It’s not cool to praise Damon Lindelof but no one was mistaking me for cool anyway.
The Leftovers is based on a book I’ve not read and starts with the slightly LOST-ian premise of the day when 2% of the populations vanishes. Just like that. Into thin air. The reason? Method? Pattern? All unexplained.
So “uh-oh”, right? Damon Lindelof, the mastermind behind LOST, giving us another supernatural ensemble drama with a central mystery? The eye rolling could be heard across the blogosphere.
I was there from day one though because while I get the frustrations with LOST, and the way it put its audience through a thankless game of cat and mouse, I was drawn into that show mainly through the character dynamics. The existential fuckery visited upon them made them interesting studies and while it didn’t stick the landing, I remain a fan of that show.
THE LEFTOVERS gives absolutely no fucks about revelation. It’s not a mystery box, there are no crumbs. No puzzles and pay offs. There will be no big unveiling. Departure day was a tidal wave which obliterated the soul of humanity and it’s not so much “where did they go” as it is “what do we do now?”. They’re the abandoned. It’s there in the title.
The first season saw the rise of one of the most sinister villains I’ve seen on TV for a long time. The ever-silent, chain smoking, white-wearing Guilty Remnant. Their languid yet provocative stalking of the main characters felt chilling. Its ranks swelled by those who had lost all hope and found some kind of solace in celebrating a world’s end they thought had already happened. Our lead character is working class cop. Having lost his wife to aforementioned cult we follow him as he tries to stem a descent into a madness which has already claimed his father. All while trying to parent his teenage daughter. Christopher Ecclestone’s try-hard priest who gets kicked by life at every turn provides a great insight into traditional faith.
But Nora is my favourite. She lost her husband and two children on Departure Day. We have no right to expect she could be even able to stand. Watching her evolution from an outwardly zombified and internally self destructive automaton into redemptive matriarch has been the show’s greatest strength.
Atmospheric, sober and sometimes darkly funny. It’s a vivid portrait of people in pain. How they carry it, bury it, or visit it upon others. Some are broken by it, and some fall in love with it. Each character can be measured against their reaction to their anguish. A suffering which was there before, but the glass lens The Departure allows the writers to intensify it and watch their characters stand or fall under the heat of the beam.
Some of the narrative choices are bonkers. Sometimes you feel that Lindelof is succumbing to his tendency to throw too many balls up in the air at once. I applaud him for it. Ambition like this is intoxicating and thrilling. And so far, it’s succeeding. And I can’t get that beautiful bittersweet music out of my head
THE LEFTOVERS is, for me, the most human show on television. And my favorite one for it.
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