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The Leftovers - The Complete First Season

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Oct 6, 2015
The Leftovers - The Complete First Season

The Damon Lindelhof-created HO series "The Leftovers" boasts a number of elements shared by another program Lindelhof executive produced, namely "Lost": A deeply compelling mystery; a small community dealing with the aftereffects of a dramatic event; and a tendency to shift focus, from episode to episode, on the show's various characters.

The characters include Chief of Police Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), whose wife Laurie (Amy Brenneman) has left him following the inexplicable disappearance of 2% of the planet's human population a couple of years before. Laurie has joined a cult called The Guilty Remnant, a group seemingly determined to antagonize everyone left in the community of Mapleton, New York. The group is led by a woman named Patti (Ann Dowd), a strong and silent type -- the silence being part and parcel of the cult's lifestyle. (They also wear white, chain-smoke, and stare rudely at non-members whom they wish to recruit.) Liv Tyler co-stars as Megan, a woman spooked by the Guilty Remnant, but not so much so that she doesn't surrender to her curiosity about them and join up.

Another of the town's religious leaders is Matt Jamison (Christopher Eccleston), a preacher who's lost most of his congregation, seems to have possibly lost his faith, and is perched on the verge of losing his church. Determined to prove that this mass vanishing is not "the Rapture," Jamison compiles dossiers on the town's disappeared and confronts their surviving family members with accounts of their gambling, infidelity, and other frailties and misbehaviors.

Kevin and Laurie have two children, both of them hard hit by the disappearances and their parents' estrangement. Son Tommy (Chris Zylka) has left college and fallen in with a different cult, led by a man who claims to have special powers. (He also likes to sleep with all the young women who follow him.) Daughter Jill (Margaret Qualley) is still in high school more or less, but she and her friends are disconnected, and sexually jaded; they seem, as a demographic, to be in need of anti-depressants.

So does Nora (Carrie Coon), a woman locally pitied and even somewhat held in awe after the disappearance of her entire family -- a husband and two young children.

The town's dynamics might remind you of "Twin Peaks" without the silly soapiness; that's due, in part, to the way the natural world seems to be in some sort of slow-motion collapse all around the characters. The town's dogs have all gone mad; larger animals such as stags keep venturing into streets and homes. But if "The Leftovers" has a soapy residue about it, it's of a decidedly darker sort. Everything about the show, from its pacing to the directorial choices to the theme music, is redolent of grief and anxiety, without a flippant note or a Bookhouse Boy to be found.

What could it all mean? "Lost" drove viewers crazy with constant puzzles, many of which seemed to have no solution. "The Leftovers" risks similar disenchantment, but the show is more restrained in its execution and has remained careful to keep things grounded in the realm of the psychological. Still, there's more than a whiff of "Lost's" labyrinthine construction and long-term teasing as unlikely clues from the past begin to surface, including a decades-old back issue of The National Geographic.

"The Leftovers" is based on a novel of the same title by Tom Perrotta, who has also lent his talents to the TV version of his literary source material. The show's first season, now available on Blu-ray, is essentially a re-telling of the book, with the final first season episode closing the same way the novel did. Season Two will break new ground, or so we're told in the set's special features, which includes a conversation between Lindelhof and Perrotta, a featurette on the making of the show, audio commentary on the pilot and season finale, a featurette on The Guilty Remnant, and a teasing glimpse of Season Two (which is really more a rehash of Season One). Of the special features, it's the audio commentaries, surprisingly, that are the most fun -- the participants josh and joke without there being any sense that they are on their best behavior or even really filtering themselves much. Their banter is a lively treat to listen in on, and a relief from the dolorous mood of Season One -- and what looks like an even darker and more dangerous Season Two.


"The Leftovers - The Complete First Season"
Blu-ray
$44.96
http://store.hbo.com/the-leftovers-the-complete-first-season-blu-ray-with-digital-copy/detail.php?p=713396

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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