Recap: The Leftovers – Ep. 1

Justin Theroux in The Leftovers

Justin Theroux in The Leftovers

I’m going to start doing weekly recaps of new TV shows, starting with The Leftovers, a fantasy-drama from the good folks over at HBO.

Alright, I know I’m two weeks behind, but hey, better late than never, right?


Plot Recap

This is the premiere episode, so it’s all about character introduction.  There’s not too much of a plot at this point–all we know is that people in the world start vanishing for no discernable reason.

Strange happenings are afoot on October 14th.  The first casualty: A baby vanishes from the back of a car.  Another child is screaming for a father he can’t find.  Cars start crashing into one another.  People are disappearing!

Three years later–the world seems to be moving on.  There’s even a guy going for a nice morning jog.  Just kidding, some dude randomly shoots a german shepherd in the head.  It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world, folks.

It’s revealed on a C-SPAN clip that 140 million souls have vanished, world religious leaders are conflicted, and the scientific community has no idea what’s going on.  The scientist in question even says “I’m fairly certain that God set this one out.”  The science vs. religion debate starts here, and even though it doesn’t play a major role in this pilot episode, the notion is sprinkled throughout various television clips and radio broadcasts.

Our anonymous jogger turns out to be a chief of police named Garvey (played by Justin Theroux).  He’s trying to do the right thing–informing the owner of the dead dog that her beloved pet has died–but gets an unexpected, cold reply from her.

At the police station, they’re planning to protect something called “Heroes Day,” a federal holiday of remembrance for the people that randomly vanished.  Garvey isn’t too happy about it though, since it’s inviting a radical group called “The GR” to come and protest, and possibly invoke a violent reaction from the public.  His request to cancel the event is denied, and he storms out of the briefing.  Later on, he’s drinking beer in his squad car.  Setting a real great example for law-abiding citizens everywhere.  He goes home and smashes a picture of his family.

His daughter, Jill, is a high schooler with a really bad attitude.  Their relationship seems to be on the dysfunctional side of things.  Standard stuff here–it’s implied that Garvey may be overprotective, but he allows her to borrow his car and go to a high school party as long as she doesn’t drink.  There’s cocaine and weed everywhere–he didn’t say no drugs though, right?  Once Jill leaves the party, she finds the dead dog (his name turns out to be Dudley) in her fathers trunk, and buries it with the help of two high school boys.

Somewhere among all of this, there’s a congressman being taken for a mysterious drive to a ranch.  Blindfolds are required, implying that the destination is secret.  Once he reaches a cabin, he asks for “help” from a man named Wayne.  We don’t know what it’s all about, but the congressman comes from the room declaring that he is “no longer burdened.”  Wayne seems to be the leader of this “drop-off” group.  Could this be the elusive GR group?  Or are they…

…a mysterious silent cult of people wearing all white, who sit in circle, smoke cigarettes and pass around a picture of of a girl, whom they go and pick her up from her house later on.  They also seem to be following people–including a woman played by Liv Tyler, who shows that she isn’t too happy about it by getting out of her car and slapping one of them.

Cut to Garvey going for  night drive that’s interrupted when a deer smashes into his windshield.  Whoops–that was just a dream.  Looks like Jill didn’t make it home last night, she still has his car, and he’s late for the “Heroes Parade.”  He still makes it to the event before it starts.

At the event, a preacher played by the ninth doctor (Christopher Eccleston to his friends) declares that the disappearing act isn’t the rapture–one of the vanished women beat her children, would God take her over someone else?  If he’s correct, it’s a good point.

The silent white cult does indeed turn out to be the “dreaded” GR.  They come to the event on hold up a sign that says “Stop Wasting Your Breath.”  The rest of the town reacts violently and starts fighting them–exactly what Garvey predicted would happen.

There’s more “science vs religion” debate on TV.  It’s also revealed that celebrities weren’t immune to the October 14th event–Bonnie Raitt and Gary Busey allegedly vanished as well.  Justin Bieber is not mentioned a single time.  Too bad.

Turns out Garvey’s wife is a member of the GR, and he goes to check on her.  He begs her to come home, but she declines.  He leaves, and Liv Tyler pulls up in a cab.  She asks if she can stay a few nights, and reveals her name to be Meg.  A leader breaks the silence and tells Meg that she is welcome, and then declares that the two of them won’t speak again.

As Garvey drives away from the GR cul de sac, he spots a deer standing in the road, stops his car and asks the deer (!) if it was at his house last night.  Before the deer answers (!!) a pack of dogs bursts through the darkness and violently demolishes the gentle woodland creature, prompting the return of the dog killer.  There’s something wrong with the dogs–“they’re not our dogs anymore,” he declares–and begins shooting them, this time with some help from Darby.


Stuff to Consider

The two showrunners behind The Leftovers are Damon Lindelof–one third of the guys who brought us Lost a few years back, and Tom Perrotta, a novelist who wrote the book that this show is based on.  Just from this, I have a few early conclusions:

  • There’s a definitive ending of sorts, so there won’t be any “making it up as we go along” moments (see: Lost).
  • An explanation for the event will never be revealed, and the entire show will focus solely on character development (see: Lost).
  • There are going to be too many characters (see: Lost).

See a pattern here?  Maybe it’s unfair to so freely lump The Leftovers in with Lost, but it’s really hard not to.  The Leftovers has Lost fingerprints all over it–from the introduction to several interrelated characters all they way to a deficiency in exposition.

There’s not a whole lot to really analyze at this point, since everything is shrouded in mystery.  It’s possible the the GR (still not sure what that stands for) are religious fanatics in the vein of Westboro Baptists, picketing just to picket.  It’s also revealed that no one in Garvey’s family was “taken,” so his anger is a direct result of his wife abandoning them.  As for the ranch group–I got nothin.

The biggest takeaway from this pilot episode is the dogs, who seem to be acting out for reasons unknown.  I have my fingers crossed for aliens, but I won’t be holding my breath for that.




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