The Leftovers: Axis Mundi
October 5, 2015 2:33 PM - Season 2, Episode 1 - Subscribe

In the second season opener, the focus shifts to the town of Miracle, where zero people disappeared during Sudden Departure. But first, a deeply disturbing opening involving a mother and child, many years ago.
posted by jbickers (13 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I just watched the first season of Penny Dreadful, and I have to say I found this episode of the Leftovers far more disturbing than anything I saw in Penny Dreadful. This episode just oozes with biblical symbolism, more even than I've noticed in season 1, which for me is about the creepiest possible thing. Miracle National Park with draconian park rangers? That is completely horrifying!

As for symbolism, here's what I've noticed so far:

A prehistoric snake bites a woman while she eats food in a tree -- in what eons later becomes Jarden, TX (as in the French jardin, I assume).

John (a Baptist, btw) has a daughter named "Evie." The pie he gets is apple, of course.

The music playing during the birth scene is "La traviata" (the Fallen Woman).

There were 9,261 survivors in Miracle. If you reverse the numbers (when they show the word Miracle, they pan up in reverse), you get 1629. Proverbs 16:29 is an interesting passage that probably has relevance: "A violent man enticeth his neighbour, and leadeth him into the way that is not good." There are some other 16:29s in the bible that are also interesting. (I find myself obsessively pausing to look stuff up every time a number shows up on screen.)

I'm sure I missed a bunch. So, are we to understand that the "bad thing" that happens to John is his daughter falls into a Hellmouth? That seems more like a bad thing for Evie than for John. John getting his hand chewed off by a garbage disposal would have been a bad thing for John. But such is the nature of biblical reasoning, I guess.

I loved his line about "I didn't try hard enough" when asked about his attempted murder conviction.
posted by tempestuoso at 9:09 PM on October 5, 2015 [15 favorites]

Supposedly season one was too depressing so they're trying to lighten the mood somewhat. The main change I see so far is the title sequence, which was pretty dramatic & imposing before, is now fairly upbeat. Still lots of random oddness - why were the girls running naked through the woods? What's with the bird in the box?
posted by scalefree at 9:34 PM on October 5, 2015

Rewatching for details I just noticed more unexplained oddness. When John's son is riding his bike down the street he passes a big crack in the road with a glass table placed over it and the number 7 marked in white paint pointing to it. And a woman in a wedding dress is watering her lawn. I have no idea what either of these means. This is approaching David Lynch territory.

OK, the church is "just past the 18 marker", presumably on the tourist maps. And the earthquakes are due to fracking. This is a very dense setting, a lot going on here.
posted by scalefree at 9:54 PM on October 5, 2015

a big crack in the road with a glass table placed over it and the number 7 marked in white paint pointing to it. And a woman in a wedding dress is watering her lawn

It is pretty clear to me that because the town had no disappeared, the people in the town are doing everything they can to maintain whatever status quo led them to be spared. So, the women is wearing her wedding dress because she was wearing it when the event happened and she wasn't taken. Maybe she only wears it at the moment of the event, not all the time, and at that moment on that day the lawn needed watering. The town marks the cracks in the road (a result of the quakes caused by fracking, we presume) because they were there when the event happened, and repairing them would break the spell - why that crack in particular, I don't know. Same deal with the man sacrificing the goat in the diner. Something led him to believe he needs to keep doing that, so he does, and everyone accepts it as normal (if inconvenient). There is a religion being built around Jarden, and its beliefs and traditions don't appear to be fully formed just yet.

Personally, I quite enjoy the world-building aspect of this show and that there are events we see that will never be fully explained - indeed, including the central event. I don't understand the complaints (not in this thread) about the lack of explanation. I enjoy working it out for myself, to the extent I can.
posted by schoolgirl report at 5:52 AM on October 6, 2015 [7 favorites]

Supposedly season one was too depressing...

Season 1 was very depressing. How could it not be when everyone on the planet is trying to deal with grief? I loved it though. I cried so much every episode but I loved it. And Max Richter is an absolute genius with his musical choices (which is probably half the reason I cried).

Temestuoso, that's so cool that they did that! Thanks for going to all the trouble.
posted by LizBoBiz at 5:54 AM on October 6, 2015

As for the bird in the box, there area few possibilities. One, she buried a dead bird and it was resurrected. Two, she buried a live bird and it didn't die. Both of those suggest there is indeed something mystical about the land in Jarden. Or three, there's more to it about which we may (or may not) find out in later episodes.
posted by schoolgirl report at 5:55 AM on October 6, 2015

The piano theme music makes me cry every time I hear it. On the first note, I immediately think of the death of everyone I love and then my own death and I start crying.
posted by Falconetti at 1:17 PM on October 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

I liked this episode a lot - the new family is way more interesting to me than any of the characters from the first season, and it's nice to actually see people laugh and act like there is some enjoyment to be had in this universe rather than just torrents of grief, frustration and numb despair. It's also cool to see some persons of color as the main focus of one of these prestige dramas for once.

About the hole in the road, they mention something about fracking in the episode, which I guess could cause that, in theory, assuming there's a secular explanation.

I liked the motif of the hawk in the opening sequence, which seems to be guiding the woman to save her baby, and how it's echoed by the mysterious grasshopper in the Murphys' house.

And I was impressed by how much menace and tension the director managed to wring out of the garbage disposal scene. I was also fully expecting the pie to contain a human finger or something. Who baked the pie?
posted by whir at 10:57 PM on October 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Also, having just looked back through some of the season 1 threads, I will be perfectly happy if this season just sticks with the town of Jarden, TX and doesn't really focus on very much of that convoluted nonsense again.
posted by whir at 11:05 PM on October 6, 2015

Falconetti, if you're feeling like a good cry, the Leftovers soundtrack is available for streaming on spotify. Its one of my faves.
posted by LizBoBiz at 12:34 PM on October 7, 2015

Season 1 of this show upset me so much that I had to stop watching at times. This opener was beyond weird, but compelling. I wondered how things tied in until I saw Matt. But I think it was a brave opener, with the writers realising that viewers who stuck with season 1 can take it.

I love the Iris De Ment song at the beginning, I've always loved that song. And yes, Falconetti, that piano music destroys me too.
posted by essexjan at 3:24 PM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

Good lord what a strange TV show. There's no attempt here to meet the casual viewer in the middle. Either you're on the bus for this ride or you're not. I'm on, personally, but I can't imagine someone starting with this show and thinking "huh I want to watch this teevee here!". Everyone is so unpleasant and awful. Particularly John.

My favorite scene was the nude teenage girls running through the forest. Not because of the obvious, but because they seemed so free and happy and fast and it was some weird thing I didn't understand at all. A happy moment in an otherwise pretty awful and bleak show.

The ornate county courthouse in a few of the scenes of Jarden is a real place i've really been to; it's Lockhart, Texas. Not too far from Austin, and mostly known for its amazing barbeque. That town has a population of 13,000, roughly the size of Miracle. And from what I see online they filmed parts of the show there, parts in Austin. I particularly liked the portrayal of the social network and religion of the black families, it felt pretty true to Texas for me. A bit weird to bring white preacher in, but there were some whites in the congregation too so maybe post-disappearance things get turned upside down a bit.
posted by Nelson at 7:58 PM on October 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

This opener was beyond weird, but compelling.
The opening 10 minutes or so of the episode were a bit of a roller coaster: from the opening credits, where it became clear that they had completely re-done everything, to the shot of the stone age "Traviata" - and finally through to the great transition to the present at the same watering hole.

Something went wrong with the playback of this episode on my device - and the audio got thrown about 2 minutes behind the visuals. It is a mark of the nature of the show, that we watched about 10 minutes of the resulting nonsense thinking "I'm sure this is the programme makers trying to convey something deep and meaningful". I can't think of any other TV show were I would have been that lenient!
posted by rongorongo at 2:05 AM on August 9, 2022

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