The Leftovers: “Pilot” Season 1 Episode 1 Review

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The Leftovers proves to be a tough cookie to swallow, giving us a fascinating world to explore but with seemingly only one emotion within it.

The opening scene of HBO’s high-concept drama pilot is horrifying. A mother loses her baby, a son loses his father, cars are crashing. It’s chaos. This is the rapture-like event that mysteriously took away two percent of the entire planet’s population.

Three years later, the formation of religious groups and cults and the government response is all based in strict realism. A group that wears all white and refuses to speak hold silent protests that incite anger not unlike that of the Westboro Baptist Church. The local government wants to hold a parade to mark the three-year anniversary of the disappearances, calling it “Heroes Day”. As one astute committee member yells out “My brother wan’t a hero, he was kind of a deadbeat,” it feels a lot like the recent controversies surrounding the opening of the 9/11 Memorial.

The Leftovers is a high-concept show based in reality. That’s what works about it. The characters, on the other hand, need a lot of work.

This being a pilot, I don’t expect instant miracles, but even the way we’re introduced to people is a sign that the writers might not know who’s going to be important yet.

Of course there’s Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), our morally centered lead. His wife and two children make up the most interesting characters on the show. But then we spend so much time with so many other people who are far less interesting. But everyone has a horrifically bad memory from the rapture, we we’re meant to sympathize with them.

All of these backstories lead to an understandably bleak tone, but by the end of the pilot I found myself rolling my eyes at every other moment that was meant to show how terrible the world is. This first episode of The Leftovers lacks hope. Everything seems terrible all the time always. One guy shoot dogs on a regular basis, and it’s considered a good thing! Hopefully future episodes give us at least some hopeful moments inbetween the beating-over-the-head with bleakness.

For now though, The Leftovers has presented an interesting and mostly realistic world. The characters need some work, but a lot of shows have that problem when they’re just starting out. The tone, however, is problematic. A show like this shouldn’t exactly be “light” per se, but not every scene should be sad. As it stands, this is a show with promise that needs a lot of work. The same can be said for a lot of HBO series (just not some of the better ones). Grade: B-

By Matt Dougherty

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