The Leftovers season 1 Blu-ray Review
Whether you grew up in a Christian household with Christian theology jammed down your throat or if your only experience with the Bible was being tricked into going to a Christian camp one summer in middle school, chances are good you’ve heard some of the stories from the Book of Revelations. And no matter what your level of belief is, it’s nearly impossible to hear or read stories about the rapture without getting chills up your spine. So it only makes sense that HBO would tackle the subject matter, but in a very HBO way, not ever mention the word “rapture”. The lack of religious tie-in is actually one of the show’s biggest assets as it allows the showrunners to tell a very real and disturbing story without stepping on religious tip toes. But as great as the idea for the show is, the execution might be better.
We pick up three years after the “departure”, where 10% of the world’s population mysteriously disappeared. Our focus is on the Garvey family. The father, Kevin (Theroux) is a town sheriff, the son Tom (Chris Zylka) has taken up with a spiritual healer, the daughter Jill (Margaret Qualley) is still in high school and going through normal teen girl issues and the mother Laurie (Brenneman) has joined a cult. Although there are other characters, the decision to narrow the scope to the Garvey family was an excellent one as each of the four family members represents a particular way of dealing with the departure. We learn a little bit more about the departure from random newscasts in the background and although I think focusing on the departure at the high level would be interesting, it works better for a TV show to keep the scope narrow.
The range of emotion in The Leftovers rivals all of the best HBO shows. We’re conflicted with Kevin because even though he seems like he has everyone’s best interests in mind, he’s not actually a good person. Tom is involved with the mysterious Wayne (Paterson Joseph) and that’s an interesting riddle that we can look forward to being solved in later seasons. But the source of a lot of the emotion is with Laurie, who abandoned her family to join this cult that wants everyone to remember the departure. They’ve taken a vow of silence, wear all white and chain smoke while being a terrible nuisance to the town. It’s easy to hate them, but at the same time, it’s important to put yourself in the world of the Leftovers and try and understand the horror they’re going through and the draw of giving up. The best non-Garvey character is Nora (Carrie Coon), who became infamous because she lost her husband and two kids in the departure. I would almost consider her the second main character behind Kevin and because of her situation, she’s a fascinating case study.
The Leftovers isn’t for everyone. The series opens up with the actual departure, through the eyes of a mother that loses her infant child. It’s heart wrenching and powerful, which can be said for the entire show. I wouldn’t expect to ever find out what actually happened with the departure since the showrunners have basically said they’re not going to say and if that’s going to bother you, then you should stay away. But that’s part of the beauty of the show; we know as much about what happened as the characters and that mystery heightens every other aspect. They’ve also set up some interesting twists and mysteries to be unraveled and if subsequent seasons are anywhere close as good as the first, then we’re in for a treat.
Video: HBO knows how to make beautiful Blu-rays and The Leftovers fits in well with the best of them.
Audio: The audio was also fine.
Commentary on two episodes: Commentaries on shows like this are tough because you want the people doing the commentaries to go into details and maybe explain a little bit of the secrets, but they never do. And really, they shouldn’t. So if you’re okay with that, then these two commentaries are nice additions to the show and go into some of the detail about why they told the story the way they did.
Making The Leftovers: This is a standard making-of featurette.
I Remember: A Season One Conversation with Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta: The showrunners talk about what drew them to the material and how much they love the story.
Living Reminders: The Guilty Remnant: The cult you love to hate gets their own featurette.
Beyond the Book: Season 2: This is sort of a preview of the second season.