The Leftovers 2×04 ‘Orange Sticker’: Look into the void

The Leftovers 2x04 Cover

It’s hard not to want answers. We hear some sort of answer and start building our perspective based on it, contorting the facts and contorting the words of those around us to fit our newly-formed worldview. Because even if that worldview is flawed, at least it feels whole to us, makes some sort of sense out of the world. There’s little scarier than looking at the world around us and seeing a complete mystery, something potentially malignant in a way that we can’t even begin to comprehend. When we make sense of the world, we demystify it to the point where we feel safe. Only we’re not actually safe, as we live in our own delusions, unwilling to deal with the realities of the world.

The Leftovers 2x04-1

Source: HBO

This season of The Leftovers has been remarkably adept at confronting the way that we delude ourselves into peace and contentment, even if it means believing in some sort of fantasy. Nora buys the crumbling house for $3 million, settles into a peaceful, domestic life, only to have the earthquake wake her up to Kevin missing. And when she hears that Evie is gone, she panics, thinking that Kevin has departed, to the point where her world literally “flips”. It’s a fantastic scene because Nora understands that the Departure was a one-time event, but she can’t help her darkest fear completely consuming her. The loss she felt comes bursting forth because it never really went away; it was only buried. The rest of the episode has her grimacing, drinking, scowling, because the only thing she can do to control herself is to steel herself against the misery of Evie’s disappearance.

The Leftovers 2x04-2

Source: HBO

This is the central point of “Orange Sticker”: to take the peaceful lives of those in Miracle/Jardin and set them to implode, showing them that there truly are no miracles in Miracle. The stakes are set high in this episode, making the slow pace all the more terrifying, as John stumbles from space to space, wreaking havoc as he goes. Since Kevin’s fingerprint is on Evie’s car from the night he woke up, and since his phone is missing, he’s working to make sure that nobody (especially John) believes him to be involved in the disappearance. John deals with his imploding life through force, though such force never seems to work to his favor. He’s shot by the palm reader from the season premiere when he storms into the man’s hotel room with a bat, and Kevin has to take him to his wife to remove the bullet. John’s presence in this episode works fantastically to deepen his character as well as his relationships with other characters.

The Leftovers 2x04-3

Source: HBO

And we see just how broken Kevin is, as it’s revealed that he tried to commit suicide at the end of the second episode. He continues to struggle with the deep depression and loss that he feels, and even thought it’s clear he loves his family, he wonders (through Patti) how much he really cares about them if he feels the way that he does. He blames his negative feelings on himself (instead of blaming them on the depression), and, in doing that, ends up having to physically attach himself to Nora in order to stay safe and sane. When Nora extends the handcuffs to him at the end of the episode, she’s trying to fasten them together because the collective pain and loss they’re experiencing is beginning to push them apart. Jill begins to feel that loneliness as well, as she wants Michael around just to feel like she has somebody in her life. Of course, Michael is too defeated and angry to care much about Jill’s presence. He feels cheated by his god, believing the answer to Evie’s disappearance to be god’s intervention instead of anything rational and sound. It lines up with his beliefs, and while it’s a horrible thing to believe, it’s what makes him feel comfortable.

The Leftovers 2x04-4

Source: HBO

But, at the center of the episode, we still have people who are willing to believe what they’re told instead of actually looking for answers. Some in the episode believe that the girls have “Departed”, like Kevin, whose subconscious (in the form of Patti) tells him just that. Others, like Nora, just believe that the girls are gone, that they left or were taken and that there’s no reason for it all. And others, like Matt, still believe that the town holds some special power, some miracle after all. All three of them believe their beliefs because of the way that they’ve existed up to this point. Kevin always believes the worst. Nora puts up shields around herself to feel safe. And Matt needs faith to hold onto hope. None of them have beliefs that exist in a vacuum. They need to feel the way that they do in order to be comfortable with the world around them. But that comfort is slowly being stripped away, like Michael strips off of his house the orange sticker that signifies “No Departures”.

“Orange Sticker” is a great episode, though it works primarily to act as a bridge to the next portion of the main plot. Considering that next week’s episode, “No Room at the Inn”, looks to be Matt-centric, circling around a singular character, episodes like “Orange Sticker” work brilliantly to drive the main plot forward, examining the plethora of characters at play while it does so. But what works so great about this episode isn’t just the way the characters interact, but also the way that we see reality taking hold of Miracle. It’s not a special place, a bubble separated from the rest of the world. It feels loss and pain all the same. And while that may send the town and those within the town into disarray, if they can make it to the other side, they’ll inevitably be better for it.

So what did you think of “Orange Sticker”? Are you excited for another Matt-centric episode? Let me know in the comments!

Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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