After several months of anticipating the arrival of HBO’s new series “The Leftovers,” the waiting is over. The show debuted on 06.29 to an audience of 1.8 million viewers. With “True Blood” as a solid lead in, “The Leftovers” had a great start. If they can hold off on more animal violence, in my opinion, then I can see this show flourishing and becoming a solid staple among HBO’s Sunday night programming.
As with any new series, it’s important to establish who the characters are, where they live, and what’s going on. We begin the show on October 14th, the infamous day when the Sudden Departure occurred. The first episode didn’t really describe the Sudden Departure; this is how Tom Perrotta, author of the source material and an executive producerof the series describes it as follows:
“Something tragic occurred,” the experts repeated over and over. “It was a Rapture-like phenomenon, but it doesn’t appear to have been the Rapture.” Interestingly, some of the loudest voices making this argument belonged to Christians themselves, who couldn’t help noticing that many of the people who’d disappeared on October 14th – Hindus and Buddhists and Muslims and Jews and atheists and homosexuals and Eskimos and Mormons and Zoroastrarians, whatever the heck they were – hadn’t accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior. As far as anyone could tell, it was a random harvest, and the one thing the Rapture couldn’t be was random. The whole point was to separate the wheat from the chaff, to reward the true believers and put the rest of the world on notice. An indiscriminate Rapture was no Rapture at all.
“The Leftovers” begins just days before the three-year anniversary of the Sudden Departure and focuses on the four members of the Garvey family: father Kevin, who is the chief of police in Mapleton, the town where most of the story takes place; mother Laurie, who has left her family to join the Guilty Remnant, a cult-like group that has taken a vow of silence and protests nearly everything the members of the world still alive and affiliated with the GR do; son Tom, who is in the inner circle of Holy Wayne, a prophet/Messiah-like figure who says he can take away pain by hugging a person; and daughter Jill, who is still in high school, has no real friends, social standing, or reason to continue doing anything at all. In Perrotta’s book, Jill was present when one of her friends “departed” – she was there one moment and gone the next – but it is unknown if that detail will be included in the show.
— Editor Jef Dinsmore picks up the review from here —
That is the basic setup, but I will add a bit more insight to help you possibly embrace the series. Upon watching the pilot I think there are some basic facts you have to accept. We have already seen comments on this site and others that offer a great disappointment in the premiere, but if you follow the following considerations those folks might end up giving the show a second look. Granted, the premise and the pilot are flawed and you shouldn’t have to justify anything; it should have been handled better in our opinion, but let’s consider the following anyway.
First, you have to accept the illogical behavior of the society as we see it or the show will be a mess for you. An unexplainable tragedy has occurred and society, absolutely everyone, has suffered because of it. There is no solid reason why America or Mapleton should behave in the manner it does. Think of bad things that have happened around us. Even after 9/11 we were able to heal and move on. Yes, the world has changed post event, but not to the extent that it has in this show. We are more cautious now, and have tighter security, but we have not developed cult behaviors and become reckless with our lives nor bemoaned it three years later. Why is the society depicted here behaving this way?
We don’t know, but we are going to have to accept that it is behaving that way. Maybe, it is Earth of an alternate universe? Maybe, it has seen more terrorism beyond 9/11 and/or natural disasters that have decimated the country and the Sudden Departure was the last straw to break the camel’s back? Maybe, the planet is so fed up with trauma that mankind as a whole just snapped. Maybe, they just cannot handle living without Gary Busey?? Accept it or turn away from the show. It is your call.
The other fact to consider is that everyone handles loss in their own way and time and the feeling of loss is tantamount in THE LEFTOVERS. In fact, I have kind of embraced the notion a bit strongly I think. The premiere episode was so disjointed and off-beat that I think the production team aided in the viewer feeling a sense of disconnect. Now, I am no fool and do not give the show runner the credit for intentionally controlling the viewer’s mood in that direction. The way the episode was edited and presented perfectly plays into the sense of loss felt by the characters – the audience felt a loss of cohesion and character development. In time we can only hope that feeling will abate and some substance will develop and some purpose to continue watching will take over and we also can move on. I just hope that it doesn’t take to many flash-backs, or gods forbid, flash-sideways to get us to that point. Again, accept it or turn away from the show. It is your call.
One little side note, please! The character of Pam, who is the woman you runs the local Guilty Remnant shelter where Laurie Garvey resides, also played the half-sister of Errol Childress in TRUE DETECTIVE. Yep, that’s her.
In conclusion we thank Victoria for her insight in starting off this piece. She has read the Tom Perrotta book (The Leftovers) and her initiative and input helped this article. We hope to hear more from her on the matter soon.
Here’s a preview for Episode 2, “Penguin One, Us Zero”: