BE VERY AFRAID
any meaning. Near-madness, menace and danger lurk everywhere in the pilot episode, much of it played out at night. “Nobody’s ready to feel better,” Garvey responds to Mayor Warburton’s (Amanda Warren) ministrations. “We’re ready to explode.”
Teenagers play destructive sex games at drunken parties. The town’s dogs are roving around in feral packs, hunted down by a determined shooter with a sniper rifle, and large deer loom out of the darkness at pivotal moments. The animals seem to represent the natural world, somehow party to a secret that eludes the distraught humans.
Then there’s the spooky Guilty Remnant — a nihilistic group of silent watchers who wander the streets in same-sex pairs dressed in white overalls, chain smoking, using passive-aggressive tactics to prevent people from moving on with their lives. It seems they smoke so assiduously because they don’t believe the cigarettes will kill them before the next Departure. A sign in the canteen of their compound says “We don’t smoke for enjoyment, we smoke to proclaim our faith”.
Not exactly Christian, they believe they are the living reminders of God’s awesome power. Sheriff Garvey’s wife, Laurie (Amy Brenneman), has surrendered to GR in despair; his daughter, Jill (Margaret Qualley), is quietly disintegrating emotionally; his son, Tom (Chris Zylka), has ditched college and run off to Nevada to join a cult led by a man named Holy Wayne (Paterson Joseph), who believes he can heal people with a hug.
The show’s premise is obviously suggestive of rapture theology, the belief that a period of tribulation will occur before the return of Jesus. Perrott says that while he isn’t religious, he found himself thinking about the rapture not as a theological concept but as a powerful metaphor for getting older, for living with loss and mystery.
At times the show reminded me of FlashForward, the gritty cop procedural set in a mysterious, but nicely underplayed, science fiction context, and which had a shortish run a couple of years ago. In it, a mysterious global event caused everyone on the planet to lose consciousness for two minutes and 17 seconds, during which they experienced a vision of the future. The characters made little attempt to understand complicated time-travelling paradoxes or notions of parallel universes. Nor did they place too much importance on the perplexing orchestration of past, present and future the flash-forward brought to their lives. The focus was on the down-to-earth story of people trying to live through the consequences of a calamity.
Despite the intense gloominess, director Berg brings to The Leftovers an invigorating, syncopated style. It keeps coming at you in surprising, dazzling ways, beating out an uncompromising, unsettling rhythm to Max Richter’s score. His repeated theme Vladimir’s Blues won’t let go of you, a rippling, haunting piano tune with chiming notes. Music supervisor Liza Richardson’s startling choice of songs to accompany the set pieces is also mesmeric.
I’ve watched few TV shows that make you so thoughtful. Lindelof and Perrotta make you think about the universe and whether our sense of daily purpose is too often diverted away from those who matter most.
It’s a terrible reminder that we live with loss every day and that we can’t control our future; and that all of us, whatever we may say to the contrary, are searching for some kind of resolution and peace. I still feel anxious. All I could hear for days was that damned piano music.
Justin Theroux plays a police officer trying to maintain normalcy in top; Theroux with Christopher Eccleston in the show, left