Thoughts On HBO’s “The Leftovers”

the-leftoversHBO’s newest series, The Leftovers, is now two weeks old and full of intrigue. The series comes from the same minds that brought you Friday Night Lights and Lost, so the hype coming into it was pretty high. Not to mention, with other recent dramas debuting on HBO with huge success (most notable True Detective), many were curious how The Leftovers would work out.

Two episodes in, and I can tell you that I’m both freaked out by what I’m watching and desperate for more.

The basic premise of The Leftovers is that about 2% of the world’s population (roughly 200 million people) vanished into thin air on October 14th, with the series picking up three years later. The focus is on the small town of Mapleton, NY, which was hit especially hard by the vanishing.

What makes The Leftovers so intriguing to me is that the question that originally brought you in – how the hell did 200 million people just vanish into thin air? – is not the question you really want answered anymore by the end of the second episode. In fact, you almost develop the same mindset of those left in the town, admitting to yourself at the least that we will never understand why these people vanished, and trying to figure out why it happened isn’t that important anyway.

The focus in Mapleton, NY revolves around the Garvey family, and how each of the four members are handling the vanishing very differently. Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) is the town’s police chief who not only has to deal with more family problems than the average human could comprehend, but also has to deal with the town either thinking he’s crazy, or losing his mind. His wife, Laurie (Amy Brenneman), left him to join a cult-that-claims-to-not-be-a-cult called “Guilty Remnant”, which is a growing number of people who have taken on vows of silence and a ridiculous smoking habit to deal with their problems post-vanishing. Daughter Jill (Margaret Qualley) is going through normal high school teenager problems, all while dealing with problems with her parents, a best friend who may not really be looking out for her best interests and quite possibly the weirdest angst-against-the-vanishing school environment imaginable. And there’s Tom Garvey (Chris Zylka) ,who left home to join up with a prophet of sorts that helps people with their burden or abandonment, and also apparently has a thing for young Asian teens.

It’s not that the family lost anyone in their immediate inner circle to the vanishing, but more that each family member is reacting differently to the same event. There are also subtle hints (well, maybe not that subtle since the hints are quick, violent flashbacks to other things) that their pasts will play a significant part in to where their mindset is and where they’re headed next. It’s the struggle within the struggle. Everyone is having a hard time with the vanishing, but the amount of trouble the Garvey’s are having in regards to keeping a family together that has crumbled at the edges adds layers to a complex story.

Without going too in-depth two episodes in, I’ll revisit my initial comment of intrigue in regards to the show. I came to the show with curiosity, mostly wanting to know how people would handle community members vanishing into thin air, and figuring out what caused this even to happen.

Two episodes later, not only have I dropped any attempt to understand what happened and how, the questions that remain about this season feel a lot more substantial. Is Chief Garvey losing his mind? Can anyone else see the mysterious man who hunts packs of dogs? Do they plan on explaining the Chief’s first meltdown? Why are the dogs “not our dogs anymore”? What’s the deal with the GR? Who is Wayne, and why is he making Tom protect Christine? What is his bigger purpose? And after we answer all those questions, I still would like to know how 200 million people up and vanish into nothingness.

I suppose that’s the sign of a good show, a show that can bring you in thinking one thing, and leave you thinking about 20 other topics. I don’t know if The Leftovers will morph into my favorite show on television, but it certainly has my attention.