The Leftovers: 1.01 Pilot

Dead Dogs and Sad Clowns

Imagine if 2% of the world’s population vanished. Then imagine envying them after sitting through 72 minutes of the pilot of The Leftovers. Based on Tom Perrotta’s novel, Damon Lindelof’s new TV show is set in a small American town struggling with their own little piece of misery after the maybe-Rapture.

Three years after The Sudden Departure on the eve of the anniversary, we meet the dreary inhabitants of Mapleton. The story centres around Chief of Police Kevin Garvey, played by Justin Theroux, and his dysfunctional family. He has to overcome personal tragedy and sadness while, in the first episode, having to come to terms with his need to kill dogs; sadly that’s the only resolved arc in the first episode.

Threaded throughout the first episode are the Guilty Remnant; a cult of silent, white-wearing, chain-smoking people who seemingly want to remind those left behind that their existence is meaningless now. They most do this by quietly staring at people, which seems to inspire nothing but rage in the community.

Outside of town, we have Holy Wayne and his cult. This creepy cultist apparently can relieve people of their emotional burdens through hugs, while occasionally waving knives at his acolytes and lusting after young women.

Protagonist Garvey’s family breakdown allows us an insight into all of these groups, as his son is with Wayne and his wife is with the Guilty Remnant. Only his daughter isn’t a member of a cult, preferring instead to choke fellow teenagers in ‘hedonistic’ games of spin-the-bottle.

And somewhere in the background of all of this? Chris Eccleston provides us with his terrible American accent and, in the first episode, no obvious reason to exist at all. Liv Tyler looks sad before joining the Guilty Remnant. And this saddest of clowns who truly represents this episode for me; revelling in her misery, her painted smile the closest we’ll get to a real one.

I’ve been told that the rest of the series improves somewhat, and that subsequent episodes begin to explain and illuminate. Fans of Lost might enjoy Lindelof’s way of not quite giving you enough pieces of a mystery for you to piece things together, and it’s no small thing that The Leftovers was renewed for a second season. But overall, you might enjoy the first episode of The Leftovers if you liked Under the Dome, but with less compelling characters and plot arcs, and enjoy being sad.

Stephan Burn

Updated: Sep 17, 2014

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