reaction to being alone wasn’t met with surprise. Jill seems to identify with something in Michael, more than just being lonely, physically compatible teenagers. Let’s hope it’s a healthy connection.

3. Michael and Evie are twins, and twins are linked.
How does Michael know his sister “isn’t here anymore”? Well, I had no idea until we learned the two are twins and thus eternally connected to one another in an inexplicable way. Okay, so there’s clearly more to it than that, but this key fact — casually dropped during a dramatic speech by Erika (Regina King) — will come back in future episodes. With all the supernatural elements stacking up in “The Leftovers,” there’s no way “twins” isn’t a keyword. 

Questions

1. Was Reverend Matt dreaming?
Boy, do I want Matt’s story to be true. Not only would it be great for Matt, Nora and everyone, really, to have Mary back in good health, but we’d also get to see Janel Moloney develop a character in her best show since “The West Wing”! Sadly, I have my doubts about the faithful preacher’s version of events. Considering how excited he remains about the town’s powers and the fact he’s involving his wife more in day-to-day activities, I believe he believes she woke up. Yet I remain unconvinced it wasn’t some dream he made himself believe to be true. I doubt we’ll ever know — this feels like one of those questions we may not get or need an answer to — but I do expect to see Mary up and walking around sometime this season. Why? It has nothing to do with the narrative. Moloney is simply too good of an actress to be cast in a part that’s always silent.

2. Why does Michael believe his sister “isn’t here anymore”?
It has to have something to do with Virgil, the creepy or kind old man (I honestly can’t tell which) Nora met at the grocery store and Kevin briefly spoke with when trying to get processed into Jarden. Michael meets with him in secret out near the edge of town, and — while we haven’t been given any indication what they talk about other than prayer — Virgil’s ability to read people indicates he knows more than most. He knew Nora suffered a horrible loss, and he knew Kevin needs help with his “situation.” This guy is a big piece of the puzzle, and he’s got Michael’s ear. Kevin better take him up on his offer pretty soon, otherwise we may remain in the dark on a lot of things.

3. Is Patti telling the truth or just trying to push Kevin’s buttons?
“What you’ve got, Kevin, isn’t love. It’s damage control.” What’s so jarring about these words (particularly the last two) is how true they sound. To viewers watching Kevin from safely behind a TV screen, it seems that what he has isn’t quite “it.” As much as we may want Kevin and Nora to succeed, evidence of their current happiness isn’t plentiful — especially after she ditched him at the pond with the least reassuring assurance ever. (“Are we okay?” “Yeah, we’re okay.” *door slam* *peels out* *never comes back*) 

But Patti is, if anything, an instigator. She’s always tried to get under Kevin’s skin. Hell, her dying breath was spent putting the Mapleton Chief of Police in the ultimate moral quandary. She’s likely speaking at least some truths — as evidenced by her accurate but ultimately useless help in finding Kevin’s phone — but I bet she’s substantiating them with lies; lies that further her cause.

Theories

1. Kevin tried to kill himself, but not because he wants to escape his family.
Continuing our discussion from above, I’m betting we haven’t heard the last of Kevin’s suicide attempt. If Evie does return, I’m guessing she’ll have an alternate version of events. If she doesn’t, I’m betting we still find out Kevin didn’t tie that cinder block to himself. But why would Patti lie about Kevin being suicidal? Because she wants him to be desperate. She knows he’ll only talk to her, listen to her and work with her if it’s his last resort, and a suicidal sleepwalker may just be enough to push him over the edge. He couldn’t trust his mind before, but that was just with other people (and dogs). Now he thinks his unconscious self is on a mission to self-destruct? That he could go to bed and never wake up? Better ask Patti for help. On second thought, he better not. 

2. Evie did not “depart.”
Who to trust: a hard-drinking woman recovering from a near psychological meltdown or a kid who’s convinced his twin sister “isn’t here anymore”? While it’s difficult to weigh hard facts and statistics against a gut feeling in a world where 2 percent of the world vanished into thin air without explanation, I’m still going to take Nora’s side. It’s not that I believe it can’t happen again — Nora needs to believe that more than she actually does. It’s that Miracle has given me too many reasons to suspect foul play, including John Murphy’s ridiculous behavior. Someone has to be looking to get back at him. It may not be Isaac — who cannot catch a break — but I’m guessing the Murphys have an enemy list longer than most families. Her disappearance feels like a kind of psychological warfare, perhaps directed at John, perhaps at the town as a whole. 

3. There are no miracles in Miracle (other than Evie).
Consider this my “X-Files”-esque anticipatory rant against the government, but I’m betting those verified stickers put on houses by the government after October 14 function essentially the same way Tom’s holy hugs do for former GR members. They’re there to give people something to believe in; a reason for hope. Whether it was orchestrated by the government or pulled off by the townsfolk, Miracle likely lost people during the Departure and just covered it up for their own benefit. Look at the demand created by a town that’s supposedly safe. House prices are insane. People wait for weeks to spend 10 hours within the city limits. Police can’t restrain a crowd desperate for the last remaining water in a drained pond. I’m guessing John — who was “in” prison when the Departure happened — found out about the fakery upon returning and was bullied into playing along. (By whom? My money is on his wife, Erika.) It’s like Nora said: If God was collecting animals for his arc, why wouldn’t he bring a few from Jarden, TX?

Grade: A-

READ MORE: Carrie Coon on Embracing Nora’s Moment for ‘The Leftovers’ Season 2

Random Thoughts:
– Justin Theroux has done some terrific work throughout this series, but he’s never had a better moment than telling Patti he doesn’t want to kill himself. Raw, honest and deeply moving, that line said so much about Kevin, and Theroux showed us every bit.

– What is Kevin going to do about that thumb print? This would have been in the questions section, but I’ve got no idea what can be done at this point. It seems like he’s royally screwed.

– Fitting that a roaming dog was what made Nora collapse with worry. 

– Cigarettes are the new bagel.

– Will we get to see this episode from the Murphys’ perspective? There are certainly a few stones left unturned, but we also got much more of an even split in screen time than any of the other episodes this season.

– Wild Turkey, Nora? Yes, you’re a badass, but also: drink better whiskey. 

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