The Leftovers – Pilot – Review

Leftovers“Suddenly, I’m hit
Is this darkness of the dawn?
And your friends are gone
And your friends won’t come
So show me where you fit
So show me where you fit”
Retrograde – James Blake

Possible Minor Spoilers for The Leftovers Below

The thing with a new series on HBO is that they have a lot to live up to. The family of TV series that they are joining are some of the most watched and talked about shows; they are the popular kids at the high school dance. Game of Thrones. The Sopranos. The Wire. VEEP (I know, VEEP doesn’t really fit here, but it’s soo funny). So, when a new show comes on the scene, it has a tough hill to climb. Sunday night, The Leftovers started their journey with the first of a ten episode freshman season.

The Leftovers is based on the book of the same name by Tom Perrotta, who also serves as one of Executive Producers along with Damon Lindelof of LOST fame. The pilot episode shows some of his influences with short, frantic flashback scenes spread throughout the 60 minutes. What I love most is the show remains faithful to the source material in most aspects. Sure, there are changes here and there, but, for the most part it has that same feel as when I read the book. One diversion is that Kevin, the patriarch of the Garvey family, is Chief of Police in Mapleton rather than the well-known and fun-loving Mayor in the book. There are a few other changes and I will mention them as the season progresses.

The Leftovers is about a small family, the Garvey’s, in a small town, Mapleton, NY, dealing with life three years after a tragic worldwide event that has been labelled the Sudden Departure (SD). The SD occurred on October 14th and 2%, or 140,000,000, of the world’s population vanishes into thin air without a trace or a reason. Some people think it is the Rapture brought about by God, while others are not so sure, but in any case it causes grief and despair among the populace, who don’t know how to carry on with their lives and struggle with the loss.

This is where the show begins – with a cold open of October 14th and a small view into the Sudden Departure. A woman at the Laundromat, casually carrying on a conversation on the phone with her newborn in tow. After strapping the baby in the backseat and getting behind the wheel she checks on the baby and, to her surprise, the baby is gone. If you pay close enough attention you will notice the crying baby gets quiet as it appears to be looking to the heavens the moment before the screen pans right and the baby vanishes. I thought this was a great part of that scene. The woman then jumps out of the car, frantic, yelling at the top of her lungs for her baby, Sam. Around her a little boy screams for his dad and a car, most likely driverless because he or she was one of the “departed”, smashes into another car. I thought this was a perfect way to portray the Sudden Departure. This along with snippets of the news talking about it throughout the episode gave the audience the background necessary to understand what happened.

After the cold open, the episode jumps three years into the future to a few days before the 3-year anniversary of the SD with the focus being the “Hero’s Day” Parade. The writers did a great job of showcasing each member of the Garvey family and some of the minor characters. We meet Kevin, who is Chief of Police. He struggles with keeping his family together and with the loss that has come from the SD. Then we meet Jill, Kevin’s daughter, who we learn by the end of the episode is not dealing so well with the loss of her mother. And we have Tom, Kevin’s son and Jill’s brother, who has left home to join the “Holy Wayne” movement. As the season gets going I will write about these characters a little more in depth, but for right now I just wanted to help everyone understand who everyone is and what they’re after.

Finally, and SPOILERS I might add so beware, is Laurie. At first we were meant to believe that she was one of the “departed”, but we learn that loss comes in many forms. The loss for the Garvey family is their wife and mother has left them to join the Guilty Remnant, a cult organization that smokes at every opportunity to proclaim their faith in God and conspicuously follows people around town to show that God is watching their every move. Creepy, right?

Other characters play an important role in the show as well and I will go over them more in depth as the season goes on and they have more prominent scenes. One character who will definitely become more important as the season progresses is Nora Durst (Carrie Coon). Nora is the woman who gave the speech at the Hero’s Day Celebration about losing her entire family. Holy Wayne, Lucy Warburton (The Mayor), and Christine (One of Holy Wayne’s wives that befriends Tom) are just a few.

The episode goes back and forth between all members of the Garvey family and the twist of Laurie being alive was a great addition. It was a great pilot and I am eager to see where Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta take the show. Peter Berg directed the pilot and did an amazing job, in my opinion. The way he shot the Sudden Departure in the beginning was stellar and having him attached to this series increases its chance of success and a long prosperous run. The HBO version will definitely have to create more stories past season one that go beyond the last pages of the book, but I’m glad they are sticking, for the most part, to the source material. I can’t stand when show versions of their literary analogue stray too far. If fans stick with this show for the ten episode first season, I think they will be happy with what they see, especially with Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta at the helm.

Thoughts and Discussion

– One thing I noticed immediately after watching the first time was the music selection. Here’s a list for those of you who would like to know the tracks besides the one I mentioned at the top from the quote.

Why Can’t He Be You – Patsy Cline (When we first meet Tom, Picking up Congressman Witten)
Let’s Stay Together – Al Green (When Meg and Gary are driving home from the restaurant)
Are You Satisfied – Reignwolf (The end of the Episode)

– Did you notice…Only humans went missing in the Sudden Departure? I was skeptical, at first, to think this was the Rapture, but then I realized no animals vanished. I’m not saying that because of this fact, it must be the Rapture, but it does help that argument.

– Did you notice…The Patsy Cline song that was playing when we first met Tom? This song actually has two meanings. One is it reminds me, and I’m sure a lot of LOST fans, about Kate Austen’s Flashbacks and her issues with her mother. And two, the song’s lyrics are a metaphor for Tom’s struggling relationship with his dad, Kevin.

– I really enjoyed the character that played the Mayor of Mapleton, Lucy Warburton (Amanda Warren). Her scenes were funny and added that little bit of comic-relief when needed in this bleak and dreary story.

– One thing that bothered me was Liv Tyler as Meg Solomon. Not the acting. I think Liv Tyler is a great actress. But, the way Meg slapped Laurie and was morose for all of her scenes, all of a sudden shows up at the Guilty Remnant to sign-up seemed out of place. I do like how they chose an actress to play Meg that looked like an older version of Jill, Laurie’s daughter. That will definitely make for better scenes between the two as we see how Laurie deals with her “loss” of her daughter.

– The premise for the show can be looked at in different ways. It’s either 2% of the population has vanished and gone somewhere, possibly resulting in the Rapture, or 98% of the population is now in purgatory on Earth. That is another way to look at it.

– Did you notice…The statue revealed during the “Day of Remembrance” after the parade could be a baby floating to heaven from its mother’s arms or falling with the mother appearing as unable to catch it.

– Did you notice…When Kevin was dreaming and driving in his car you can hear on the radio someone mention “Corinthians 15”? This Bible passage is about The Resurrection of Christ, The Resurrection of the Dead, and The Resurrection of Body. Readings from the text are given at Easter Sunday services and funerals – where mourners are assured of the “sure and certain expectation of the resurrection to a better life”.