Thursday, July 3, 2014

REVIEW: HBO’s The Leftovers

HBO’s The Leftovers is the feel-good series of the summer, if your summer revolves around root canals or being trapped on a eight week cross country trip with the entire family in a Volkswagen.

It’s pretty grim stuff — but quite engrossing and worth your time, thanks to intense performances by Justin Theroux and Christopher Eccleston, and the way creators Tom Perrotta, who wrote the book on which the series is based, and Damon Lindelof, best known for screwing up the end of “Lost,” unflinchingly tackle the nature of grief and the limits of faith.

Can you call it an apocalypse if you are still among the "living"? It’s three years after what has been termed the Sudden Departure, when 2 percent of the world’s population — Christians, Jews, Muslims, straight, gay, white, black, brown, and Gary Busey — suddenly disappeared.

Of the leftovers, some are trying to return to normal, some have turned their backs on religion, and others have turned to cults to assign some sort of meaning to the Sudden Departure — because what may be scariest of all is that there was no meaning.

The drama plays out in the small town of Mapleton, N.Y. Theroux plays police chief Kevin Garvey, whose wife Laurie (Amy Brenneman) has gone off to live with the Guilty Remnant, a creepy post-Departure cult whose cigarette-smoking members silently stalk other townspeople who seem ready to move on — a tactic seldom appreciated by the stalkees.

The tension between the Guilty Remnant, led by the volcanically seething Patti (Ann Dowd, so memorably eerie in her brief appearance in “True Detective”) and the rest of the town comes to a bloody head after a commemorative parade on the first-ever “Heroes Day.” (When Garvey questions the name, the mayor snaps, “Nobody’s going to come to a parade for ‘We Don’t Know What the (bleep) Happened Day.’’’)

The clash between the cult and the town seems to be the central plot, although the show dolefully meanders among other characters, including Garvey’s 16-year-old daughter Jill (Margaret Qualley), a former A student slipping into nihilism, and his older son Tom (Chris Zylka), shepherding the (too)-young lover of another questionable cult leader named Holy Wayne across the country, plus a few other lost souls.

The writing is spare (the Guilty Remnant have taken a vow of silence, after all) and effective, but the imagery is rather heavy-handed — wild dogs, presumably the former pets of the Departed, viciously attack a noble stag before being put down by a shotgun-toting pragmatist who tells a shocked Garvey, “They aren’t our dogs anymore.”

Perrotta wrote a couple of the episodes and was part of the writers’ room.

If this sounds like something for you then make sure you tune into HBO every Sunday right after True Blood at 10pm. 

Can't wait till Sunday?

Here is a glimpse of Sunday's all new episode

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