Warning: Spoiler Alert
Most likely you have read one of the omnipresent articles in the last few weeks about the début of the new HBO Original Series “The Leftovers” that debuted Sunday night. The new show had a fine pedigree, being televised on a Network that has set the standard for TV Drama, over the last couple of decades. The series was co-created by author Tom Perrotta, who wrote the novel the show’s based on and Damon Lindelof, one of the two men behind the highly acclaimed former ABC series “LOST.” In most of his interviews promoting his new show, he opened up about how shaken he was by the fan reaction to the final episode of his earlier series.
The conclusion to the series that had captivated its fans for six years, did not tie up all the loose ends that had intrigued viewers during the life of the show and the ones they did explain, left many audience members unsatisfied. Although he professed that many fans failing to embrace the finale hurt him, it has not stopped him from introducing one of the most puzzling premieres ever on the small screen.
The title of the series fits perfectly, as we are dealing with the results of two percent of the planet’s population simply vanishing on October 14, three years earlier. We do watch the event unfold from the point of view of a young mother with her infant son Sam, in tow as she tries to rectify the results of a bad day at a Laundromat. Through a series of phone-calls, we realize that one of her family’s toilets backed up and flooded her entire first floor. Sam is just as unhappy about the situation as is his mother and he proceeds to let her know with a sustained wail.
She takes Sam and her laundry out to her car still talking on the phone with the infant crying even louder as she puts him into his car-seat in the back of her vehicle. She is talking about formula for Sam, when suddenly we realize the crying in the car has stopped, the mother does as well and looks to find her infant has disappeared. Not wanting to believe her eyes she frantically searches the backseat for her son, then exits the car and looks outside screaming his name. A little boy starts to frantically call for his father who seconds before was pushing a grocery-cart right next to his son. The mother screams for someone to contact 911 and we hear a series of calls to the service about people disappearing.
We jump to the present which is almost three-years exactly after the incident occurred. We meet main character Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), Chief of Police for the town of Mapleton, we aren’t informed what state, however it looks like a cold weather city. Garvey is out for his morning jog when he meets a stray dog; then the man and the animal approach each other warily. The Chief and the dog start to bond when a pickup truck pulls up about 100 yards away and the driver gets out of his vehicle with a rifle and shoots the dog dead. After recovering from the shock, Garvey attempts to chase the vehicle on foot, but soon gives up the effort. He puts the dog’s body in the trunk of his car and proceeds to drive to the home listed on the hound’s tags.
When he gets there he encounters the woman that had owned the dog and told her it had died. The woman responded brusquely that the dog had run away from home the day of the incident and had never returned in the three ensuing years. She tells the Chief that it was her husband’s dog who had vanished and Garvey offered her condolences for her loss. She sarcastically responds, is that what it is; and shuts the door.
The officer gets back in his car and calls his subordinate Dennis Luckey (Frank Harts), to find out if the other cop has any information on the man who shot the dog. Luckey asks his superior if he got a plate number for the vehicle and Garvey chastises him for asking the question. He then tells the junior officer that since he’s got time before his meeting with the mayor he will head to animal control. Luckey replies that the meeting is taking place momentarily and that the other participants are waiting for him.
Mapleton Mayor Lucy Warburton (Amanda Warren), is reminiscent of former Secretary Of State Condoleezza Rice, in appearance, dress and manner, an intelligent, articulate woman who wants to maintain control. She welcomes Garvey when he arrives late to the meeting and the Chief responds that the fault lies with her office staff, who had scheduled the meeting for noon. She had gathered the Chief and other town officials to talk about the inaugural celebration of “Heroes Day,” the following morning, the third anniversary of the departure. One of the men at the meeting ask why folks refer to the departed as Heroes, when his brother-in-law disappeared and he was a bum. The Mayor responds because Americans admire Heroes and not bums.
Warburton is doing her best to sell the concept of the next day’s celebration as a great idea, something that her constituents need, to turn the page and move on with their lives. She tells the officials that people are ready to have fun again, but Garvey totally disagrees with her position. He counters that people would rather explode than to have fun and warns the Mayor that a group he refers to as the “Remnants,” will attend and cause a fight to break out. Warburton asks her Police Chief if he wants her to cancel the events and he replies that he does, but the Mayor tells him that will not happen.
The next scene gives us our first look at the “Remnants,” and their lifestyle. These people have taken a vow of silence and their motto is “We Are Living Reminders.” Their entire existence seems to revolve around constantly reminding their fellow citizens of the departed. Our first view is a room filled with women sleeping on mattresses, all dressed in white and there is a clothing rack in the room that’s filled with nothing but white shirts and pants. The camera focuses on a woman in her early to mid-forties (Amy Brenneman), as she wakes up, gets ready in the bathroom and then joins the others, both male and female who are undertaking tasks, while chain-smoking cigarettes. We see ashtrays overflowing with butts while people are puffing on cigarettes, with their next one tucked behind their ears. There is a purpose behind that as well as a sign proclaims “We Don’t Smoke For Enjoyment, We Smoke To Proclaim Our Faith.”
A man walks into the room and puts a clipboard upon the white dry-erase board that occupies a wall, it contains a list with the names of the “Remnants,” assigned to attend the “Heroes Day,” events in Mapleton the following morning. The woman that we’re focused on does not see her name on the list and goes to an office where another woman (Ann Dowd), is working. She writes to the second woman that her name is not on the list and she wants to attend. The other woman writes okay and the matter’s settled. We see on a TV monitor in her office that a Senate hearing is taking place on C-Span, as they interview a scientist on possible causes for the incident three-years before. A Senator then tells the scientist that religious leaders have stated that God was not the force that took away 160 million people from the planet, so they are hoping that science can provide a reason. However the scientific community has not come close to coming up with the cause of the incident.
A man in his fifties drives into a parking lot, gets out of his car and into the pickup truck of a much younger man, who is the Police Chief’s son Tom Garvey (Chris Zylka.) He refers to his new companion as Congressman and tells him that he will need to wear a blindfold to make the last leg of the journey. After some huffing and puffing the older man complies and then asks his driver if the man he is taking him to see is the real deal? Young Garvey, responds that he is and that soon his companion will no longer feel burdened. The Congressman asks Tom if he says that to every person he drives to see Wayne and the young man replies that most times he says abandoned.
The pair get stopped at the check-post outside Wayne’s residence and then they get cleared to proceed. An elderly woman greets the Congressman and then takes him to meet Wayne (Paterson Joseph), a black man wearing an open caller dress shirt and a beatific smile. Tom then heads to another part of the house where a group of young attractive women are sitting poolside. He heads over to one young woman and gives her a bag of candy and they share some flirtatious banter.
We shift to Mapleton’s high-school as the school day begins in the classroom of Jill Garvey (Margaret Qualley), the Chief’s daughter. We hear announcements emanating from the intercom, then the principle asks for the students rise and recite the pledge of allegiance which nobody does. He then says that it is time for those students that would like to pray to do so and almost all the class stands and begins praying. Jill abstains and she catches the eye of a boy she likes in the front of the class who is also seated and pantomimes shooting himself in the head. She responds by pretending to tie a noose around her neck, but perhaps she is a bit too dramatic as the boy looks away.
The next scene is Jill and her BFF smoking weed outside of the school, when the boy she likes and another young man ask them if they are going to a party that evening and the girls respond that they may. Jill’s friend then teases her that this will be her big chance to hook up with the boy. They head to Jill’s house for dinner and the friend asks Kevin, if Jill and she can borrow his car to attend a party on the other side of town. After being reassured his daughter won’t drink, he gives the girls permission.
We head back to the “Remnants,” house where the woman and another heavier woman with glasses are given a picture of a woman that they have been chosen to stalk. The heavier woman writes a note saying that the woman in the picture is pretty. We meet the woman Meg Abbott (Liv Tyler) and her fiancée in the next scene and we can see she is distraught over their upcoming wedding. As they head out of their home and into the their car they see the two members of the “Remnants,” are standing outside their house like wraiths. The couple does their best to ignore them and drives to a restaurant for dinner. In the middle of the meal the women show up outside the restaurant and just stare at the woman, her fiancée tries to reason with them and they leave. However when they arrive back home they encounter the pair again. This time Meg can no longer control her emotions and hits the first “Remnant” that we met.
Back at Wayne’s house the Congressman is laughing and having a grand old-time, Tom notices the change in his mood and the older man proclaims that he’s been unburdened. Tom is ready to drive the Congressman back to his car, when the older woman tells him that Wayne would like to talk with him and that he will be staying the night, while another employee will chauffeur the guest. Tom asks if there’s a problem, but the woman ends the conversation saying Wayne will talk to him later.
We head to the party that Jill’s at and we watch as all in attendance are in the process of getting high, or engaged in playing a game in the center of the room. The game is an advanced version of “Spin The Bottle” using a cellphone that tells the couple what deed they will engage in. Jill’s evening comes to a crashing halt, when the guy she’s interested in gets her friend and they’re told to have sex. Jill’s friend says that if she minds that she will say no, but Jill plays the brave soldier and tells her friend it’s fine with her. Jill is then picked soon after to have some groping with another guy and she participates but is crying as she does.
The next scene is later that evening at Wayne’s as he walks into the room that Tom is in and finds him sleeping. He wakes up his employee and starts talking to him about the young woman Tom had given candy to. The young man tries to act as if he barely knows her, but Wayne busts him, telling him he is well aware of his bringing the girl candy and talking with her. He tells the Chief’s son that the woman is very important, that it is Tom’s job to protect her, but even more importantly to keep his hands off her. Wayne then tells Garvey about a dream he has had repeatedly. He sees his son in the dream who had vanished the day of the incident, with a message that things will get quite ugly on the third anniversary of the incident, the following day. He then closes his eyes and touches his forehead to Tom’s.
Kevin is driving back to his house when his car’s radio starts acting up and then suddenly his windshield cracks for no apparent reason. He gets out of his car and hears the squeals of an animal under the front of the vehicle, but then everything disappears and he is on his bedroom floor woken by the sound of the phone. Dennis Luckey is on the other end telling his boss that the celebration’s set to start in five minutes. As Garvey goes downstairs to leave his house he realizes their kitchen is in ruins as it looks as if a wild animal had gone amok in there.
When the Chief arrives downtown he sees the man that shot the dog early in the episode. He tries to stop the man from driving away by pulling out his service revolver, but it falls to the ground. He yells to the man that he can’t go around shooting “our dogs.”
He arrives at the ceremony as Mayor Warburton is addressing the crowd from a podium. Two grade-school girls read the names of the departed, then the Mayor introduces Nora Durst (Carrie Coon), a resident that lost her husband and two young children three-years earlier. She tells the audience that she had the best day of her life shortly before the incident. The family was at the beach and her son and daughter were building a sand-castle and she and her husband were in total bliss. She then recounts a story of about a year before that when the family was sick with the flu and huddled together in her bed. She told the audience that she really thought she was going to die from being sick and could feel the heat emanating from the bodies of her children. She then said that she was not greedy, she would settle for having her family reunited as sick as they were that day.
Whether she had finished talking or not, that would be the last thing she would say as the residents saw that the “Remnants,” had arrived and were holding up placards that spelled out “Stop Wasting Your Breath!” As Garvey had predicted, the residents had finally had their fill of the “Remnants,” and started attacking them. The Chief and his officers tried to form a restraining line between the two groups, but there was a lot of fighting before they got the scene under control.
The next scene Kevin pulls up in the cull de sac that the “Remnants,” reside in. He knocks on a door and tells the man that answers the door, that he realizes he won’t speak, but he wants to find Laurie and asks the man to point to the house she lives in, which he does When Garvey walks over to that house, he’s confronted by a stocky man that tries to keep the Chief away, but he subdues the man. He then starts calling for Laurie and we realize she is the first member of the “Remnants,” that we met. We soon realize that she also is Laurie Garvey, Kevin’s wife and mother of Tom and Jill. Garvey pleads for his wife to return home with him, but we see the conflict on her face. At that point, the man that tried to stop Kevin earlier gets behind him and slams his face repeatedly into the hood of his car. He then drives off without his wife. Seconds later a taxicab pulls up and out steps Meg Abbott. She asks the woman that has her own office if she can stay with them for a couple of nights. We hear the woman speak for the first time as she tells Meg she can stay as long as she wants and tells her, that her name is Patti. She then tells Meg that this will be the final conversation between the two of them.
Garvey is finally heading home when he stops his car when a buck’s standing in the middle of the road. He asks the animal if he had been in his house the night before when a pack of wild dogs appear out of nowhere and start attacking the buck. Shortly there after the man (Michael Gaston), who shot the first dog arrives with shotgun in hand. He then says to Garvey they’re not ours and Kevin asks the man what he means. The man says that the dogs are no longer theirs, that the incident had changed them forever and starts shooting the dogs. Garvey asks the man if he’s really awake and the man responds that now he is, as the Chief starts shooting the dogs as well.
I had great hopes about this series heading into the première, but the pilot left me rather bothered and bewildered. I have enough faith in the show’s creators that I am willing to give the show time to develop. However if it stays as confusing and disjointed as it was in the first episode, it may lose me as a viewer before this season has completed.
The story will pick up again next Sunday night on HBO