I had every intention of watching HBO’s The Leftovers Season 1 when it aired but never managed to catch a single episode. I remember hearing of the series, adapted from a novel of the same name by Tom Perrotta, when former LOST writer/producer Damon Lindelof signed on as show runner. I know that LOST divided many of it’s viewers but I still believe it was one of the best and most engaging shows I can recall watching on television.
The premise of the show should be intriguing to any fan of LOST. Set three years after a mysterious event dubbed the “Sudden Departure” caused 2% (or 140 million) of the world’s population to disappear. I think this is the perfect time-frame for the show, as it has given the cast and the “world” of the show time to process and evaluate an event they still know next to nothing about. Don’t get me wrong, the first episode gives you a glimpse of the process as accidents happen when vehicles are suddenly without drivers or pilots and others react to the disappearance of loved ones.
Justin Theroux stars as Chief of Police Kevin Garvey, Jr. and he struggles with the fallout from the Sudden Departure just as everyone else on the show. His wife, Laurie (Amy Brenneman), has joined the Guilty Remnant, a cult of people that believe they weren’t taken because they didn’t show enough faith in God. Laurie’s struggle with this belief is compounded that her and Kevin’s unborn daughter was taken in the Sudden Departure. Out of all the oddness and events on the show, this is one of the most intriguing developments as it offers up the most implications as to what actually happened to the people taken on the show.
The standout episode for me was the third episode ‘Two Boats and a Helicopter’ featuring Christopher Eccleston as former reverend Matt Jamison. I’ve always enjoyed Eccleston (before Doctor Who, thank you) and this episode spotlights how great of an actor he truly is when presented with challenging material. As Jamison, his faith is severely tested and possibly destroyed as he struggles to understand the Sudden Departure and link it to the Biblical Rapture that so many others have in the show. Character episodes like this were something that Lindelof excelled at on LOST and it’s great to see the same story device being employed on this show.
However, I think that is the greatest danger facing the show as well. Much like LOST, there’s an inexplicable mystery setup from the very first episode and while viewers may be content for a while to watch episodes on how the Sudden Departure has changed the world and specifically the lives of the people in Mapleton, New York, it’s a format that will lose viewers if it doesn’t provide answers.
Season 1 ends with a change in the status quo for a few of the characters and possibly the show itself. It’s sure to present new settings and challenges in Season Two–airing now on HBO. Attribute it to the comic nerd or geek in me, I can’t get the “why” about the Sudden Departure out of my mind. As Season 2 starts I’m wondering if it will be addressed less and eventually make its way to a forgotten corner of the show. In a way, I hope it does. I hope the characters keep me entertained. Even moreso than LOST, I don’t see any plausible explanation for the Sudden Departure and any mystical or religious one will certainly divide fans of the show.
Head on over to Amazon to purchase Leftovers: Season 1 now.