"There’s a scene where you’re jogging and they say that your package is quite apparent in these sweatpants and it’s like a thing that women are talking about." Conan on Justin Theroux’s jogging scenes in The Leftovers
Okay, I have a lot of thoughts, but the first disclaimer I must make is that I didn’t read the book (The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta). I’m not sure if that would have positively or negatively influenced my impression, but it’s possible some of the accolades I give the show are a result of strong source material.
So, the show. Broad strokes premise: It’s 3 years after 2% of the world’s population went missing (known as the “Sudden Departure”), and the story focuses on the people left behind in a small town in New York.
Here is what’s different about it… it is not a mystery. While I’m assuming there are still people in the world trying to figure out what happened—scientists holed up in labs, governments setting up task forces, etc., this story is about the emotional impact the “Sudden Departure” had on the people still left in the world (and, in particular, the people in this town of Mapleton). They never set up the departure as a mystery that is going to be solved, and unlike LOST, they don’t tease you with semi-answers along the way to make you think they will give you an explanation. This is 100% a character study show (MY FAVORITE) and a smart people show. This isn’t something you watch while doing laundry, and it’s not something I believe you’re meant to fully understand intellectually right off the bat either. Like, everyone grab your favorite bottle of wine and come over to my place after you watch because this needs to be discussed.
I do find the first handful of episodes to be weak—I spent a lot of time going “what the hell is going on?” because I was expecting a more traditional style show. But despite the confusion, there’s just some unidentifiable hook that kept me intrigued and willing to give it just one more episode. And then I got to Nora (YOU WILL LOVE HER) and episode 6, and it’s like all the bits and pieces of this story finally start tying together and it picks up speed through to the finale.
What this show does incredibly well is make you feel. It spends most of the time on the dark side of the emotional scale—in sorrow and desperation and trauma, but there are these moments of soaring hope that are incredible, this lingering thin thread of human perseverance that is absolutely b e a u t i f u l to see and feel. The writing is smart, and they cast talented actors that could carry and tell this emotional story. The music score is breathtaking, and the camera work/editing is creative and intimate. Symbolism is everywhere (I’m rewatching the show again and still seeing things I missed the first time), along with oh so many delightful parallels.
So basically, this isn’t like any sort of “people go missing” show I’ve ever seen—mostly because, this isn’t about the people that go missing. And I haven’t felt as emotionally satisfied, or simultaneously drained and exhilarated, at the end of a tv finale as I have with this. I give no promises for S2 (my understanding is the S1 finale ends where the book did, so the show is in uncharted territory next year), but S1 is a complete story and a stunning work of art.
"I went to Jill’s school and I ran inside. She and Tommy were both there, and… they were scared. I just remember the look on their faces when they saw me."
He likes Lalaloopsy