After a thoughtful departure to Mapleton and the nature of one’s past self, HBO’s The Leftovers returned to Jarden with “Orange Sticker,” building on the disappearance of Evie and her friends at the quarry.
It’s quiet in the Garvey household, but the earthquakes that pulsed throughout the first two episodes serve as an interruption. Nora runs outside and sees Erika, who informs her that Evie never came home, that she’s gone. The word “gone” has far graver connotations in The Leftovers than any other television show and causes Nora to collapse. The possibility of a reoccurrence was broached in “A Matter of Geography,” and it threatens to become a reality in the latest episode when Nora discovers that Kevin isn’t home either.
Understandably, “Orange Sticker” sacrifices grand thematic focus in favor of pushing the story forward but still manages to meditate on a certain idea. The episode uses the disappearance of Evie and her friends to ask questions about the possibility of another departure, and what that possibility means to each of these characters. For the town, it’s a blow to their entire sense of security. Their community is built on the fact that nobody in the town departed, but now they aren’t safe anymore. In the truck, Tom tells Kevin, “No safer here than anywhere else, of that I’m sure. There are no miracles in miracle.” The departure means something to the outside world too. The orange stickers referenced in the title belong to the government, which came through town to account for everyone in each residence, ruling out departure and leaving the sticky certificate on each household.
Nora seems to receive the most focus in “Orange Sticker,” as the first departure took her whole family and another could stand to take her new one. She frantically searches for any information after the earthquake about another departure, then is immediately calmed by the arrival of Kevin, who tells Nora and Jill about where he woke up.
Nora came seeking a sense of safety and confronts Matt, the one who told her to move to the town. Matt is almost giddy at the possibility of another departure, seeing the value in the congregation looking to him for guidance — he’s got experience with counseling people during departures. Matt’s faith in Miracle National Park hasn’t faded, as he reveals to Nora that his comatose wife woke up and talked with him during their first night. It’s possible he was dreaming, but if so, he’s happy to believe in the dream as he waits for his wife to heal permanently.
This renews Nora’s belief in not only Jarden, but gives her a firm belief that this is not a departure. She tells Jill a story about a suspected departure from her office days, one they eventually found hiding out in Puerto Rico. They assumed he departed because two percent of the world’s population had disappeared, it was the most sensible explanation at the time. Here, nobody else disappeared, so it can’t be a departure to her.
Tom is certain that this isn’t a departure, but foul play. He suspects Isaac, the man who foretold bad things would happen, and Tom ends up getting shot after taking Kevin to threaten him. When Erika injects painkillers into Tom at the urgent care, you can see the sadness in his eyes that his daughter’s disappearance couldn’t be explained through human means. Now he has to consider departure. Michael believes that Evie and her friends aren’t coming back, but he finds hope in the religious implications. Michael tells Jill that she’s with God now, subscribing to faith. At the end of the episode, he scrapes off the orange sticker from his house. His sister is with God, and nobody can convince him otherwise.
Kevin is the only one who doesn’t seem to swing any particular way in regards to the possibility of departure. But then again, he was more focused on keeping himself from getting implicated in the disappearance than engaging in deep thought. The ghost of Patti offers clarity, even though Kevin didn’t ask any questions. Max Richter’s epic and emotional “November” plays as Patti walks Kevin through what happened the previous night. She reveals he intentionally tried to kill himself, explaining the cinderblock that was attached to his leg. She calls what saved him an act of divine intervention, bringing the notion of God’s part in departures back into Kevin’s reality. Patti says the girls did vanish, that they departed like so many others three years before. What’s interesting is that it’s not the knowledge of how the girls went that shocks Kevin, it’s the knowledge that he tried to kill himself. Kevin tells himself he would never do that to his family, however Patti can be convincing. She then busts out some Rick Astley, thereby literally rick-rolling Kevin after dropping this news and suggesting that she may have been intentionally fooling him for some gain of hers. Kevin returns home, and Nora cuffs their hands together to keep him close to her tonight. Kevin’s going to scratch the orange sticker Patti placed on him. He loves his family, and nobody can convince him otherwise.
Dylan Moses Griffin has been a cinephile for as long as he can remember. His favorite film is Taxi Driver, and he reads the works of Roger Ebert like it’s scripture. If you want, he will talk to you for 30 minutes about the chronologically weird/amazing Fast and Furious franchise.