The Leftovers

The Leftovers

TV series created by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta.

“The Rapture” is a well established religious idea: the diligent faithful will suddenly, in a single moment, be physically transported to heaven while the unfaithful, in full knowledge of their faithlessness, will be left behind to struggle along without them.

What if something Rapture-like happened and it didn’t take the diligent faithful? What if two percent of the population vanished in an instant and three years of rigorous scientific study could find no pattern to connect the Departed? Here is definitive proof that humans are not alone, that all our plans are delusion and our their wisdom self-deceit. Our science is inadequate, our religion insufficient.

The Leftovers is about those left behind. Some have Departed family members. Some have loved ones who were killed as a result of the vanishing (1 in 50 drivers suddenly no longer behind the wheel). They live in a society that cannot promise a happy tomorrow, that cannot promise tomorrow, period. They are fish out of water, flopping on sun-baked concrete.

Some try to re-make their lives, pretending as best they can that their understanding of life is sufficient to go on: the sheriff, the pastor, the mayor, the victim who lost husband wife and all her children, the children abandoned by parents who have lost all hope. As they struggle to keep the peace and build a meaningful life they face the relentless abuse of the Guilty Remnant, a growing cult peopled by those who have given up on life, on speech on hope. Dressed in white, appearing in twos or together in crowds, they are the silent witness to despair, stalking and intruding on any who try to move on, peaceably doing all they can to maximize the mental anguish and despair of those unwilling to give up.

The show has many rich characters. The sheriff’s wife has left him for the Remnant, his daughter is falling into despair, he’s going mad like his father before him, his son has fallen in with a failed messianic cult. The preacher has lost his flock but not his faith. He’s dedicated his life to the salvation of the Remnant. The woman who’s lost her whole family coasts through life, going through the motions, waiting for the entropy to slow her to a stop. While the story is that of the sheriff’s family, the world is so rich that a couple excellent episodes are built entirely around supporting characters. They continually face situations that tear the heart. The resilience of their hope is extraordinary, as is the despair and wretched vileness of those who try to snuff the bleak candle.

It is exceptionally well written. The exploration of happiness and personal significance, hope and despair, is provocative and penetrating. Max Richter’s music is achingly beautiful.