Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Lost Over?

Caught HBO's new show The Leftovers.  It wasn't bad.  Certainly worth watching again--though it's far from clear where it's going.

The premise is simple.  On October 14th, in approximately the present, 2% of the world's population disappears.  Now it's three years later and everyone's still trying to get a handle on it. No one knows what happened to these people.  Scientists can't explain it.  Some religions claim it's a divine event, but there doesn't seem to be any pattern regarding the people who left.

Since Lost it seems every year there's another show about a community that has to face a mystifying and generally apocalyptic event.  But unlike, say, Under The Dome or Revolution or The Walking Dead, this is a different sort of apocalypse.  Life is different, but not that different.  Losing 140 million people in a poof is one of the biggest things that's ever happened, but it's still only 1 out of 50 people.  Many families are still intact, and all essential services and industries still exist.

So the question becomes how do you handle it. You can't act like nothing happened, but life has to go on, as well.

While we get news from the rest of the world (and even get to see names of some celebrities who left, including Jennifer Lopez, Shaquille O'Neal and Gary Busey), the show seems to be set in one small town. The main character is Chief of Police Kevin Garvey, who seems to be a basically good man trying his best to make things work in difficult times.  He lives with his teenage daughter, who's troubled but basically decent.  She goes to a wild teenage party where they play "spin the iPhone" and do wild teenage things, but she's more concerned with your basic teenage existential crisis, tough enough when you're not raised in an apocalyptic era.

The town plans a big celebration on the third anniversary of the Departure--"Heroes Day."  Garvey is opposed since he's worried a creepy cult that lives in a local cul de sac will disrupt the ceremony.  (Like many basically decent heroes in such shows, Garvey threatens to be a wet blanket.)

This cult is known as the Guilty Remnant.  They dress in white, don't talk and smoke cigarettes (as a symbol that we should all give up and die?).  They're pretty peaceful, so I don't get why Garvey is so concerned,  They'll appear, hold up a sign, and that'll be that. It's the violent response they provoke that I don't get.

Then there's another cult living in a compound, though it's not clear how far away.  They've got a charismatic leader who's apparently able to "unburden" people.  This cult seems to be planning something big, though it's not clear what, or if violence will be involved.  One of the guys who shuttles people in and out, and lives at the compound, is Garvey's son.

Then, in the big reveal, we find out one of the main members of the Guilty Remnant is Garvey's wife.  So his whole family is still there, but scattered.

The show is created by Damon Lindelof--the man more responsible for Lost than anyone else--and Tom Perrotta, whose novel it's based on.  It features familiar faces such as Amy Brenneman, Justin Theroux and Liv Tyler, as well as relatively new ones, like Chris Zylka and Margaret Qualley.

While I'll keep watching, I fear that the show isn't interested in solving what happened to all these people.  Listen, Damon, I don't want another character study that tells us the central mystery doesn't matter.  I also fear it'll be too much about the sadness of the people left, and not what they do to move forward.  Though what can they do?  They don't know how to get their beloved back, or how to follow them.


Blogger New England Guy said...

I lost interest in this one about half way through. I actually even read the book about 3 three years and don't worry about spoilers because I can't really remember what happened and the show didn't help. I don't take that as a good sign. I think I'll sit this one out and wait to see if the series develops any buzz

Full Disclosure- I was similarly down on the first episode of The Sopranos and didn't become a fan until the middle of season 2 (Thanks to Amazon Prime, I am just now watching that first Sopranos season- hard to believe its over 15 years old-I must be an old fogey because it seems just like present day to me (well except for all the pay phones)

6:09 AM, July 02, 2014  
Blogger LAGuy said...

The Leftovers is a bit moody and not especially action-oriented. The numbers weren't great. We'll see. At least it's not as impossibly slow as Rectify.

Readers may remember I didn't particularly go for Lost when it debuted, but it soon became my favorite show ever (for five seasons). I doubt The Leftovers will do a similar turnaround, but I wouldn't count it out just yet.

I think viewers may have felt they've seen this before, and maybe it didn't help to debut a show in summer.

The closest title to this one is probably Flash Forward, where the central mystery was everyone in the world falling unconscious for a couple minutes while having visions of what would happen on April 29th (which is my birthday). The show opened well but fell apart pretty quickly when everyone started acting like idiots.

9:09 AM, July 02, 2014  

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