HBOs ‘The Leftovers’ Episode 1 – Review

The Leftovers

HBO’s The Leftovers displays by the first episode that it is not a typical post-apocalyptic television show in which the plot focuses on what happened, how to find a cure, or where to go for safety. What happened was on October 14, three years prior to the show’s current timeline, millions of people simply vanished from the earth. The theme is rapture-esque, but is in no way the biblical rapture. People both “good” and “bad” disappear, with seemingly no rhyme or reason to the selection. Damon Lindelof, who helped create and write Lost, wrote the first season of The Leftovers, but Lindelof has already said there will be no illuminating reason why people vanished revealed at the end of the show. He instead urges people to just focus on the characters and the various ways they deal with what has happened to the world.

The show begins with two minutes of screaming, first by a baby boy whose mother is neglecting him. She is on her cell phone, complaining to someone about mundane things while she is in a laundry mat. They head out to the car, all the while the baby is still screaming. He stops only when he disappears. Then the woman picks up right where he left off. The screen goes black and a myriad of 9-1-1 calls are being heard, all overlapping, all explaining how a loved one just disappeared into thin air. It quickly encapsulates the widespread emotional reach of the event.

The setting is Mapleton, New York, located just outside of Niagara Falls. The focus of the show is only on the town, but constantly televisions are heard by the viewer debating about how October 14 happened, religion versus science, or how many individuals it affected in each country. It becomes a string of statistics and arguments that just turn into a steady white noise in the background. Mapleton is the microcosm that the entire world is understood in, a sort of snow globe that the viewer gets to observe.

The world just goes on after the disappearances. That is what is so frustrating and unsettling for people. It is an emotional and existential crisis of why am I here and where did they go. Schools are still in session, the governments are running and reality television still survives, but almost every family has been affected by the disappearance in one way or another.

The main protagonist in episode one of HBO’s The Leftovers is Kevin Garvey, the local police chief. Justin Theroux, recently known for Wanderlust and Your Highness, plays Chief Garvey. His daughter is in high school, Jill Garvey (Margaret Qualley), and she like everyone else is trying to cope with loss. Amy Brenneman plays her mother and her name is Laurie, but she no longer lives with the Garvey family. Laurie has joined a cult called the Guilty Remnant.

The Guilty Remnant wears all white. They do not speak, and they chain smoke cigarettes. Apparently they have been in Mapleton for over a year, but just kind of showed up. Now they number over 50 people. Each one vowed to silence, and when in public they smoke cigarettes presumably because their lives do not matter anymore. They are anti-grieving and coping. They believe they are the living reminders. Of what exactly the viewers are not sure yet.

The show slowly introduces more characters such as the mayor of the town, Lucy Warburton (Amanda Warren), who Chief Garvey does not see eye to eye on regarding a Hero’s Day Parade being held for those lost. There is Tom who drives people under blindfold and for a large amount of cash out to a ranch to see Wayne who apparently can help people grieve in a mystic way. Tom likes a young girl in Wayne’s compound named Christine. There seems to be a sort of harem going on. Tom gets Christine candy on his drives and talks to her about reality television. Wayne warns Tom not to touch her, but to keep her safe because she is very important.

Liv Tyler plays an upset fiancé of named Meg Abbott who after being followed by the Guilty Remnant and even striking Laurie on the face, decides to join the movement for the foreseeable future. Christopher Eccleston is introduced as Matt Jamison who is preaching before the big parade that those who were lost were not necessarily good people. One begins to gather that everyone is dealing with the issue of October 14 in different emotions such as anger, confusion, anxiety, sadness, or angst.

Chief Garvey in the beginning of The Leftovers witnesses a man shoot a dog in cold blood. He does not know who the man is though, and decides to try to find the owner of the dog to tell them. The woman clearly does not care about the dog since it ran away three years ago. Garvey keeps the dog in his truck where later on his daughter finds it when she borrows her dad’s car to go to a party. Her and two others bury the dog after leaving a typical teenage party filled with drugs, alcohol and sex. There is even an unsettling scene of spin the iPhone where Jill has to choke a young boy while he masturbates.

The burying of the dog is the first real scene of clear remembrance in The Leftovers. The teens really associate with the dog saying Dudley, the name on the collar, probably went insane when it saw someone disappear. One of the young boys says humans can deal with that kind of trauma, but animals just snap and go completely primal. Humans will go down the road eventually, it just takes longer he finishes.

Finally the Heroes Day Parade begins and speeches are given, but then as Chief Garvey warned the Guilty Remnant show up to instigate the grieving people of Mapleton. Many do not take kindly to their silent protest of holding up letters that spell out “Stop Wasting Your Breath.” People snap and start attacking the white-clad smokers and things get nasty fast with police clubbing anyone in their way to create order.

The show ends with Chief Garvey confronting a Stag in his car. He gets out and asks it if it had been in his house earlier, the house had appeared to have been ransacked earlier in the morning. The Stag stares stoically forward until a pack of feral dogs begins chasing it down. The dogs take the majestic beast down and start tearing it apart. The man from the beginning who shot Dudley shows up in his pick up truck and starts attacking the rapid dogs asking Garvey if he had a gun and why he was not shooting yet. Garvey begins unloading his pistol at the animals, unleashing pent-up grief and anger.

The show will definitely begin to unveil many interesting interconnections between all of the characters in the small town of Mapleton, and continue to give many people outlets for venting their anger, frustration, sadness or whatever emotions they are feeling through the morally confusing scenarios. The first episode of HBO’s The Leftovers, is just a small stroke on the canvas in what will become a detailed masterpiece, intertwining many story lines to create a riveting emotional thriller.

By B. Taylor Rash

Sources:
IMDB
RollingStone
IGN
Washington Post

14 Responses to "HBOs ‘The Leftovers’ Episode 1 – Review"

  1. Thomas Haumann   September 10, 2014 at 5:18 am

    why i Tom, the young man driving the congress man called Pete by the guard? Is Tom the son of the Sherif?

    Reply
  2. sadookie doo   July 8, 2014 at 2:10 am

    it’s not a young boy; it’s her brother she chokes while he masturbates.

    Reply
  3. SavvyCat   July 2, 2014 at 9:04 am

    “Her and two others bury the dog…” Doesn’t anyone employ editors anymore???

    Reply
  4. Kate   July 1, 2014 at 11:34 pm

    I don’t understand why they would avoid explaining what happened that’s mainly what makes people watch and if he’s from LOST he should know people want answers. I hated LOST’s ending because of the lack of reveal, but I guess if he’s doing the same thing here what’s the point of watching human interactions are inevitable and without a mystery moving it forward I might as well watch reality tv.

    Reply
  5. Jack Kelle   July 1, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    This is a summary not a review. Learn the difference.

    Reply
    • Justin Pool   July 2, 2014 at 10:44 am

      Exactly. I was just going to say that. My review would have gone like this…”The Leftovers. Meh…”

      Reply
  6. John   July 1, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    This TV series is crap. It should disappear like the 2%

    Reply
  7. Tim   July 1, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    Wow, this sounds almost as stupid as John From Cincinnati, the worst HBO show ever. Maybe worst show ever.

    Reply
  8. Liz Morgan   July 1, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    Bleak is the right adjective for this weak series. This show will leave you feeling low at heart. Future previews look just as bad.

    Reply
  9. gwyn   July 1, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    The show has nothing ‘new’ in terms of entertainment. It’s bleak, it’s dark, it’s all about humanity and how they deal with the loss of their loved/hated ones…yet their individual and collective behavior(s) don’t seem that far off from what goes on in any town under ‘normal’ conditions…drugs, sex, lies, cheats, weirdos and violence. Even though I clicked ‘record entire series’ it’s doubtful I will watch another episode…I like what Kim Comeaux writes, “I don’t think I can watch…”Leftovers” falling apart….”

    Reply
  10. Jerry Melamin   July 1, 2014 at 11:15 am

    Lindelof trying to separate himself from the disappointment of ‘Lost’….you can feel
    the non-ending coming LOL…’LindeLOL’…

    Reply
  11. Tyler Durden   July 1, 2014 at 10:59 am

    If you recall, Lost started out pretty much the same way. Totally chaos that eventually went into deeper character development. I’d expect that much of what was shown in the first episode will have greater meaning as the season moves on. I just hope they don’t go with the standard series of flashback episodes showing where all the characters were the day of the “vanishing”.

    Reply
  12. Kim Comeaux   July 1, 2014 at 9:11 am

    I’m not sure I am going to like this series. It’s almost like a train wreck – you know you should look away and move on, but yet it’s so bazaar that you stay and watch. To say it was depressing and really disturbing would be an understatement. I sorta wish this series plot had been picked up by one of the prime networks instead of HBO because they wouldn’t have portrayed it with such a weird artsy – other-world point of view. It flashes back and forth between characters in scenes that don’t make sense at that moment. You might find the answer later in the episode or maybe have to wait until next episode. Who knows? Saying that – it IS a unique storyline, and I’ll watch a few more episodes to give it a chance. I just get the feeling, we’ll never get a real answer about what happened to the people, and I don’t think I can watch a show that’s just about depressed “Leftovers” falling apart in several different ways … and never finding out why.

    Reply
  13. Brian Clownpenis   July 1, 2014 at 7:23 am

    Not so much a review as a recap.

    Reply

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