(RNS) HBO’s “The Leftovers” is the feel-good series of the summer, if your summer revolves around root canals and recreational waterboarding.

"The Leftovers" is an American drama television series that premiered on HBO in June, 2014.

“The Leftovers” is an American drama television series that premiered on HBO in June, 2014. Photo courtesy Paul Schiraldi, HBO/Warner Brothers

Indeed, it’s pretty grim stuff — but quite engrossing and worth your time, thanks to intense performances by Justin Theroux and Christopher Eccleston, and the way creators Tom Perrotta, who wrote the book on which the series is based, and Damon Lindelof, best known for screwing up the end of “Lost,” unflinchingly tackle the nature of grief and the limits of faith.

Can you call it an apocalypse if you can still get a decent bagel afterwards? It’s three years after what has been termed the Sudden Departure, when 2 percent of the world’s population — Christians, Jews, Muslims, straight, gay, white, black, brown, and Gary Busey — suddenly disappeared.

Of the “leftovers,” some are trying to return to normal, some have turned their backs on religion, and others have turned to cults to assign some sort of meaning to the Sudden Departure — because what may be scariest of all is that there was no meaning.

The drama plays out in microcosm in the small town of Mapleton, N.Y. Theroux plays police chief Kevin Garvey, whose wife Laurie (Amy Brenneman) has gone off to live with the Guilty Remnant, a creepy post-Departure cult whose cigarette-smoking members silently stalk other townspeople who seem ready to move on — a tactic seldom appreciated by the stalkees.

The tension between the Guilty Remnant, led by the volcanically seething Patti (Ann Dowd, so memorably eerie in her brief appearance in “True Detective”) and the rest of the town comes to a bloody head after a commemorative parade on the first-ever “Heroes Day.” (When Garvey questions the name, the mayor snaps, “Nobody’s going to come to a parade for ‘We Don’t Know What the (bleep) Happened Day.’”)

The clash between the cult and the town seems to be the central plot, although the show dolefully meanders among other characters, including Garvey’s 16-year-old daughter Jill (Margaret Qualley), a former A student slipping into nihilism, and his older son Tom (Chris Zylka), shepherding the (too)-young lover of another questionable cult leader named Holy Wayne across the country, plus a few other lost souls.

The strongest episode so far is the third, which focuses on a minister played by the dynamite Eccleston (“Doctor Who,” “Thor: The Dark World”). He’s tending to a shrinking flock — shrinking in no small part because the Rev. Matt Jamison’s sideline is obsessively digging up dirt on the departed to prove that they weren’t reaped by God for their goodness. (Again, a tactic seldom appreciated by the rest of the town.) It’s the most narratively focused, and I hope there’s more of that going forward.

The writing is spare (the Guilty Remnant have taken a vow of silence, after all) and effective, but the imagery is rather heavy-handed — wild dogs, presumably the former pets of the Departed, viciously attack a noble stag before being put down by a shotgun-toting pragmatist who tells a shocked Garvey, “They aren’t our dogs anymore.”

Perrotta wrote a couple of the episodes and was part of the writers’ room, and for those of you who (like me) read the book, it’s interesting to see how the show fleshes out certain characters, namely the Rev. Jamison, and turns Holy Wayne from almost a comic figure in the novel to someone of real menace onscreen.

Another major difference: While there is a turning point of sorts at the end of the book, there is never any explanation of the Sudden Departure. However, Lindelof, even mindful of the fallout from the Smoke Monster et. al., has promised one for the series. But if the point of the show is to plumb our reactions to the unknowable, in this case, aren’t we better off not knowing?

Grade: B+

(Vicki Hyman writes for The Star-Ledger.)

YS END HYMAN

21 Comments

  1. I love fictional shows like this.
    The rapture is clearly believed by many Americans.
    I can’t wait til it happens.

    The people who are left behind will see:

    – A decrease in pollution
    - An increase in food supplies
    - An increase in medical supplies
    - Less traffic
    - more medicines
    - an easier time getting good seats at restaurants and ballgames
    - an end to Christian bullies harassing everyone
    - an end to Christian broadcasting

    I can’t wait!!
    Please happen soon!

    • Definitely will be hard on those left behind it won’t be as you hope unfortunately you will find out if you don’t seek the truth john 3:16 btw I am not bullying you just loving you enough to let you in on the truth God bless

      • @Kim,

        I’m loving you, too.
        Don’t believe the hype. God isn’t real and I post a lot on this site
        to share this truth among others who have never met Atheists or Agnostics (or who don’t *think* they have).

        But let’s have some fun okay?
        Let’s pretend you are right and the rapture happens.
        Who are “the sinners” who must be left behind?

        Let’s see…what is a sinner?
        “Sin” is a religious term for going against God’s laws.

        Supposedly, these would be some sins
        according to the Bible:

        Hate,
        Bigotry,
        Not forgiving,
        Inciting people to do violence,
        attacking a foe,
        weaponizing for battle,
        Not loving neighbors,
        telling lies,
        stealing,
        cursing,
        killing for vengeance,
        judging others,
        being racist

        SO…WHO WOULD BE LEFT BEHIND?
        JESUS!

        JESUS LIED.
        Isn’t lying a sin?
        “‘Go to the festival yourselves.
        I AM NOT GOING to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.’ After saying this, he remained in Galilee. But after his brothers had gone to the festival, THEN HE ALSO WENT not publicly but as it were IN SECRET.” (John 7.8-10).

        JESUS COVETED
        HIS NEIGHBORS GOODS AND INSTRUCTED
        FOLLOWERS TO STEAL
        Isn’t coveting and stealing a sin?
        “untie them” ..”bring them to me” (Matt. 21:2-3)

        JESUS DIDN’T FORGIVE – he sent them to Hell! (Mark 16:16)
        Isn’t that a sin?

        JESUS CURSED HIS ENEMIES
        – “Thou Fools!”(Matt. 23:17)
        Isn’t that a sin?

        JESUS DEMANDED DEATH TO HIS ENEMIES WITH A VENGEANCE –
        “bring to me my enemies and EXECUTED them in front of me”(Luke 19:27)
        Isn’t that a sin?

        JESUS DID NOT LOVE MOST OF HIS NEIGHBORS
        – They are ‘Dogs’! (Matthew 15:26)
        Isn’t that a sin?

        JESUS TOLD PEOPLE TO JUDGE OTHERS HARSHLY
        – “If you deem them unworthy…Remove your blessings of Peace”!
        (Matt 10:14)
        Isn’t that a sin?

        JESUS WAS BIGOTED –
        “They are swine” (Matthew 7:6)
        Isn’t that a sin?

        JESUS VIOLENTLY WHIPPED PEOPLE – “He made a whip of cords and attacked them” (John 2:5)
        Isn’t that a sin?

        JESUS CAME TO EARTH TO INCITE VIOLENCE –
        “I do not bring peace.”(Matt 10:34)
        Isn’t that a sin?

        JESUS PREPARED FOR WAR – “if you have money, buy a sword” (Luke 22:36-37)
        Isn’t that a sin?

        JESUS TOLD PEOPLE TO IGNORE THE LOVE OF PARENTS – “hate your mother and father…hate your very life” (Luke 14:26)
        Isn’t that a sin?

        JESUS TOLD PEOPLE TO KILL THEIR CHILDREN – doesn’t that sound like a sin?
        “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? …. ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ (Matthew 15:3).

        JESUS INCITED VIOLENCE AND WAS IMPATIENT –
        “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!….and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on Earth? No, I tell you, but CONFLICT.” – Jesus – (Luke 12:49-51)

        Is this not the sin of pride? Isn’t patience a Virtue?

        —–
        Your Jesus sinned more than most Atheists I ever met!
        And that is only according to the Bible…

        JESUS WAS A SINNER!

        DID JESUS REPENT OF HIS SINS?
        DID JESUS ASK FORGIVENESS?
        IS JESUS IN HELL?

        ____

        WANT TO BE WITH JESUS?
        THEN YOU BETTER GET LEFT BEHIND
        - BECAUSE JESUS CAN’T GO TO HEAVEN!

        • First off, I’m not religious.

          That said, you (Atheist Max) took those biblical quotes waaaaaay out of context just to try and prove your point, which is pretty asinine. Almost comically pathetic to be honest. Are you not enlightened enough to make your case without reverting to such childish tactics? Have you ever debated someone that is well-informed or do you just stick to trolling the internet and picking on people that you think are ignorant?

          There’s some irony for ya.

          • @Random Human,

            Religion is laughable nonsense. What is there to debate?

            For instance: Jesus condemned sinners! Which is itself a ‘sin’ against forgiveness according to Jesus’ own preaching !!

            Of course there is nothing to debate. Religion is patently stupid.

          • Debate implies a position supported by reason, facts and logic. None of those apply to religion.

            Religion has led a lot of people to say pretty uninformed, ignorant, illogical and outright dishonest things in service of their faith. When one is not held to a belief born of reason and objectivity, anything goes.

        • I’m going through these scriptures one by one and I see that you’re either misquoting, conveniently omitting context or jumbling together fragments of sentences to convey a different meaning.

          For example: John 2:5 says nothing about Whips & cords. Jesus did not tell people to hate their parents either. His message was that one could not allow love of possessions or love of people to be more important than being his disciple.

          I could go through all of these quotes one by one, but it’s obvious that this is a joke meant only to hold weight with people who are ignorant of the Bible.

          • @Andrew,

            It is a typo – John 2:15 is correct:

            IF WHIPPING PEOPLE IS A SINFUL ACT
            JESUS COMMITTED A SIN…
            (John 2: 15-16)

            “So he [Jesus] made a whip out of cords,
            and drove all from the temple area… he scattered
            the coins of the moneychangers and overturned their tables.
            To those who sold doves, he said,
            “Get these out of here!…”(John 2:15-16)

            Is there any record of Jesus asking for forgiveness for his sins?
            Claiming that you are the chief of police does not absolve you from committing a crime. Why should God leave Jesus off the hook?

            Does God not care if His own son is a sinner?

          • @Andrew,

            You said,
            “His [Jesus] message was that one could not allow love of people
            to be more important than being his disciple.”

            You make my case.
            Jesus is disgraceful and immoral. Christianity is nonsense.

            To destroy love so carefully earned through tenderness, gentleness, honesty, commitment and trust…

            and to SWEEP IT ALL AWAY ????
            For nothing more than an incoherent jumble of obedience and nonsense?

            Jesus is breathtakingly evil.
            And you are evil too, I suppose, as you would do this to your parents!

        • Atheist Max strikes again. Nice list of Jesus’ sins.
          I wonder if there are some you missed. Let’s get left behind with Jesus – that is hilarious!!!

        • Max, are you familiar with a red editing pencil? I am actually interested in the opinions of people who I disagree with but I get the feeling you that most of this comment came from your cut and paste library.

          • @Charles,

            How is this an objection? Why would I not edit an argument for clarity?

            Why not address the point?

            THE FIRST CHRISTIAN SINNER
            WAS JESUS.

            If a Chief of Police breaks the law, one does not allow this argument,
            “He’s the chief so he can break the law.”

            If God wanted his son to NOT sin it is a fair question
            why the Gospels are full of sins committed by Jesus.

            It is a disgrace to humanity that these questions are forbidden
            by religious people such as yourself on the grounds that they are uncomfortable for this institution.

            All of Religion is phony. This is an institution built on a pack of lies and defended with even more lies.

    • @mercedes,

      Atheists don’t sin because sin is a word for an imaginary crime. But if Jesus
      called those things sins then he sinned quite a bit.

      We Atheists know when we have done something wrong. In the same way that you do.

  2. According to the Bible, the only humans who get raptured are spirit anointed Christians who have been chosen to serve as King/Priests in Heaven with Jesus and their number is limited to 144,000. There is no Biblical basis to believe that there will be a sudden mass rapture. This is erroneous Christian doctrine that certain people have dreamt up. The Bible in actuality explains that Jesus and his army of loyal Angels will come to wage war against Satan & his demon hordes and hurl them into an abyss and then they will bring destruction on human governments and wicked people who are goat-like non-believers or disobedient resistors of God. The result will be mass annihilation with only a small portion of humanity left on Earth to be governed by Jesus & his 144,000 King/Priests for 1000 years. God made the earth to be inhabited. His plan is still the same – humans living forever in perfection on Earth.

  3. Michael Glass

    There was a time when more than two per cent of the population disappeared suddenly and very painfully. It was called the Black Death. It is estimated that 30 to 60 per cent of the population of Europe died in that pandemic.

    There was nothing rapturous about the Black Death.

  4. @ atheist Max

    You shouldodo more research and really look into the bible. God is love, it’s called the Gospel ( the almost too good to be true news). A lot of people that are caught up on being a sinner and think that being a Christian or “religion” is all about heaven or hell, it’s not God is love ! I’m sorry you have obviously heard and seen a lot of do this or go to hell type preaching but I’m here to tell you that God is pure love, he’s loves those who are yet in their sin and those who are not. He loves you too and your only hurting yourself by not believing that ! God bless ! I can’t wait till you acknowledge and get a taste of what God has in store for you ! If he can turn Paul into one of the most influential person in the world, he can do it for you ! God bless Atheist Max. Jesus loves you so much

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