So, we’re halfway through the first season of HBO’s chaotic drama, The Leftovers. I feel like I may be in the minority, but I’m actually digging the show. Yes, it’s incredibly dark, bleak, heavy, depressing, hopeless, and any other synonym for these words. But, I find it compelling.
I think the show presents a realistic portrait of what life would be like and how society would react if 2% of the world’s population suddenly disappeared without a single hint as to why. Shit would fall apart, and lives certainly have fallen apart for the numerous characters that comprise the storyline on The Leftovers. There’s a man who goes around shooting dogs for no apparent reason. There’s a reverend whose wife is completely brain dead from a car accident at the moment of the Sudden Departure, as the disappearance is referred to on the show. There’s police chief Kevin Garvey, played by the riveting and drop-dead-gorgeous Justin Theroux, whose wife has left him and his children to join a cult. There’s his daughter, who steals the baby Jesus from the town Nativity scene just because. There’s the cult, the chain-smoking members of which have taken a vow of silence and relentlessly stalk other community members to attempt to convince them that life simply can’t go on as it was. It’s become a nerve-wracking, unpredictable, and frustrating world.
Many people seem to be watching to find out the answers behind the Sudden Departure. But, I don’t think we’re ever going to find out the driving force behind the disappearance…because I don’t think that’s the point of the show. The show is really not about the Sudden Departure itself, but the aftermath of it and how it impacts the lives of everyone left behind. Some characters have lost their entire family. Others have lost no one. Yet, everyone is profoundly impacted and struggles to keep up as life continues to go on all around them.
It takes a lot of—something…discipline? will power? masochism?—to watch these characters suffer and grieve through every breath they take. There’s a profound sadness to every episode. There’s also such a stark divide between total humanity and total apathy that’s expressed through the characters on the show, and the apathy might prove too harsh for some viewers. But, I’m often left feeling very reflective after watching The Leftovers, thinking about how precious life really is and how we shouldn’t take for granted the present. People often live in the past or look only toward the future. If nothing else, The Leftovers is a reminder to count your blessings and live each day to the fullest because that all can change and come crashing down in the blink of an eye.
What I like best about the show: Everything Justin Theroux. His looks, his acting, his character’s heartbreaking story arc, his character’s soft side and the way he can convey compassion.
What I don’t like about the show: The story line involving Kevin’s stepson, Tom. Tom is on the run all across the country protecting a pregnant woman who is carrying the child of a seeming prophet type. This arc feels out of place and out of touch with the rest of the show, which is confined to the small town of Mapleton in lower New York State. The writers should ditch this storyline, if they can, and keep the drama small-scale.