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Review: ‘The Leftovers’ Season 2 Episode 6 ‘Lens’ Pits Neighbor vs. Neighbor

Review: 'The Leftovers' Season 2 Episode 6 'Lens' Pits Neighbor vs. Neighbor


If you expected the title bout between the Garveys and the Murphys to feature Kevin (Justin Theroux), the ex-police chief with a knack for doing the right thing, and John (Kevin Carroll), the ex-con who busts believers’ heads for exploiting the “miracle” of Miracle, then you were in store for quite the potent surprise in “Lens.” Nora (Carrie Coon) and Erika (Regina King) came head to head over the most sensitive of subjects: their dead — or departed — kids.

Nora spent the episode stewing over the idea she might be causing people to depart after a “scientist” showed up at her doorstep to take readings of her. She then discovered there’s a theory out in the world (outside the protective bubble she’s tried to establish in Miracle) claiming some people give out ultraviolet rays causing everyone around them to be lifted. She got a bit of relief when the people pursuing her for research admitted their bonkers belief that the demon Azrael was using her as his “earthbound instrument,” but the credence given to the lens theory elsewhere kept her on edge.

LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘The Leftovers’ Season 2 Episode 5 ‘No Room at the Inn’ Lets the Love Flow

It also gave the Murphys one more reason to hate their neighbors. If Erika finds out people suspect Nora of being a lens, she could blame her for Evie’s disappearance (even if she’s currently blaming herself via the time-tested Murphy’s Bird Theory). Similarly, Kevin might find himself as Erika’s next patient if John discovers he was on the scene when Evie went missing; knowledge that could come out when that palm print gets matched up with Kev’s hand. How might all this come together for an epic showdown on belief? Let’s dig in.

Facts

1. Erika needs to believe, and her husband can’t.
What makes the neighbors’ dynamic ideal for explosive confrontation is how Erika is a believer and her husband is not. John will see Kevin as the prime suspect, given the actual evidence against him (plus Kevin’s general suspicious activities), but Erika will almost certainly blame Nora because she thinks the Departure is real. John is out looking for his daughter, assuming she’s been taken (or killed), but Erika believes she’s been lifted. Of course, Nora sides with John and Kevin with Erika, creating a fracturing of every existing family dynamic. Sounds like Patti’s dream scenario, doesn’t it? 

2. The residents of Jarden may be a little too eager to believe.
Believe whatever you want, but releasing a guy from jail who was locked up for killing goats, then encouraging him to keep it up, is pretty nuts. Jerry the goat killer got his comeuppance in grand fashion when Erika let out her frustrations, and hopefully that will be the last anyone sees of him.

3. Michael and Jill are dating!
Or whatever the kids are calling it these days. Erika didn’t seem too happy about it, whatever it is, but Jill asserted the new couple’s position clearly to Nora. They don’t care what their parents say, which is important, considering the two families are about to go to war. Might we have a Romeo and Juliet-esque scenario in store for the soon-to-be-forbidden lovers?

Questions

1. Where’s Tom?
Perhaps the surprise of the hour was when Nora answered her phone, expecting more harassment from the “scientists,” and instead got Laurie Garvey (Amy Brenneman). Laurie, who we haven’t heard a peep from since Episode 3, has apparently upset her son Tom and is now desperately searching for him. I think we all knew the mother and son’s plan to bring back Holy Wayne’s teachings wouldn’t go over smoothly, but I didn’t necessarily expect their bond to break. What did Laurie do to cause Tom to flee? Where was she when she made that call? And, of course, where’s Tom? I’m guessing we’ll find out next week, as we’re well overdue a visit from the other half of the original Garvey clan. (Speaking of, why is Laurie still going by Laurie Garvey? She filed for divorce from Kevin, so shouldn’t she be back to her maiden name?) [Editor’s note: Changing one’s name back isn’t required post-divorce, but the question is definitely worth asking.]

READ MORE: ‘The Leftovers’ Amy Brenneman on Laurie’s Season 2 Path, False Prophets and That Episode 3 Twist

2. Is Nora a lens?
Clearly, Nora doesn’t want to believe this. For a second, she even believed it to be completely fake. Her relieved laugh after being told about the demon possessing her body was genuine, and those specific researchers are obviously crazy. But the trust the DSD agent (played by “Mad Men” favorite Joel Murray) puts into the lens theory gives it relevance. So could Nora be a lens? She made a solid argument against it, when trying to convince Erika of her own innocence, claiming more people would have disappeared if she was really to blame (she was specifically referring to the bird theory, but the same applies for being a lens). If Nora is a lens and caused both her family and her neighbor’s kid to disappear, why haven’t Kevin and Jill lifted? And what about Erika, John and Michael, for that matter? What about her brother, Matt? As Nora says to Erika, “That’s quite a stretch.”

3. Why is Erika hiding those stacks of cash?
The basic answer to this is that the money in the bag tucked away behind boxes of shoes in the closet is Erika’s getaway fund. She mentioned during her confessional with Nora that she took more than $1,000 out of the bank in order to leave her family, and it’s likely still there because she’s still considering leaving. (That, or she had to give John a reason for the withdrawal, and now she can’t just put it back without raising suspicion.) Still, the fact that we were shown the money instead of just told about it means something. It’s like the old saying about seeing a gun in the first act of the play. It has to go off by the end. How will that money come back into play? I honestly have no idea.

Theories

1. Nora had her grief hijacked. 
I’m putting this under “theories” because I feel that the reason Nora chucked a brick through the Murphys’ window isn’t as simple as it may seem. Yes, Nora was obviously frustrated with the growing belief that her neighbor’s daughter lifted. Nora needs to believe Jarden is safe. She needs to know she spent all her money on a house in a city that will protect her and her new family from what happened to her old one. So the idea that someone disappeared from a place supposedly safe from that exact risk — and on the same day she moved into town — is reason enough for her to take out her frustrations via destruction. But I felt there was an element of jealousy at play, as well. Nora lost her whole family on October 14; both kids and a husband (a cheating husband, but a husband nonetheless). She doesn’t want to be blamed for that, but she does want credit for “evolving,” as she called it. Nora saw herself in Erika, and she didn’t like how “she” was behaving; how she was carrying herself and presenting what happened to the world. Erika has a voice right now, and Nora wants to control it; for her own peace of mind and for the world to be set right again. She can’t — as she learned the hard way — but I’d be shocked if she’s done trying. 

2. Kevin did not make a mistake.
After the intense staredown between Nora and Erika, I expected the episode to be over. But then it would have been incomplete, as only a few moments but a significant focus of “Lens” was on Kevin’s worsening mental condition. An early morning sexcapade was ruined by one of his visions (most likely Patti doing something disgusting), and he probably forgot little Lily on top of the truck because he was too busy chatting it up with his ghost buddy. It took some doing before he would even talk to Patti, and it looks like he hasn’t gone back on the decision to do so. But he did reject her advice to keep their talks to himself, choosing to instead trust Nora and seek help for the mysterious ailment. No matter what Patti has in store for him — or even if she’s predicting a dismal future for Kevin — it had to be done. He can’t keep living with this secret, no matter what comes next.

3. The GR is connected to Tommy’s disappearance.
Be it a pregnant Meg (Liv Tyler) making threats or another kidnapping, the Guilty Remnant has to be involved in Tommy’s departure (not an actual departure, mind you — unless it was?). They are Laurie and Tommy’s adversaries now, and they’re not prone to just rolling over when faced with a new challenge. Tom’s powers might have drawn too many white-dressed chain smokers away from the flock. Or they’re merely being more proactive about shutting down the temptation of leaving. Either way, it doesn’t seem likely we’ve seen the last of Meg.

Grade: A

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