The Leftovers takes place when a global catastrophe strikes and 2% of the population has suddenly vanished. Kevin (Justin Theroux), the sheriff of a small town must keep the peace after a cult called “The Guilty Remnant” has slowly started disrupting the town.
The show has many themes, most of which are very human and delve into complicated matter – beliefs and religion, death, desperation, and grief. Grief is readily apparent in the character of Nora (Carrie Coon). She is an anomaly who has lost her entire family in the “departure” and is struggling to find ways to cope. Her brother, Matt (Christopher Eccleson), is a preacher who is struggling to get the townspeople to believe in their faith again.
Kevin’s family is also falling apart though no one has departed in his family. His daughter is being rebellious, his father is in a mental institution, he doesn’t know where his son is, and his wife, Laurie (Amy Brenneman), is part of the very cult wrecking havoc in the town. Not to mention, that he is losing his mind, but tries to keep that to himself so he doesn’t end up like his father.
Justin Theroux and Carrie Coon are the best part of the show. Their relationship is the core of the series. Though their relationship has its faults and is not exactly healthy since they are not coping with their problems caused by the departure. However, the acting from these two are memorizing as they must constantly battle their own demons in order to achieve what really is an unachievable goal for them – to live a happy, normal life.
This show is expertly written and thought-out. The series doesn’t try to answer why the departure happened, but shows the aftermath of how such an event affects everyday people. Damon Lindelof is the show’s co-creator and like his previous hit-show, Lost, some episodes center around supporting characters or veer into high concept territory like “International Assassin,” in which the whole episode serves as an analogy for a weird type of purgatory. The writing can be a bit dense, and is often left to the viewer’s interpretation. I still don’t know what to think about the meaning of some of the character’s actions, though I know there is one.
Of course, some story lines are more compelling than others. I was never a big fan of Tom’s (Chris Zylka) though I think his story had some interesting components to it. He follows someone called Holy Wayne who claims that he has the power to take people’s pain away by simply hugging them. And I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the episodes surrounding the preacher, Matt. In these episodes, he is often beaten down (both literally and figuratively) due to his naivety or ego until he is able to reconcile with himself and do what he can to save the things he loves. And while the philosophy of the Guilty Remnant fascinated me in season one, I just didn’t find them as compelling in season two when Meg (Liv Tyler) takes over as leader from Patti Levin (Ann Dowd).
Overall, The Leftovers isn’t exactly a fun watch. Episodes are often dark and dreary, dealing with negative human emotions. But it’s one of the most brilliant shows that I have seen. It surprised me, challenged me, and made me question the state of life. I finished the series weeks ago, and it still hasn’t left me. I keep thinking back on the characters, themes, music, and the writing. Not to mention, it was able to crack into my list of favorite TV shows of all time.
I give the Leftovers an A.