REVIEW: The Leftovers – Season One (2014)

The following is a season review of the first season of The Leftovers – Created by Damon Lindelof & Tom Perotta

Back in 2014, HBO released the first season of Tom Perotta and Damon Lindelof’s show about the global loss of 140 million people. The show was called The Leftovers and it was based on co-creator Tom Perotta’s novel of the same name.

The first season of the show takes place three years after the global loss and it is largely focused on the trials and tribulations of the Garvey family, which has been torn apart following the ‘Sudden Departure.’ But while plenty key characters lost key members of their family, the show makes clear that not all loss is related directly to the ‘Sudden Departure.’

Okay, I’ll admit it. I was wrong about The Leftovers. I remember when I first got a chance to see the pilot (back in 2014) that I didn’t love it. While the premise was intriguing, it just didn’t really hit me the right way. There was just not enough meat on the bone for me to really be excited about exploring Damon Lindelof’s new show. But that was then and this is now.

It’s a shame that it took me this long to finally finish the first season of The Leftovers. But with the final season premiering on HBO and HBO Nordic very soon, I thought I would finally dedicate some days to watch a show that has gotten a lot of praise over the years. And I see why.

While I certainly thought the first two episodes of The Leftovers were very good, I didn’t know that this show was right for me until the third episode – Two Boats and a Helicopter – in which we only follow Reverend Matt Jamison. That was the episode that got me. When I had finished that episode, I just knew that I had found a new show to obsess over – even though I’m pretty late to praise this first season.

Two Boats and a Helicopter was the first of two, almost, standalone episodes – the other being Guest – wherein we follow a single supporting character. This change of pace is used to fantastic effect as, out of the blue, Matt (played by Christopher Eccleston) and Nora (the focus of Guest, played by Carrie Coon) became two of my favorite characters on the show.

I think the key to enjoying the show is to manage your expectations going in and to have an understanding of its purpose. Based on this first season, I can say that it probably won’t satisfy a need for explanation. We haven’t gotten any closer to having an answer to how or why 2% of the world’s population disappeared.

Actually, in the pilot episode all of this is made pretty clear. Scientists don’t have an answer for you, and religion doesn’t necessarily have an answer for you either. This isn’t the rapture — very bad people disappeared too, which is something Reverend Matt Jamison makes painfully clear by almost going around and asking to be beaten…

While the answers don’t necessarily lie with cults and groups either, a stronger sense of intention is shown with some of those groups. Tommy (played by Chris Zylka) is working for a cult centered around a mysterious figure, whose intentions the show does explore albeit briefly. Then, of course, we have the Guilty Remnants – the bane of our main character’s existence – which will absolutely drive every viewer crazy.

Ultimately, the conclusion to the first season is satisfyingly crazy and captivating, but when you get to the ninth episode of the season – The Garveys at Their Best – you may be surprised to see that the entire episode is a thrilling flashback that, due to its placement within the season, feels like watching a car crash in slow motion. It could’ve easily been a more compelling and shocking pilot episode, but it works rather well right before the final episode of the season.

The show is brought to life by a fantastic ensemble cast led by a terrific Justin Theroux, who plays Kevin Garvey, Jr., and a stunningly vulnerable and heartbreaking performance from Carrie Coon.

The Leftovers seemingly isn’t about figuring out where everyone went and why they’re gone. This is a show about grief, dealing with incredible loss, and trying to overcome those obstacles when all else is terrifyingly bleak. The first season of the show may be rather slow, but once the show gets its hooks into you – most likely by episode three – you won’t look back.


– Jeffrey Rex

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