You Should Be Watching: The Leftovers

The Leftovers

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Starring: Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston, Margaret Qualley, Chris Zylka, Carrie Coon, and Ann Dowd
Created by: Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta
Airs on: HBO

Last summer HBO premiered a new series written by Damon Lindelof & Tom Perrotta (author of the book upon which the series is based) called The Leftovers to positive reviews and consistently good ratings. Seeing Lindelof credited again, many viewers were skeptical. It’s hard to see Lindelof’s name and not immediately think of Lost and its controversial ending, but I promise you, The Leftovers is worth your time.

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The show takes place in a suburban New York town still reeling from the disappearance of 2% of the global population. Three years after the ‘Sudden Departure’ we are introduced to the Garvey family and the haze of grief and anguish that hangs over the community in the wake of this inexplicable event.

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The Garvey family is made up of Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), our main character and chief of police in the small town, his daughter, Jill (Margaret Qualley), ex-wife Lori (Amy Brenneman), and estranged step-son Tom (Chris Zylka). The details of their already complex relationships come to light as they engage with the equally fascinating supporting characters of the show. Nora Durst, who lost her entire family in the Sudden Departure is brilliantly played by Carrie Coon, and the town Reverend played by Christopher Eccleston (the former Doctor) has a particularly interesting story arc. However, the highlight of the supporting cast is Ann Dowd who plays Patti, the leader of a non-speaking, chain smoking cult whose only job seems to be making sure that no one ever forgets the grief and confusion of the Sudden Departure.

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I won’t lie to you: The Leftovers is depressing. If you wanted to watch a show that would leave you with a smile on your face for the rest of the day, this isn’t it. The Leftovers is like cardio for human empathy. It may not lift your spirits but it will make you think, which is my favorite kind of television.The tone of the show can be attributed to many elements, but the melancholy piano score written by Max Richter plays a large part in conveying the gloom experienced by many of the characters.

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The Leftovers has also given us the gift of having Justin Theroux in the spotlight. He is GREAT in this role. I was actually really disappointed that he wasn’t nominated for an Emmy this year, but that was a tight, tight category with Jon Hamm as the clearly deserving winner. Kevin is a deeply flawed man whose anguish is always bubbling beneath the surface, and Theroux wears it so well. Plus, you get a lot of Kevin in his sweatpants during his morning jog. It’s beautiful.

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You’re welcome.

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Lindelof has made it very clear that the intention of The Leftovers is not to solve the mystery of the Sudden Departure. This is very distinctly a character study on how people would respond in the wake of a tragedy that sparks so much confusion. That’s not to say that the cause of the Sudden Departure isn’t addressed at all but it would be foolish to make it your mission to solve this based on ‘clues’ in the plot. The Leftovers is primarily focused on the human reaction to things that cannot be explained. We see the deterioration of organized religion, the rise of nihilistic cults and self-proclaimed ‘gods’, and the anger and hurt that come with abandonment. If you’re interested in an emotional drama that keeps you engaged and challenges your intellect, The Leftovers is made for you.

You can catch up with season 1 of The Leftovers on HBO (HBONow & HBOGo) now. The premiere of season 2 is tonight at 9 (CT).

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