"The Leftovers," HBO's provocative series based on the Tom Perrotta book, starring Justin Theroux, Carrie Coon and -- joining in the second season -- Kevin Carroll and Regina King, returns this Sunday. The review...

THE SERIES "The Leftovers"

WHEN/WHERE HBO, Sunday, 9 p.m.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT There's a town in Texas called "Jarden" -- sounds like Jordan, as in the river -- where no one vanished during the great disappearance. It's been renamed "Miracle." A family lives there -- John Murphy (Kevin Carroll), Erika (Regina King) and their twins, Evie (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Michael (Jovan Adepo). Evie's a full-of-life teen, Michael is studious and deeply religious. John? He has a job to do, and you'll find out soon enough what that is. One day, a new family moves in next door to them: Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), Nora Durst (Carrie Coon) and Kevin's teen daughter, Jill (Margaret Qualley). Based on the book by Tom Perrotta, about the lives of people who carry on after millions of other people simply ... disappear.

MY SAY Full of tangents and references, it's not always easy to tell whether "The Leftovers" is using them to lead viewers somewhere important or just play head games. (And executive producer Damon Lindelof, who wrote the opener along with Tom Perrotta, has been known to play those.)

The opening sequence borrows a few bars from the overture to "La Traviata." There's an obvious lift here from "Fahrenheit 451" -- you remember the firemen who don't prevent fires but start them?

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There's this famous line, from the Book of Acts, emblazoned on a banner in the Murphys' church: " ... and they both went down into the water.."

The full quote reads: "they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch [the Ethiopian], and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing..."

Mmmm. Macguffin...

What does all this mean? Honestly, I have a few ideas, but I'm sure they're open to interpretation which "The Leftovers" encourages, anyway. But what all of this really does -- and admittedly does well -- is give "The Leftovers" that layered effect, as if to say: Something deep is going on here, and you must keep diving down, down, down to find out exactly what.

As usual, the hope is that by the time you get to the last layer of this cake, the mysteries will reveal themselves.

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Unless "The Leftovers" is really just a tale of infinite regress, or to borrow the great line, it's just turtles all the way down...

Will fans -- true-blue "Leftovers" fans, that is -- like Sunday? Absolutely. Will newbies? They'll be utterly lost at sea, in a leaky life raft. But by moving to Texas, and to a town where miracles can and do happen, "The Leftovers" absolutely made the right move. This unique series is about life's inscrutable mysteries and the search for answers. The town of Jarden -- and the Murphys -- appear to be rich with possibilities in that search.

GRADE B+