The Leftovers Season 2 Finale Recap: Paradise Lost… and Found?

The Leftovers Finale

Although the second season finale of The Leftovers featured Meg setting in motion her plot against Jarden and one of our favorite characters being killed off, the stellar episode still left us with a sliver of hope. Maybe not even a sliver but a full-blown ray of hope. How is that possible? Read on…

THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW | As “I Live Here Now” began, we flashed back to the night that Evie and her friends disappeared. Sorry, make that MADE THEMSELVES DISAPPEAR. Turns out, after leaving the Murphys’ house, the JV Guilty Remnant members drove straight to the lake to ditch their car and their belongings. Kevin spotted them there — and they spotted him spotting them — but since he then threw himself into the lake tied to a cinderblock, they figured that they hardly had to worry about him busting them. Once the earthquake drained the lake, we flashed forward to Kevin’s emergence from his grave in Virgil’s yard. Michael wanted to know if he had seen Evie on the other side. Nope, he replied. However, “I saw her somewhere else” — and, that being the case, he needed to speak with John asap.

Unfortunately, “asap” wasn’t going to be soon enough. The following morning — October 14 — Erika found her husband hitting the sauce first thing, and defied his wishes to open the birthday present that Evie gave him the night that she vanished. So, after all this time, what was in the box? The cricket that had been driving him crazy! Only it wasn’t, Erika insisted. When John and Michael went out looking for Evie on the night that she disappeared, Erika had heard the insect chirping in the house the whole damn time. As if the unhappy marrieds’ day wasn’t already off to a dismal start, the cops then showed up at their door — as we all knew that they would eventually, they had gotten a match on one of the handprints that John took.

WELCOME BACK | After retrieving his gun, John banged on Kevin’s door and was surprised when it was a stranger — Laurie — who answered it. Though John was understandably skeptical, Jill was sure that her dad would be back — and right on cue, up he walked with Michael by his side. While John drove Kevin someplace “neutral” to talk, Erika scolded her son for having been to Virgil’s again, and Laurie offered to leave if that was what Jill wanted. Hurt as she was by her mom’s past abandonment, the teen couldn’t quite bring herself to say, “No, I don’t want you to go.” So instead, she said that her dad had told them to stay put. #progress

Meanwhile, Nora was holed up at Matt and Mary’s hovel when another quake hit, this one snapping the preacher’s wife out of her catatonic state. When Nora reunited her brother and sister-in-law at the campsite just outside of Jarden, Matt was elated, of course. But he wanted Nora to take Mary back over the bridge that instant for the sake of the baby — which was the first that the jubilant mother-to-be had heard about her pregnancy. While the couple took a moment to, you know, just process everything, Nora went to change Lily and got harassed by a crazy woman who insisted that the baby was stolen. Nora and Lily also got spotted by Tom and Meg, who wondered if, knowing what was coming, he was afraid for his family. “There is no family,” he responded. “I thought that’s the point.” Oh, no, said Meg, enigmatic as ever. “Family’s everything.”

LOADED QUESTIONS | Next thing we knew, the cops were telling Meg that she couldn’t enter Jarden, and she was telling them that the 35 lbs. of plastic explosives in her trailer said otherwise. (Did anyone ever think Liv Tyler would make such a spectacularly scary villainess?) Finally, plowing through the barricade, she parked at the center of the bridge and threw her keys off the side. Only then did Evie and her gal pals exit the trailer puffing on cigarettes and dressed in head-to-toe white.

While all this was going on, John took Kevin to the animal quarantine building for interrogation. And you can imagine how well it went, considering that Kevin’s (true, all true) story involved Evie staging her own disappearance and him not remembering that he’d seen it until he died. “Why in God’s name would she do this to us?” John couldn’t fathom. Kevin’s best guess: “Maybe she didn’t… love you.” Which was clearly the wrong answer, since in response, John shot him and left him for dead. No sooner was John outside than he learned from the police that Evie was on the bridge with a sign that ominously read “one hour.” Nora was relieved that the girls hadn’t departed — she wasn’t a lens! — but Matt immediately panicked: If there was a bomb on the bridge, he’d never get Mary back over it in time to save the baby!

CAN I GET A… BREAK? | At church with Erika, Michael got tired of listening to the sermon about how miraculous Jarden is, so he stood up and told his mom’s favorite story — the one about how when he and Evie were 5, she’d filled the bathtub to overflowing “to see what would happen.” Except that Evie hadn’t even turned on the water, much less for that reason, Michael had done it — to keep Erika from hearing his sister crying because she didn’t understand why John was gone. So, he concluded, although no one “departed” from Jarden on October 14, “they did [disappear] before, and after… We are not spared.”

After John interrupted the service to find Erika, she broke through the police barricade to get to Evie. Only, sadly, she couldn’t “get to” Evie. Her daughter wouldn’t hug her or even look at her. As the countdown clock ticked away, many of the denizens of the campsite outside of Jarden — as well as Tom — traded their colorful clothes for all-white ensembles. Suddenly, with half a minute until detonation, Matt, Mary, Nora and Lily were surrounded by members of the GR. Frantic, Erika burst into the camper… and discovered that it was empty! So, at 0:00, there was no big explosion. Or at least not the kind that everyone was expecting. At that moment, the masses of GR members stormed the gate, pushed their way past the cops and crossed the bridge into Jarden. “Why are you doing this?” Erika asked Evie. “I don’t understand!” Evie’s reply — written, of course, and as brutal as it was cryptic: “You understand.”

SWAN SONG | While Matt seized the opportunity to try to get Mary back into Jarden, the crazy woman who had been hassling Nora actually stole Lily from her arms and took off running. Giving chase, Nora was halfway across the bridge when she saw the baby on the ground — and looking like she was about to be trampled! Instinctively, Nora threw herself down to shield Lily. And for an instant, it seemed like she was going to end up getting trampled to death. But then, Tom reached out, helped her up and hid Nora and Lily away from the chaos in the camper.

As for Kevin… well, he died again. And woke up again in a bathtub in the purgatory hotel. This time, he chose his old Mapleton sheriff’s uniform to wear, and was immediately called to the lobby to break up a fracas. Once he got there, though, there was no fight, only a mediocre karaoke night hosted by the Englishman who’d attacked him on the bridge to Jarden the last time that he died. (Honestly, what other recap includes a line like that?!?) Irritating as the Brit was, he did have a way back to the other side for Kevin: sing. “I don’t believe you,” Kevin huffed, “because it’s stupid.” But the chap made a good point: “You pushed a little girl into a well, [yet] you don’t want to sing?” So Kevin ended up croaking out a heartfelt, if pitch-imperfect, rendition of “Homeward Bound.”

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME | Awakening in the animal quarantine building, Kevin found that all the dogs were gone… except for his. After thanking the pooch for waiting for him, they ventured outside to find the outskirts of Jarden a mess of burning ruins. Worse, the GR had taken over the welcome center. (As if to prove just how flippin’ evil she really is, Meg outdid Kevin’s “Homeward Bound” with her and Evie’s much prettier singing of the Miracle theme song.) Making his way to Urgent Care, Kevin was patching himself up when John came in looking for Erika. As sorry as sorry could be for what he had done, John tearfully admitted, “I don’t understand what’s happening.” Kevin replied for all of us: “Me, neither.” After cleaning Kevin’s wound, John helped him home… but hesitated before entering his own house. “What if nobody’s home?” he wondered. “Then you come over to my house,” Kevin said. And the wave they exchanged, echoing their first encounter, suggested that indeed, this had been the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Finally, as the episode — and the season — came to an end, Kevin entered his house to discover the unthinkable: Not only were Jill and Laurie there, but so were Matt and Mary… and Tom and Lily… and Nora! “You’re home,” Nora said in disbelief. And somehow, the saddest show on television managed to leave us with (at least temporarily, at least sorta) a happy ending. Unthinkable!

So, what did you think — of the episode? The season? Grade the episode below and then hit the comments! And then return at 11:15 pm/ET to read Ausiello’s post mortem with EP Damon Lindelof.