Last night The Leftovers rickrolled everyone. I can’t exactly put my finger on whether that makes me ecstatic or annoyed, but I’m quite sure it’s the former. More importantly, “Orange Sticker” got back to Storyline A of the second season after a brief detour with last week’s “Off Ramp“. The Murphy Family seems to be fully driving the show now, sort of an odd thing considering we weren’t even aware of their existence in The Leftovers for the entirety of the first season. But their presence was noticeably missed in “Off Ramp”, and the events in Jarden now seem to have the cosmic weight of significance while the Mapleton subplot is just that: sub.
And more important still is that Nora and Kevin entered into respective character arcs that will drive their own actions in the coming episodes. “Axis Mundi” and “A Matter of Geography” caught back up with the Misplaced Mapletonians (great band name), but “Sticker” really took the opportunity to push forward. The episode began with an overlap of the conclusion from both of those first two episodes, making this the third time we’ve seen the earth-shaking occurrence that seemed to pluck Evie Murphy from existence. Interesting that there’s so much overlap this season — come to think of it, we’ve spent less than two hours with the Murphys as we approach the midway point of the season — and yet it still feels consistently fresh. This time the earthquake and the aftermath is seen from Nora’s point of view.
In our review of last season’s finale “The Prodigal Son Returns” we toyed with the idea of someone coming into the show at a midway point, either halfway through last season or for the second season or any other time, and discussed how difficult that might be with The Leftovers. I watched “Orange Sticker” with someone who had never seen the first season and had only seen “Axis Mundi” previously, and she was indeed underwhelmed by the opening of the episode. Nora, breakout star of last season’s “Guest” and arguably one of the people hit hardest by the Sudden Departure, does not take lightly to the quake in her new safe zone. She knows Kevin sleepwalks, but when she wakes up and finds him vanished she immediately believes that “it happened again”.
For someone unfamiliar with Nora or with her circumstances following the Departure, the character’s hurt in that opening might not be so tangible. To Leftovers-watchers, the thought dawns the moment Nora awakens to an empty bed. Being left behind a second time might be even more painful for Nora than the first, as she’s just regained a small measure of confidence and security by moving to Jarden with the Garveys. “Wherever you go,” says Jill Garvey, “there you are.” The suggestion that all of Nora’s pain would dissipate upon arrival in Jarden, the town now known as Miracle, was never built on very sound logic. We knew that from the get-go, and now that Nora’s woken up and experienced the possibility of reopening her old wound in full she knows it too. The only thing worse than that is this.
And Kevin knows as well. We predicted in our review of “Geography” that Sleepwalking Kevin had attempted to commit suicide by tying the cinderblock around his ankle and submerging himself in the town lagoon, and in “Sticker” that was (probably) revealed to be true. Patti, the premonitionlike figure of the woman that Kevin encountered in Mapleton with fatal effect, now advises from the comfort of Kevin’s head; to say that her advice should be taken with a grain of salt would be an understatement. But suicide is the most plausible vehicle, story-wise, for Kevin’s own pain to manifest itself within the halcyon refuge of Jarden. Until now Patti was just an interesting figment of Kevin’s guilt, but her presence means much more in light of Kevin’s actions. Patti herself committed suicide in last season’s “Cairo” in full view of Kevin, and so she definitely influences his sleepwalking activities and, yeah, rickrolls him.
Two more interesting notions were raised in “Sticker”: first, the second season’s preoccupation with those who faked their disappearance in the Departure. “Mundi” showed a famous actor who had fled to Mexico and changed his identity in the wake of the event, and now in “Sticker” Nora tells a story about a man who chose his moment and did the same. Why? “Because he had the greatest scapegoat in the history of civilization,” Nora says. Starting over is undoubtedly enticing — it’s the entire reason Nora and Kevin are in Jarden, and Kevin even states as much in this episode. What’s interesting is that the scapegoat is the reason for disappearing, suggesting that everyone would choose to vanish and start over if given the chance. This in turn suggest that no one is ever truly content, Departed or Leftover or otherwise, and that leads into Matt Jamison as the episode’s second subplot of intrigue. Matt led last season’s stellar “Two Boats and a Helicopter“, and another episode focusing on his life in Jarden can’t come soon enough.