What Happened To the Girls in ‘The Leftovers’? Here Are the Theories
As Season 2 of The Leftovers continues to be one of the best dramas on television, each week gives us a few answers, but adds double the mysteries. So far this season the central focus has shifted from a global to a local one now that the Garveys have relocated to Jarden, Texas. But is Miracle really a place of miracles? Is a second Departure responsible for the disappearance of Evie (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and her friends? Unsurprisingly, Damon Lindelof's series is much more complicated than that, but there might be some answers.
In Sunday night’s episode “Lens,” spoiler alert, Nora (Carrie Coon) became a possible suspect in the girls’ disappearance. After a researcher began poking a radiation stick around her, he came to find that she might be a lens, which we learned is a person who can cause those they’re in contact with to depart. We also found out the story behind Erika’s (Regina King) birds-in-a-box, the goat sacrificer, the numbers on Jarden’s streets and the bride in her wedding gown. Carrie Coon and Regina King ended the episode with one of the series’ most intense and powerful scenes to date, a showdown of grieving mothers whose wishes turned to turmoil. Erika revealed she planned to leave her husband, wishing over the resurrected bird that Evie would be okay without her. Instead, something took her daughter from her and kept Erika in Jarden. Nora’s experience wasn’t so different. The last time she saw her family, aggravated at her children, Nora looked upwards as if wishing them away. But are both disappearances the same?
It’s unknown what made Evie, Taylor and Violet go poof. Did they plan their disappearance, did Nora cause it or is it something else entirely? Here are a few theories based on some clues and close readings:
Nora Caused the Second Departure
It’s possible Nora is a lens who may have brought the Departure with her. She moved to Jarden the day before Evie disappeared and had contact with her at John’s (Kevin Carroll) barbecue. But then the researchers’ theory gets a bit weirder. The woman who calls Nora tells her she believes Nora is possessed by the demon Azrael, which is causing her to make others Depart. Azrael, also referred to as Azriel, is present in both Hebrew and Islam and is called Malak al-Maut in the Qur'an, which means “Angel of Death.” In Judaism he is considered to be a commander of God’s angels, while according to Islamic beliefs Azrael takes the soul of every person and returns it to God. It seems like the researchers are as desperate for an explanation of the show’s events as fans are, and such a reference to the Angel of Death is probably more of a metaphor for Nora.
Patti & Kevin Caused the Second Departure
Being possessed by a demon or an angel of death sounds slightly more of Kevin’s (Justin Theroux) situation at the moment with Patti (Ann Dowd). Instead of Nora, perhaps he’s the one who corrupted the previously spared Jarden. He was present at the lake the same night the girls disappeared, but did he attempt to kill himself (if that’s even true) before or after they arrived? It seems like Patti knows what really happened to the girls and that bringing Kevin to the scene of their disappearance was a part of a larger plan.
I also found it interested that both Kevin and Nora made contact with Evie’s friends, Taylor and Violet, the night they vanished. In this season's second episode, after Kevin, Nora and Jill (Margaret Qualley) leave the Murphy’s home, Evie’s friends call out to them from their car. Nora and Kevin are the only ones who talk to them besides Evie. Could one, or both of them, have passed on something from Mapleton?
Evie Planned Her Escape
A second Departure occurring and only taking three people with it seems questionable, and I just don’t buy it. But what if Evie and her friends planned their escape? What if the whole idea of Jarden being a place blessed by God had run its course for them and they finally lost hope in their town? After rewatching the season premiere, a few scenes that had initially caught my attention gave me a new perspective. One was the girls’ car ride home after swimming in the lake. Although the girls were blasting music from their car at the lake, the next shot showed all three of them driving silently with no music. Moments before they were all giggling and teasing Dr. Goodheart, the Australian man taking water samples at the lake. But why had their mood suddenly changed, each of them looking void of emotion in a silent car?
Later in the episode, Evie and her friends sing a song praising the wonders of Miracle during choir practice. Evie sings joyfully, looks at Taylor beside her and smiles. Then as she sings the words “That God had spared our town” something shifts on Evie’s face. Her eyebrows become more stern and less jovial. It’s as if a sense of doubt crept over her as she sang those lyrics. The very next scene shows Evie, Taylor and Violet stripped naked running through the woods. Evie raises her arms up high as if being released. Were they trying to escape from something in Jarden, or maybe from the town itself?
One fan on Reddit, Jankinator, caught on to the use and references to the music this season and thinks it supports the theory that the girls faked their departure. During the search for the girls, Erika and others repeatedly mentioned how odd it was music was still playing in the car where the girls disappeared. All of their personal items were also left behind making it look like they vanished, but perhaps that’s the point. Every time we’ve seen the girls around others they seem like gleeful best friends. Yet what if they were just trying to keep up a normal appearance, blasting music and laughing together so not to raise suspicions. When they’re finally alone together, they no longer act like the lively trio, instead solemnly sitting or running naked in silence. Based on Evie’s odd shift in mood while singing about Miracle, it seems like she’s become discontent. Perhaps the girls knew something needed to happen to wake up their town and prove that maybe Jarden isn’t the perfect sanctuary it purports to be. Evie’s twin brother Michael (Jovan Adepo) remains to be the least upset and worried over his sister’s disappearance and told Jill he believes she’s gone. Being the most faithful member of his family, he might trust that she planned her escape and knows what’s she’s doing.
It’s also interesting how the night before Evie’s disappearance Michael went to pray with Virgil, the psychic-like man we learned is related to the Murphys. That same day is when Erika made her wish before finding the bird alive in the buried shoe box. Although a loose connection, I have a feeling the mythology of the birds that Erika was told by her grandmother has some relation to the girls’ disappearance. The number three is interesting. It took three days for the bird to resurrect, a strong allusion to Christ’s resurrection. Three girls disappeared. Three months ago is when Mary magically woke up with Matt. Perhaps the girl will return in a variation of three.
The sound of birds chirping may also play a role in Evie’s disappearance. In the scenes when Evie’s friends drop her off at home after the lake and when the girls run in the nude, you can hear the sounds of birds chirping, also noted in the closed captioning. Sure, bird chirping is a typical part of any TV show or movie’s sound design and nothing out of the ordinary, but sound is an essential part of the Murphys’ story so far. Erika is deaf without her hearing aids and John was driven crazy by the constant chirping cricket in his house. After Evie left, the cricket disappeared and Erika’s birds died in her shoe box.
Maybe There Is No Answer
But after all, this may not be a mystery Lindelof ever solves for us. As much as we can theorize, The Leftovers is more about the impetus and the reaction, not the events themselves. I won’t be surprised if we never learn how Evie and her friends disappeared and if, in a few weeks from now, Evie suddenly appears on her doorstep. I think Evie’s vanishing was necessary to shake Erika’s complacence and faith, and to learn that she wasn’t the one who was supposed to leave her family, but her daughter was. It also caused Erika to question her religious beliefs and erupt in front of the audience at the fundraiser. Sacrificing goats and repeating rituals that happened before the Departure may not be the answer to keeping things safe. Just as Nora declares to Erika that she has “evolved,” as if defying faith in God’s protection with the laws of nature, perhaps the rest of Jarden needs to evolve too. Matt sacrificed himself, refusing to let others take his place in the wooden pillory, and Evie, Taylor and Violet sacrificed themselves. But just as the cavewoman in the pilot came back to life to take care of her baby, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Evie.