I was already predisposed to love this show.
The Leftovers, based on Tom Perrotta's 2011 novel of the same name, takes place three years after what is referred to as the “Sudden Departure” – where 2% of the world’s population mysteriously vanished – the series zeroes in on the town of Mapleton, New York, and how its townspeople are still grappling with the disappearance of their loved ones while living in this new normal. In some ways, this series feels like a slow motion Apocalypse. The world is slowly tearing itself apart, not knowing what happened, why it happened or if it will happen again.
Now, I've heard that most people don't like messy, resolution-less entertainment. I rather enjoy it. The Leftovers is bleak as what, but there's some interesting philosophical stuff going on, and the performances are pretty great. The main protagonist Police Chief Garvey (Justin Theroux) really gives us someone to root for, in the most insane circumstances imaginable. Whether or not this builds to a big MOMENT, the lead actors, the score and the cinematography make for a ride I don't mind taking as I wrap up one week and get ready to start the next.
This isn't really a plot-heavy show. It's more a study of characters in a setting. This show actually forces the viewer to "speculate" about its possible meaning(s), and there are more than enough subtle, repeated themes to this end. The questions are being partially answered throughout each episode, but the viewer must actually "think" to put together the possibilities. This is usual for a Mystery, and this one is particularly complex and cannot be solved in a few episodes. This isn't a two hour movie where you can have immediate gratification, then move on to the next short, spoon fed bite. You need to pay attention.
I also don't go to church or put faith into my Catholic upbringing, and it's fun for me to play around with questions of meaning and purpose. That's just me, though. I can understand others getting tired of the religious angle. There are plenty of good reasons to stop watching if you want to, but I'll be on this ride through to the finish.
I enjoy it. I enjoy being disturbed by the blasphemy, cruelty and suffering. I enjoy them paint the entire scene with tortured souls acting out in their own various ways. When I say enjoy it, I mean that I can appreciate the art of getting reactions out of the viewers. Perrotta and Lindelof have done a fantastic job creating this environment.
Successful art provokes conversation. While deeply frustrating to some, The Leftovers provides a universe where we can question ourselves and our peers in the wake of an extraordinary hypothetical situation. Instead of being bent on answers, can we not embrace the powerful questions this universe conjures? You will never get a 100% clear-cut explanation of death, or life. However, human beings have always relished those theoretical conversations. Isn't The Leftovers a deep meditation of that concept? I think it gets the wheels spinning and that's what I appreciate about it.
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