Leftovers’ Second Season Opening May Have Been More than It Seemed
As a warning, though there has been plenty of time since Leftovers wrapped up its series finale, you might not have seen it yet. You may have just started binging and just stumbled across this trying to figure out what you just saw. However, it is strongly suggested that you not continue reading this article if you haven’t already finished the series because Leftovers is so well planned that important details are released long after they are first referenced. In order to explain the second season opening, the entire series has to be spoiled. So, if you haven’t seen it all, do yourself a favor and come back to this after you finish.
The second season opens with a view of someone we don’t know, and never really get to know, a white woman wandering around naked, pregnant, and alone in the woods. She shoves some rocks aside on a pile and then seems to give up on whatever she was planning and grip the remainder of the pile and go through labor, alone in the woods. Then we see her scavenging for mushrooms and excited to find food until she sees a rattlesnake crawling over her baby. Looking to protect her child, she grabs a stick and heads to ward it off only to be bitten before she proceeds to beat it to death. Then we see her lying on the ground with her baby atop her, dying from the venom with the site of the bite massively inflamed as if out of a monster movie. The child cries as she dies and another naked white woman wanders upon the scene, presumably alerted by the child’s cries, and takes him.
We then pan and see Evangeline “Evie” Murphy and her friends playing in the heavily restricted waters in Jarden, Texas – we are now where and when the story takes place.
Now there is certainly deep symbolism here – perhaps a metaphor for those feeling left alone in the world after the Sudden Departure birthing the idea of the Guilty Remnant and Meg Abbott taking it over – a theme throughout the season. However, this isn’t about the imagery, but about what we just saw.
Our first impression is likely that we just saw some events that happened in the remote past, the Paleolithic era, presumably at the site of modern day Jarden, Texas. I thought that and wondered why in the Hell did we just watch it – what is the importance? With a show like this, you don’t have completely random scenes like that, and it took a few times watching through to catch it – it’s a favorite background binge as I write. I am suggesting that it is nothing of the sort.
In the final episode of the series, Nora Durst tells us about how she traveled to where the others departed to – a mirror image world where to all those who departed, it seemed as if everyone else just disappeared. Seeing her family was fine without her, she sought to return and so hunted down the man who invented the machine she traveled in and convinced him to make another to send her back. Luckily for her, there were only these two worlds and not a third where she was alone. I warned you I was spoiling. I am suggesting that Nora’s story, told in the world we are familiar with, is not the only depiction we see of this other world; rather, this season opening took place in that world.
The series was not shy with extreme foreshadowing – it’s early in Season 1 that we learn about the cast of Perfect Strangers all departing on October 14th, 2011, referenced more than once. We see this pop up again early in Season 2 as it is shown that Michael Linn-Baker faked his departure and then he is the one who tries to recruit Nora Durst to use the machine later in Season 3. We see just after this opening scene the girls being extremely outgoing in front of a scientist only to see them sit eerily in complete science as they drive home, foreshadowing to the fact that they have covertly joined the Guilty Remnant. Evie then tells a joke to her father, episodes before it is revealed she knew none but learned one from Meg Abbott when she visited Miracle with her fiancé. We even meet God, aka David Burton during Kevin’s journey to the world of the dead – twice – before we learn who he is in Season 3. Oddly he is not dead at this point as the fact that he survived the fall and claimed to be God was referenced in a newscast during Season 1.
I also have no doubt that David Burton is God, both in the show and, to a lesser extent, being a pantheist (all is God), in real life.
So, how do we know this isn’t a hastily built reference to the Paleolithic? Let’s start with how we know this took place in Jarden and not just a random event in the remote past, somewhere, with the pan being a cop out explained by calling it “artistic choice.” The snake that threatened her child was a rattlesnake – not a cobra or an asp that might be found in Eurasia or Africa, but a type of snake native to the Americas. This event happened in the Americas.
Now, why then are these people all white? White skin evolved in Scandanavia only 8000 years ago – everyone was at least brown before that, including the early inhabitants of the Americas who arrived at the latest 12,600 years ago into the warm part of the Americas, though perhaps as early as 30,000 years ago under non-Bering Land Bridge theories. White people didn’t arrive in the Americas until the 11th century under Lief Ericson. Anyone in the Americas during the Paleolithic would have been brown, not white. Even depictions of white people in movies such as 10,000 BC are unrealistic in portraying white people as existing at all.
Therefore, we have either really sloppy work done by Damon Lindelof – unlikely – or this event could not have taken place in the Paleolithic and must be much more modern.
But Nora didn’t describe a world without civilization where people were running around naked. She described a world where they struggled to keep things going due to a drop in population by 98%, bringing 7 billion people down to a mere 140 million. Things took longer – but they still had civilization.
However, we are told of two places on the planet where there were anomalies with the departure: Jarden, Texas where the 9,261 were spared, and almost on the exact opposite end of the Earth, though not quite, Kevin Garvey Sr relays information about a town where everyone and every animal, except a single chicken, departed on what was the 15th over there. Presumably, in the other world they were the ones who were spared – and we don’t really know which of the two worlds is the actual original.
The Sudden Departure took place, as we know thanks to the success of Nora’s journey, due to Low Amplitude Danziger Radiation. There is no such thing as Danziger radiation, though there are people named Danziger that have written papers involving radiation, likely none about any new radiation. There are many places online who refer to it as LADR, which seems to suggest the name was made up to refer to Jacob’s Ladder – the supposed connection between Heaven and Earth that appears in the Bible – and googling after the fact revealed that Uproxx made the connection, however slightly, first. Of course, it would be odd that low amplitude, rather than high amplitude, would be what would do it – a bit odder that it didn’t connect to Heaven given that the symbolism wasn’t spoonfed to us.
Now the Low Amplitude Danziger Radiation seemed to be strongest at that point in Australia, or perhaps in the Indian Ocean where the actual opposite side of the Earth would be, and weakest in Jarden – or perhaps the other way around since we don’t know whether the 2% or the 98% departed originally. It would stand to reason that you would see a lighter effect nearby the event – with fewer people in the areas surrounding Jarden departing and more people around the Australian village departing. We are never given any answer either way in the show, but it would make sense.
If fewer people in that area of Texas departed, we may have seen civilization collapse locally because they didn’t have the sense of Phil “Tandy” Miller of The Last Man on Earth to drive somewhere else or even take clothing from stores – as Nora did. If two people from the next town over departed, and three from the town after that, and so on, you might see a distraught handful of people, many of whom may have committed suicide or died soon after without necessary services.
This allows for a scene nearby where we have naked people running around in the wilderness, naked and scavenging, in Jarden. It seems odd that she didn’t say a word when the snake was on her baby, grunting when bitten, but not a word spoken. You might expect: “Fuck! Now you’re going to get it!” after she was bitten or even talking to the baby: “Don’t worry – Momma’s gonna save you.” Hell, even Kevin Garvey Sr spoke to the snake he intended to eat for sustenance when wandering the Australian outback. But, when those words came out in English, instead of some long dead tongue, it would have given it all away.
Let me say that I’d love to see the show come back in a new form, covering not the events of the world we first saw, but this other world – how different people cope with 98% of the people around them disappearing rather than a mere 2%. How fast did news spread? Were there cults around? Did this woman join a primitivist cult of some sort? Call the show Our Dearly Departed. But there are many who were left wanting more.
Correction: this article originally mistakenly described the Mark Linn-Baker/Nora Durst scene as happening in Season 2 instead of Season 3.
Featured image via Vox. Fair use.
This work is unpaid because this is not a for-profit site. If you want to help support this work and more like it in the future, please consider becoming a patron of mine on Patreon on my page. Funds will not only help me transition to writing full-time but will allow me to purchase professional images for the articles.