Summer seems to be the most uneventful TV season with just a few shows that keep me entertained throughout the week and since none of them aren’t quite like the HBO’s newest addition The Leftovers, I decided to challenge myself with weekly review-posts. That’s right, Mettel Ray is attempting to review all 10 episodes of this brand new show – attempt being the key word in that sentence. So with that announcement, let’s get that pilot recapped and reviewed!
Before I get to the episode recap itself, there are a couple of guys behind the camera I want to point out, Damon Lindelof being the most important one. He is the creator/writer of The Leftovers and this is exciting and a bit scary at the same time – as you know, Lindelof was also the creator/writer for Lost and well, that didn’t turn out as well as expected. Lost captured us well in its first season but for me, and many others, it lost us when things got very weird and well, too mysterious to explain. Hopefully things will be different this time around with Tom Perrotta bringing some balance to Lindelof’s crazy ideas.
The third and last man I want to mention before I get cracking at the pilot is Todd McMullen. His name might not ring any bells but his past work as the cinematographer on The Newsroom makes me smile unconditionally. His style is sharp, clean and almost effortlessly classy, and that makes me excited for The Leftovers because I know it will look visually stunning.
The show starts off on October 14th in Mapleton, and what seems to be an average day, is actually far from normal. While a mother struggles to calm her baby and when he suddenly stops crying, the mom’s joy is shortly lived – he has actually disappeared! She frantically tries to call for him, and while doing so, notices a boy similarly screaming for his dad, a car without a driver crashing – we are taken into the present, three years later.
Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) is running and listening to the radio where a man is talking about the disappearance of 2% of the world’s population, throughout the pilot we get two other mathematical facts to accompany that statement: 140 million people went missing and that means 1 person out of 10 disappeared on October 14th. Anyway, Garvey runs across an abandoned dog and tries to get closer when suddenly a strange man shoots it with no good reason (Lady Sati won’t like this at all).
Then there are numerous jumps to other characters, a woman waking up in a room filled with women, all wearing white, a teenage girl in a classroom making eye contact with a boy, an older man getting into a car with a boy who seems to be taking him somewhere. All short scenes, with no apparent explanation, that serve as introductions to three major characters as we find out by the end of the pilot.
The woman in question seems to be living in a cult, all dressed in white, smoking and they seem to have taken a vow of silence as well. When a list of cult members is put up, this woman, later revealed as Laurie (Amy Brenneman), insists to be apart of the Heroes Day event – a parade to commemorate the people who went missing on October 14th. An event that isn’t particularly favored by Kevin, the chief of police, who thinks they will cause trouble and by they he means the cult of silence.
As expected, The Leftovers continues with multiple jumps to show these four characters, we find out that one of the teenagers is Jill (Margaret Qualley), Kevin’s daughter who clearly has some anger issues as she elbows a girl in the face during a game. During that game, two cult of silence members smoke and watch Jill from a distance. In regards to the violence, Jill simply gets a warning from the coach who feels sorry for her because apparently, her mom went away. The boy traveling with the older man turns out to be Kevin’s son, Tommy (Chris Zylka), who also seems to be apart of a cult of some sorts lead by Wayne (Paterson Joseph).
While Wayne’s cult is left unexplored, we find out more about the cult of silence – as they sit in a circle, they pass out folders that contain people, people that they will stalk. Laurie picks Meg Abbott (Liv Tyler), a woman we know nothing about but who gets extremely freaked out by the fact that she and her boyfriend are followed everywhere by Laurie and another cult member. It’s actually pretty disturbing because we have no idea why they have taken such interest in her in the first place.
Another disturbing thing that happens during the pilot is the party Jill goes to with her best friend Aimee (Emily Meade), a party that is clearly driven by sex, alcohol and drugs. On top of that, they play spin the bottle which includes such actions as fuck, burn, and choke. Aimee gets the fuck action from Jill’s crush, Jill is upset but that doesn’t stop her from choking Max (Danny Flaherty) while he jerks off next to her. Now, as far as character introductions go, Jill’s was my favorite in the pilot because of that scene but I can’t really explain why, it just got to me.
Jill gets more attention during the pilot with her and the Frost twins (Charlie and Max Craver) burying the dog her dad Kevin had kept in the boot of his car from the shooting in the beginning of the episode. We get an interesting insight into the dog topic, as one of the twins (I’ll be having a very difficult time distinguishing them!) explains that many dogs went crazy due to October 14 as they witnessed their owners going missing and live in a wild pack as a result of that.
Following that is a short and yet creepy scene of Wayne visiting Tommy and giving him a speech about protecting the girl he likes, but then we jump back to Kevin and stuff gets weird! He is driving in the middle of the night and his radio gets all freaky, we hear a woman’s voice saying “Jack,… I” and an animal drops from the sky! I’m not kidding, it actually fell from the sky on top of his windshield and when he gets out of his car to see what it is, he falls on the floor of his own bedroom.
His phone rings and Kevin’s informed that the Heroes parade starts in 10 minutes, we see bunch of pill bottles next to his alarm clock, and almost as if nothing happened, he gets dressed, figures out Jill didn’t come home last night and finds his kitchen completely trashed. With no explanations given to us, The Leftovers continues with the Heroes Day parade accompanied with James Blake’s Retrograde playing on the background. As far as song choices go, that was a great one for me personally.
After a guy named Matt (Christopher Eccleston) preaches about the disappeared people being bad, implying that it was some sort of a cleanse of humanity? and not the rapture, the memorial continues with the revealing of the statue right before the cult of silence tells all of them to stop wasting their breath. A fight starts between the cult and the people attending the memorial just as Kevin predicted.
Kevin is sitting in a bar that same evening, watching the news broadcasting of what seems to be a violent riot and two people arguing about the fact whether October 14th was an act of God’s will. We are shown images of famous people who went missing, Jennifer Lopez and Garey Busey being among them which, I think, was a nice touch. Kevin is approached by the same woman who lost her baby in the opening sequence, and she asks where he was during the disappearance. He has a flashback of him fucking a woman in a motel room but tells her he was at home.
He then goes to find the cult of silence, and as the twist in the pilot we find out that Laurie, one of the cult members, is his wife. She doesn’t say a word but she seems still emotionally hurt when Kevin begs her to come back, as he gets thrown out she remains quiet. Then, out of the blue, Meg appears and asks to stay there for a couple of nights, after which she is taken inside by Laurie. No explanations, Meg just decides to join them after they have stalked and scared her.
In the final scene, we again witness Kevin encountering another animal (this seemed to be the theme of the pilot), a deer who gets violently attacked by a pack of dogs right after Kevin implies that it was the deer who trashed his kitchen. The strange dog killing man appears again and starts shooting, with Kevin in tears doing the same as the dogs are no longer theirs.
As far as pilot episodes go, The Leftovers delivered a decent one by setting up multiple story lines of the Garvey family, with some more interesting than the others. What sparked my interest the most was Jill’s character, Kevin’s affair, as well as the reason why Laurie left. With short scenes and multiple jumps, the pilot seemed to be rushing through character introductions but as it went on, it slowed down a bit and became more comfortable. The writing indicates that The Leftovers is going to be a very mystery driven show, with multiple questions asked in the pilot and none of them really answered. At the moment, I’m not certain whether this kind of approach is going to be good or bad but I’m interested to find out.
In regards to performances, I must say I’m proud of Justin Theroux who I’ve never disliked and with good reason. I think he’s better than people give him credit for and his performance in The Leftovers will certainly prove that. Another powerful performance for me was Margaret Qualley’s Jill, I have a feeling I’ll be enjoying her story line a lot in this show but then again, the feeling could be wrong. With other big names like Liv Tyler, Christopher Eccleston and Amy Brenneman, Chris Zylka might be the weak link of the cast but I don’t want to dismiss him just yet. With a mediocre start and a range of average scenes throughout the pilot, his underwater scream at the end was powerful enough to give me tiny bit of hope.
Finally, the mystery itself sparks the most interest and I’m not surprised the show features a cult or even multiple cults in relation to the October 14th incident. With things people can’t explain, even important people stating they don’t know where the 140 million people went, it is inevitable people search answers from unconventional places such as cults. Will The Leftovers keep this mystery mysterious enough to be interesting is one thing, but the main question for me is not how many questions it will ask but how many it will answer! That is why I’m looking forward for the next episode, to get some god damn answers!