The Leftovers Review by John Keegan

The Leftovers 1.01: Pilot

The Leftovers 1.01: Pilot

Written By:
Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrota
Directed By:
Peter Berg

A couple things came to mind by the end of this pilot episode.  First, anyone who was expecting this to be another Lost, just because it came from the one of the co-showrunners of that series, is doing a disservice to creative minds in general and Damon Lindelof in particular.  Second, if there was ever a show primed to be a metaphor for the varied reactions to the Lost finale, this is it.


One thing anyone walking into this series should understand is that the decision not to explain the mysterious disappearance of 2% of the human population is entirely consistent with the source material.  Oh, and the author of the original book (Tom Perrotta) is heavily involved with the series, so don’t expect that to change.  Instead, this series explores what happens when 140 million people (as in, 1 out of every 50!) just disappear without a trace at the exact same time.  In essence, serious shit goes down, and it’s all pretty much a variation of personal and societal nihilism.


There isn’t a lot of happiness here, and it all comes back to the lack of closure.  There is no cause, only effect.  Not even a body to bury.  Those gone are simply gone.  There’s no one to blame, no one to appeal for a do-over, nothing.  Human beings don’t react particularly well to situations without closure, and as one would expect, reactions go from pretending it didn’t happen, silently waiting for the missing to return as miraculously as they disappeared, those wallowing in a bizarre form of survivor’s guilt, and those who don’t even know what the point of living within a moral spectrum is anymore.


What makes it hard to watch is that it’s so damned relatable.  This isn’t The Walking Dead.  Civilization didn’t fall apart; just enough people disappeared for everyone to notice without really missing a beat.  So those left behind (the titular leftovers) don’t have the luxury of leaving the old world behind, and those that do become (extremely creepy) social pariahs.


Yet here’s the real kicker: as extreme as these behaviors and reactions are, they are not entirely divorced of reality.  After all, on any given day, about 140,000 people die, and those left behind deal with these exact same emotions, choices, and consequences on their personal scale.  This is just one vision of what might happen if those personal tragedies happened on an order of magnitude where there is literally no one that hasn’t been affected by some loss on the same day.  Suddenly, it’s not hard to imagine how teens might escalate the usual party scene to a new level with that much less supervision and future certainty.  (Though I imagine parents watching this episode were wondering if they’ve been underestimating what their teenagers are up to!)


Fundamentally, there is a resonance with Lost, but only because Lost wasn’t about mysteries at all.  At least, not the mysteries that a lot of viewers believed; rather, it was about the mystery behind the eyes of every single character.  Who are they?  What do they want?  Why are they still here?  And where are they going?  The pilot asks a lot of these questions about these characters without putting it to words, yet makes it very clear that those questions are far more important than what happened on October 14, three years earlier.

Our Grade:
The Good:
  • Focused more on characters than exposition
  • The mysteries are centered in the right place
The Bad:
  • Some will find the relentlessly bleak tone hard to enjoy

John Keegan aka "criticalmyth", is one of the hosts of the "Critical Myth" podcast heard here on VOG Network's radio feed Monday, Wednesday & Friday. You can follow him on twitter at @criticalmyth

The Leftovers by - 7/2/2014 12:53 PM173 views

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