Coming from one of the chief creative minds behind Lost, The Leftovers is a show that invites a lot of comparisons. Like Lost, it starts with a simple but enigmatic premise and like Lost, it features a very fascinating ensemble cast that brings the show to life.
Where the show differs is that where Lost was a character-driven show masquerading as one driven by mysteries, The Leftovers is much more upfront about what it was. It makes it very clear right from the get-go that no matter how many mysteries and loose ends the series’ universe contains, the focus will always be on the characters within it.
The Leftovers follows the residents and community of the isolated town of Mapleton – in particular, the Garvey family – three years after an explained ‘Rapture-like’ event (referred to as The Departure) caused 2% of the Earth’s population to disappear into thin air. Though the Garvey’s all made it through The Departure unscathed, The Leftovers is all about exploring how this great unfathomable unresolved event shapes them and the world they live in. There’s no going back and the show does a great job of conveying just how defamiliarized the post-Departure world is.
It’s refreshing to see a show that isn’t concerned with whiplash pacing and jaw-dropping plot-twists and The Leftovers does a great job of introducing viewers to the community of Mapleton – before spending the second half of the season delving into more thematically and psychologically deconstructive episodes. In particular, the Father Jameson-centered “Two Boats and a Helicopter” is a standout for the series – I would even go so far as to say its one of the strongest episodes of television this year.
The quality of casting is generally quite good with the aforementioned Christopher Eccleston as Father Jameson being a delight to watch as he battles for the soul of Mapleton against the cult-like Guilty Remnant – a fringe group who religiously worship The Departure and spend most of their time lurking around smoking cigarettes in all-white. Series lead Justin Theroux does a good job as Sheriff Kevin Garvey but is occasionally overshadowed by Margaret Qualley’s work as his daughter and Scott Glenn’s guest spots as his father.
If there’s any weaknesses to the show, they come in the form of the subplot concerning mystic Wayne. It often feels a little too slow and disconnected from the rest of the show and aside from standout scenes in the second and final episodes, it often finds itself the most uninteresting part of the show.
Like Lost, The Leftovers is a show that starts off with an intriguing premise and colorful cast of characters but its bold decision to bypass that premise entirely in lieu of developing more sophisticated character studies is stunning to behold. The writing, direction, acting and soundtrack all come together magnificently to make it one of the surprise standouts of this year’s TV landscape. Check it out.