Damon Lindelof has done it again! Almost five years ago we said goodbye to hit series Lost, but now Lindelof is back with a new mystery that is bound to have people pulling their hair out looking for answers, meaning and intent all over again.
Based on Tom Perrotta’s novel of the same name, The Leftovers covers the aftermath of the “Sudden Departure”, an unexplained rapture-like event in which 2% of the world’s population mysteriously vanish. Three years later and the residents of Mapleton, New York, are still coming to terms with the aftermath of this event.
This show is not for everyone. In fact, it could well be the most divisive tv series of the year. The tone throughout the first season is an overwhelming sense of suffering and misery, unlike any other show you will have seen. But if you like mysteries and morose performances this will appeal to you. If you have lost loved ones and been afforded no closure, no doubt this series will have an effect on you and certainly move you!
Much of the story centres on the Garvey family. Police Chief Kevin Garvey, played by Justin Theroux, is a fascinating character who is struggling to keep the peace in the town while dealing with his own failing sanity. He has the added responsibility of looking after his moody teenage daughter Jill (Margaret Qualley) alone because his wife Laurie (Amy Brenneman) has left him to join the “Guilty Remnant”.
The Guilty Remnant, and in particular Anne O’Dowd as their silent leader, remain an ominous presence throughout the first season. Dressed in white and constantly smoking, their motives remain a mystery to us as they stalk the rest of the town. Across the country, a man called Holy Wayne (Paterson Joseph) provides further mystery as a cult leader who promises relief from suffering with restorative hugs.
The first two episodes of the season are intense, slow and moody. They require some patience to get through but it is worth it in the end. I would compare it to True Detective, in that sense. Episode three ‘Two Boats and a Helicopter’ is one of the best of the season and this is when the show really hits its stride. It focuses solely on Reverend Matt Jamison (Christopher Eccleston) and his struggles with his faith. Another standout performance comes in Episode six ‘Guest’ as we watch Nora Durst (Carrie Coon) come to terms with losing her husband and two children. With these numerous character arcs going on simultaneously, it was inevitable that some would be neglected somewhat – Liv Tyler’s Meg being a prime example.
We could talk about how impressive the writing or cinematography is, or how interesting Lindelof’s use of odd images and animal tropes is but one of the most remarkable things about the first season is the score. Max Richter’s score was a constant highlight and was instrumental in creating the tremendous emotion in some of the scenes.
The Leftovers won’t be for everyone but it is a uniquely unsettling piece of television and I mean that as a compliment. The show’s emphasis on the characters rather than the mystery surrounding the “Great Departure” is what makes it great, not the big, sweeping premise. Rarely has being emotionally invested in a show been so affecting.
We know what we’re getting into with Lindelof. Season two has been given the green light and that means we are guaranteed more mysteries and further unanswered questions. But while this may put off certain people, when it comes to mysteries – some of us are gluttons for punishment.
By Donal Lucey