If 2% of the world’s population — call it roughly 140 million people — suddenly vanished one day, the world would change, right? Everything would be different, right? Religion would be shaken for some, as we saw last season on The Leftovers in the third episode “Two Boats and a Helicopter“. Grief, as a concept, would take on a new complexity as in “Guest“. Heck, even the ATF would necessarily expand to become the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, Explosives and Cults (obviously). Three years after the Sudden Departure, Carrie Coon’s Nora Durst lives her life (again, in “Guest”) in what appears to be a normal way: she goes to the grocery store and takes the trash out. But Leftovers unveils something underneath those trips to the grocery store and to the trash barrel, betrays a world changed but changed only beneath the business-as-usual facade.
I expect as much to be the case with Jarden, Texas, a town that miraculously was unaffected by the Departure. All 9,261 citizens of the town were “spared”, turning Jarden into a mecca for those believing it to be the only safe haven on the planet. It’s now billed as Miracle National Park, and tourists flock by the thousands to breathe the air of the place that God saved. The change of location from Mapleton, NY, works on several levels, providing more than fresh faces and fresh challenges. The sparing of Jarden is no more explicable than the Departure everywhere else, and thus we get a fresh take on the world of The Leftovers as well, one where the whole business of “not knowing” is framed as a positive thing instead of a tragic thing. In Mapleton everyone asked what happened, and we talked about how Leftovers will never actually answer that question. Here, in Jarden, whoever asks what happened is met with a chorus of justifications from God saved us to stop asking and just be thankful.