The Leftovers “Pilot” Review (1×01)

30 Jun


“Hey. We’re still here.”

When 2% of the population mysteriously vanishes in what’s known as the Sudden Departure, we’re left with a bleak, unforgiving world, one permeated by crushing despair as people attempt to come to terms with what’s happened. Yet, this is a series that deals with the cold, hard truth: we’ll all disappear one day; we’ll all die, and we simply can’t ignore this fact. The Leftovers brings its characters face to face with the grim reality of existence, and in doing so, it crafts an intriguing look at the way society functions when its people experience loss on such a magnitude.

There are certainly examples of large-scale loss in history, but at least there’s a reason. In The Leftovers, all that’s left is a shopping cart rolling down an incline, an empty car seat, and a driverless car barreling into another vehicle. This is existence coming to an end without explanation, and it’s frightening because these people not only don’t know where their loved ones went, but they also don’t know how it happened. As a human race, we tend to want to blame anyone or anything for whatever tragedy that occurs, but all that’s left when there’s no one to blame is ourselves; we dig deeper and deeper into our own psyches, and eventually, we can cause a fracture.

The pilot opens not with a shot of widespread chaos, but with a shot of a woman and her child, and it’s clear from the opening images that these stories will be intensely personal. When you look at the big picture, 2% may not seem like all that much, but when you zero in, this woman at the beginning–Meg–has lost so much more than 2%. It’s the desire to find a purpose, to recapture a sliver of the connections she had before the Departure, that drives her to the Guilty Remnant at the end of the episode, and that same desire is ever present in Jill’s–and by extension, the rest of the people at the party–actions.

Justin Theroux’s Kevin Garvey, meanwhile, is trying to reach out to his wife Laurie (Amy Brenneman), who has joined the Westboro Baptist Church-esque Guilty Remnant. The members of this group are doing what they can to make people remember, contrary to what they may seem like on the surface: merely antagonistic and heartless. Don’t get me wrong, though; they definitely fit that description, but I believe what they’re trying to do here is prevent the memorials and the prayers from being devoid of meaning because, as a human race, we’re known to forget things. We may be struggling to move on and trying to avoid the hard truth, but once we’ve faced the fact that existence ends (easier said than done), we do let go. So, the Guilty Remnant goes to that memorial hoping to start something, and once something is started, it’s seared into the peoples’ memories.

After that confrontation, the episode ends with Garvey shooting a pack of dogs devouring a deer. The symbolism and parallelism are evident: at the beginning of the episode, Garvey is shocked and saddened when a stray is shot dead in the street, but at the end, he’s transformed into the guy who would shoot the dog. The dogs are turning rabid and humans will soon follow, and Garvey putting them down is simply a necessary step in the evolution of humanity, as well as a necessary step in saving his wife’s life (more overtly shown when he beats people up at the memorial). If the deer–not afraid of Garvey–is the Guilty Remnant, then the dogs represent the rest of society.

And well, the rest of society is slowly slipping away. There’s a languid pace to the show and to the characters’ actions, as if people have simply given up, even if they might be turning to first science, then to religion, then to a cult in order to deny, deny, deny. Everything they know is upended. Ultimately, it is exhaustion and inevitability that leap to the top of the pool of darkness, and underneath, we’re screaming our lungs out to anyone who will listen.

No one’s listening, but we’re here.



-It’s Buddy Garrity! When Tom goes on about visiting schools in Texas and the people being nice, he’s obviously talking about Dillon and the Taylors, respectively, because there’s no other acceptable answer.

-Gary Busey, Shaq, and Anthony Bourdain are among the celebrities who are no longer with us.

-Peter Berg’s directorial style is perfect for this show, as are the music choices. In particular, James Blake’s “Retrograde” gives me chills, even though I’ve heard it countless times in the promos.

-Wayne’s an interesting character. Out of the myriad angles the show will take to look at its story, Wayne’s is obviously a religious one, and his plan plants its roots in the Bible. Looking forward to see how this plays out.

-Lots of ideas relating to breathing in regards to the Guilty Remnant: the “Don’t Waste Your Breath” at the memorial, the smoking, the lack of talking. I’ll probably have more to say on these matters as we learn more about the group.

-Next up, “Shoot in the head” and “Set on fire” and “Push off a cliff” become options in that spin the iPhone game.

True Detective, Hannibal, and now this. Lots of stag love out there.

– “I gave you Vincent, but you shall not have a dog this time around! Mwahahahaha!” –Damon Lindelof

-Please, everyone, do not let your opinion of the ending of Lost influence your opinion about this show. I’ve seen a ton of people turn away from this because they still hold grudges against Lindelof, and I don’t understand them. This show is certainly not for everyone, but judge it on its own merits. Anyway, I’ll try to cover every episode this season, even though the time slot will get super packed come July.

Photo credit: HBO, The Leftovers


8 Responses to “The Leftovers “Pilot” Review (1×01)”

  1. Brian Cronin June 30, 2014 at 1:51 am #

    They really casted insanely well, didn’t they? The ones I weren’t familiar with (Coon, Waren, the younger actors) were some of the best parts of the show!

  2. JustMeMike June 30, 2014 at 11:08 am #

    Fine review PB

    I have many questions about the show, and that is to be expected. I have a feeling the show will divide cleanly like black and white, like humans and animals, and folks who love the show vs the haters, which a show like this is bound to have.

    I am still greatly puzzled by the Wayne character; the secrecy, the series of rings surrounding him, and the fact that the Congressman had to pay a huge amount of money to get to see this man. Maybe he is a conman, who really has no powers.

    On the other hand, the Chief of Police’s son Tom – he gave no indications, then he was ‘lectured’, or is it warned by Wayne, then he emits that silent scream beneath the surface of the pool, which was all the more piercing (intellectually) even though it wasn’t actually heard

  3. Queen Europa July 1, 2014 at 1:53 am #

    Do you know the title of the song that was playing during the closing credits?

    • polarbears16 July 1, 2014 at 2:01 am #

      Reignwolf’s “Are You Satisfied?”

      • Queen Europa July 1, 2014 at 2:32 am #

        THANKS! That is one sexy song.Reminds me of the type of song True Blood would play during their credits.The name of the band fits the song.

  4. Pop Eye July 1, 2014 at 10:06 am #

    Wonderful review, PB! While I did like the premiere, I certainly didn’t think it was all that great. Mostly because the subject matter has been done to death and, so far, the characters haven’t really sparked my interest yet (even though the cast is incredibly talented). I’ll have to watch a couple of more episodes before I make up my mind. Maybe Lindelof and Perrotta come up with some very clever and poignant additions to quite a familiar genre. On a side note, it’s funny you made that remark about the stag; I just tweeted out a similar message.

  5. Josh July 1, 2014 at 8:53 pm #

    This was my favorite pilot of the year, besides Fargo’s. The performances, especially by Justin Theroux, are extraordinary and the music/score on the show is so good. Although I am a self-proclaimed Lindeolf/Lost fan, I had my doubts about this show. But I was pleasantly surprised and was drawn in by it’s heavy themes to religion and its haunting tone.

    • polarbears16 July 5, 2014 at 11:21 pm #

      Yeah, they really crafted a great atmosphere, didn’t they? And the music choices: fabulous. “Retrograde” is one song I will never get tired of, even though I’ve heard it in all the promos.

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