What I hope I’m not doing after a few episodes of HBO’s “The Leftovers.” Source.
I remember it like it was last night – when the residents (unintended squatters?) of the mysterious, time-bending tropical island sat in church pews and looked straight ahead, forward into the white light, thus wrapping up seven seasons of an epic sci-fi drama with a sloppily-tied bow. Actually, make that a taped-on bow, one you just peel the adhesive off of and slap on. It felt cheap, a little lazy even.
For certain Losties, myself included, the series finale proved to be an epic fail, with nary an explanation for the DHARMA Initiative, the number pattern or why they all ended up there in the first place – like, the actual why, not just existential conjecture. Enraged and upset, I buried my feelings in a second DHARMA cupcake – specially ordered for the occasion – and raged some more. As the show’s last season unfolded, I had already developed a healthy distrust of the writers’ abilities to answer every question by series end but had hoped my skepticism would be assuaged with a heaping helping of plot twists that would, ultimately, yield some answers. No dice.
Call it the Lost Syndrome. Since that show’s end, I have learned to budget my emotional investment into shows I find initially interesting. Or maybe it’s the Lindelof Effect? Damon Lindelof co-created Lost (love-hate), produced both of the latest Star Trek films (love), and wrote Prometheus (ugh). This is why I’m treading lightly with The Leftovers. The dreary new drama, based on a book by Tom Perrotta, takes place three years after a worldwide event known as the Sudden Departure, where two percent of Earth’s human population disappeared with no explanation. Among the notables who are no longer: Anthony Bourdain and Gary Busey. We observe the aftermath as flies-on-the-wall of one family living in Anytown, USA a.k.a. the fictional town of Mapleton. The Garveys’ unraveling from the event has resulted in a matriarch who’s joined a cult (Amy Brenneman), an angry police officer/father (Justin Theroux) and their children, a reckless teenager and adolescent son. Along for the ride is Meg (Liv Tyler) who, by pilot’s end, is recruited into the Guilty Remnant cult.
Emotionally lightweight, it is not, at least not from what can be gleaned from the pilot. The storytelling will look familiar to faithful Losties: There’s no shortage of jarring flashbacks and “WTF?” moments. The characters’ individual self-destructions are interesting and painful, particularly that of teenager Jill who manifests her angst by introducing her field hockey stick to her teammates’ faces and engaging in a more – way more – risque version of Spin the Bottle at house parties. Everyone is in pain, everyone is grieving, everyone is having an existential crisis, everyone is trying to figure out what to do in the aftermath of this one inexplicable, possibly supernatural event. In other words, everyone is where everyone in Lost was when Oceanic Flight 815 crashed on the island.
All of this, coupled with the fact there was a huge dearth of humor in the entire episode (I don’t need a flatulence joke but SOMETHING to cut the
cheese tension with would have been nice), makes me nervous. Is Lost history about to repeat itself, and should I get out now before the island starts spinning? I will say this: I’m intrigued. But that intrigue will quickly descend into exasperation if more fuzzy existential questions are posed than answers. Beautiful stories deserve beautiful endings, but maybe more importantly, they deserve beautiful end games. I’m curious to see how The Leftovers plays out.