Slowly but surely, I am getting around to addressing these TV premieres. This was one that I was quite curious about and not just because the premise is interesting. For those who don’t already know, The Leftovers is adapted from a novel of the same name by Tom Perrotta—a novel that I actually read for a class in college once. In fact, we were reading it while Perrotta was in negotiations for making this HBO series, and I know that because my professor was in touch with him. Cool, no? Anyway, let’s talk about the particulars of the first episode.
What I liked:
- The premise. It’s a bit like the Left Behind series, I think (I haven’t read them), but with less of a religious focus. There is a little bit of that here and there, but this is ultimately about how individual people handle the sudden, baffling disappearance of their friends and loved ones. Some of the ways in which people cope are pretty surprising.
- The cast. Justin Theroux as bitter police chief Kevin Garvey, Margaret Qualley as his detached daughter Jill, Amy Brenneman as expressive yet silent Laurie, Amanda Warren as tough mayor Lucy Warburton…Christopher Eccleston as crazy Matt Jamison?! Had no idea Doctor Who’s Ninth Doctor was going to be in this! Anyway, there are a lot of characters who immediately make an impression, and they all strike me as real and believable.
- The Watchers. They’re a strange bunch—all clad in white, completely silent, and constantly smoking—yet they’re exactly as I imagined them when I was reading the book. The group is fascinating. In some ways, you hate them, since they vaguely bring to mind hate groups (i.e. the Westboro Baptist Church), yet their silence and sheer determination to do what they do gives them this weird air of peace and wisdom.
- The style. There were lots of moments when I admired how things were filmed, particularly the parade scene, which I thought was really well done. Also, I like the music. It’s perfect—quietly intense and sad and lonely. Sets the tone quite nicely.
- So far, this seems like it’s following the general story of the book, and I like that because for the most part, I like the book. Of course, True Blood seemed faithful to the books for a while, too, and then things got crazy…so I guess we’ll see what happens.
What I didn’t like:
- This seems to be a problem with a lot of premieres lately: so much happens so quickly. We meet a ton of characters, yet we barely understand their stories. It was easier for me to follow since I’ve read the book, but there were still a few times where I had to pause and go, “Wait, now who is this? What happened to them? Why are they like this?” It makes me wonder what people who haven’t read the book thought.
- The Watchers, though cool, are not explained well. I kept expecting a brief mention of how or why they came about, but that is never addressed. I’m sure they will be explained…but c’mon. They’re such a strange group that we need something to help us understand.
- There are several brief flashes of scenes from the past that left me confused. They hardly explained anything, and I kept expecting to get a full flashback, but nope. Nada. It was a little annoying.
- There’s a scene toward the end with dogs and a deer, and it’s just…weird. I don’t remember it from the book. Maybe I’ve just forgotten about it, but whatever the case, the moment seems a little out of place from the rest of the story.
- This is heavy viewing, y’all. Lighthearted moments are few and far between. I get that the subject matter is not exactly the happiest, but a pinch of comedic relief here and there would be nice. I felt the same when reading the book. Much like the book, I don’t think this show will be one you’ll want to revisit over and over again.
The Potential: I’m very interested in seeing where this show goes—particularly if it deviates from the book. In this case, I feel like a little deviation into more lighthearted stuff could be good since the story tends to be so heavy. But this was a solid start. With a great cast, undeniable style, and an intriguing premise, The Leftovers could become another HBO hit.
My Grade: B+