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What Is the Axis Mundi, and Is Damon Lindelof Taking 'The Leftovers' Down a 'Lost' Path?

By Cindy Davis | Miscellaneous | October 6, 2015 |

By Cindy Davis | Miscellaneous | October 6, 2015 |

I truly enjoyed (perhaps an odd word to describe the experience) the first season of The Leftovers, which focused on a group of people who’d lost their loved ones to a “rapture-like event” during which seemingly random people simply disappeared from the planet. The cast was excellent, themes of spirituality, loss and guilt were explored in a way we don’t often see on television, and there was as much mystery about the core characters as those who were “taken.” Steven loved the Inferno allusions and wondered if the survivors were in a hell of their own making, and instead of pondering over where the Departed went, we were provoked (along with the survivors) to consider why they were disappeared.

The second season premiere was no less thought-provoking, opening with a haunting out-of-time, and different cataclysmic event that left a woman alone, a survivor with no one else to help her through the emotions. Short as her arc was, the woman did what she needed to do to survive. There was no time for self-pity or drinking binges, no Guilty Remnant or church community to turn to.

Now that I’ve done some thinking, about what that scene might have meant, my first question was about the episode title, “Axis Mundi.” And, after a quick scan of internet resources, and making a few connections to his former mythological masterpiece, I can’t help thinking Damon Lindelof’s headed down that old Lost highway again.

“Axis Mundi” takes place in a Texas town called Miracle, so renamed because during the Departure, no one (purportedly) disappeared. Introduced to a new group of characters in this quirky, now touristy town, it was easy to get caught up in trying to work out some of the strange goings-on, including Kevin’s head bash, buried birds, John’s bacon issues and a dude who routinely sacrifices goats in the diner. But, my big question at the hour’s end was, “What does that title mean, and why did they choose it?”

Generally speaking, the axis mundi refers to a central line or pivot point — and perhaps, spiritual/philosophical connection — between earth (world) and heaven. Some cultures represent the axis mundi as a spot where sky and earth are closest with a designated physical representation like a mountain or a structure. I wonder if that has something to do with this guy’s location:


Also interesting is “Axis Mundi’s” opening sequence, which featured a snake that bit the mother protecting her newborn child. Snakes are often depicted as guardians around sacred spaces, which Miracle’s strange lakeside area may well turn out to be.


Is the lake water magical? The townsfolk certainly seem to believe it is — they have a warning that removal of the water will result in criminal prosecution:


Of note; before Evie did take a bottle of the water and drink from it before her disappearance. (The cave woman must have drunk it as well.) Is the lake itself the axis mundi, and therefore why we saw it depicted at different moments in time? Does the water have something to do with Evie’s disappearance? Watch me while I fall down this rabbit hole, again.

I’m not by any means complaining that there are some similarities to Lost. Magical water, alternate timelines in the same location, a woman in an alternate timeline giving birth near a cave, a baby raised by another, etc.; I love a good show with interesting mythology, and if nothing else, The Leftovers challenges our usual television-watching thought process. Whatever happens, happens.

Cindy Davis, (Twitter)