Cast: Justin Theroux, Liv Tyler, Amy Brenneman, Ann Dowd, Amanda Warren, Scott Glenn, Paterson Joseph
Release Date: June 29th, 2014
A housewife quits her life, here mutes her voice and enters a cult. Lost souls find solace in an accused rapist who runs a private ranch. A priest spends his time denouncing missing “heroes” and attempting to reveal their true identities.
These events occur in the town of Mapleton on the new drama The Leftovers, online a place that is as identified by its small-town atmosphere as it is by a worldwide tragedy that occurred three years earlier. At that time, more about 2% of the world’s population mysteriously disappeared.
Few answers have been found since the disappearances and the citizens of Mapleton are struggling with the consequences of that tragedy. Some have even lost their grip on reality and normalcy. Former police chief Kevin Darby Sr. (Scott Glenn), for one, seemingly lost his mind and ran around naked after the disappearances, ending up in a mental hospital.
As the premiere gets underway, Kevin Darby (Justin Theroux), his son who has now taken his father’s high-profile position, faces a family crisis at home while the town has splintered in its mourning. Some have lost themselves– and given up their own voices– in a local cult called the Guilty Remnant while others are simply lost in their own pain, not knowing how to function in the changed world. Meg Abbott (Liv Tyler) is lost between the two worlds, preparing for her upcoming marriage while being followed by members of the Guilty Remnant, who are trying to recruit her.
The show’s executive producer is Damon Lindelof, who was previously known for his work on the thematically-similar Lost. In both shows, a group of survivors are struggling to survive and thrive in a hostile and painful environment, where death (or in this case, disappearances) drive many of the surviving characters’ actions. Also, this show makes solid use of brief flashbacks in developing its characters— a choice that worked brilliantly on Lost but works less effectively here.
It’s hard not to be intrigued by the different directions that the characters in The Leftovers take but as is often the case of dramas with multiple storylines, some are much more fulfilling than others. The characters in the “Guilty Remnant” are offered plenty of screen time but the writers don’t seem to know what to do with a secondary storyline surrounding a psychotic accused rapist named Wayne (Paterson Joseph), who brings politicians to his ranch to “unburden” them of their pain.
That being said, Lindelof never allows the show to get lost in the mystery at its core. Three years on, few are questioning the reasoning behind the disappearances as much as they are debating where life goes from here. Is sacrificing one’s own voice enough to do the missing a service? Will positive memories of the ignoble lost locals undermine people’s relationship with reality (the Mayor herself refers to the victims as “heroes” despite the fact that they did nothing special that day)?
The Leftovers doesn’t have a strong voice at its inception— unlike the superior Lost— but it has a point of view and a cast of actors who are willing to give their all to bring it to life. As two members of the “Guilty Remnant,” actresses Amy Brenneman (Judging Amy) and Ann Dowd (Compliance) are tasked with bringing their strong-willed characters to life with only a few lines of dialogue and yet, their characters are some of the best here.
The program may be slow at times but its intriguing characters and unique premise should be more than enough to keep viewers interested enough in what The Leftovers has to offer.
Review by: John Hanlon