Friday, December 04, 2015

They Left But It's Not Over

Here's how I ended my review of the premiere of The Leftovers--a show about the aftermath of an event where 140 million people vanish from the face of the Earth:

[...] I fear that the show isn't interested in solving what happened to all these people.  Listen, [creator of The Leftovers and Lost] Damon [Lindelof], 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.

My fears were realized.  The first season featured plenty of character study, but little forward motion. (The first season was based on a novel which I haven't read, so maybe it was all in the book.) There was no attempt to explain the central mystery and there was more than enough depression to go around.

Yet somehow, The Leftovers, in its second season, has become my favorite show*.  It still has the problem that the central mystery will, apparently, never be explained.  (In fact, their new theme song is Iris Dement's "Let The Mystery Be.") But the producers have replaced a general mopeyness with much sharper writing, where characters make clear choices and try to deal with their problems, often in unpredictable ways.  And we keep getting deeper and deeper into the story as we see various events from the viewpoint of different characters. I'm guessing Lindelof made these changes in response to the weaknesses of Season One. (Not much of a guess--he pretty much says so in this Variety interview.)

Another big change is we've left the small town in New York where much of season one occurred and moved to an entirely new place, Miracle, Texas.  The effect was the wipe the slate clean.  The town is called Miracle because no one in it vanished.  But this being The Leftovers, the people there are just as miserable and spooked as everyone else.  And this season, there's a central mystery that can actually be solved--three teenage girls from Miracle disappear.  What happened?  Were they abducted, are they playing hooky, or is this the first recorded case of people vanishing since the Incident four years earlier?

And now, after episode nine (of ten), we have a good idea of what happened to the girls.  I'm looking forward to some real fireworks in the finale.  The show doesn't get big ratings, so I'm guessing most readers of this blog don't check it out (and probably haven't read this far).  But trust me, season two would make for good binge watching.

*The second season of Fargo is also pretty amazing.


Blogger New England Guy said...

Maybe I will check it out. Season one, which I saw various parts of, seemed so damned angst-y and brooding.

I read the book it was based on a few years back and can remember no plot points except for the central conceit.

I keep getting it confused with another book out there (which may have been a TV show too) call "The Returned" where people that had disappeared years earlier (not in a rapture like event) suddenly start popping up as if nothing happened.

6:12 AM, December 04, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

There was a TV show called The Returned on the Sundance channel a few years ago. It was based on some book with a different title. You're probably referring, though, to the ABC TV show Resurrection, which was based on a book called The Returned. I didn't read the book (you're much better read than me when it comes to modern fiction).

The mood of The Leftovers is very different--closer to another Sundance show, Rectify (which I don't like) where everything is moody and people have secrets. What makes The Leftovers work is, I think, Lindelof's writing and plotting, which was more no-nonsense and commercial on Lost, but still works--at least partly--in this new show which is less plot-driven.

9:04 AM, December 04, 2015  

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