Justin Theroux in The Leftovers


Ah, the old “fake commercial that’s actually a trailer for something else” trick. A classic. First you lull ‘em into a false sense of security, then ka-blam! Zombies/aliens/vampires/dinosaur sharks/Muppets. Sure, The Leftovers loses a little bit of its fake-out oomph by airing on HBO, a network that doesn’t actually show commercials (at least, not for any non-HBO products), but the suspense is still mostly there. And for those poor, uninformed souls who don’t know the ins and outs of HBO’s commercial policies, there are still a few gotchas to be had.

What starts out as an ad for some sciencey whatever — a smartphone or the environment or something — segues into something a little scarier when a great big chunk of the population disappears into thin air. What the trailer doesn’t mention, however is just what’s causing our nation’s babies to vaporize out of their car seats: the Rapture. Maybe not the Rapture, but a Rapture nonetheless. And the series, based off the similarly-titled book by Tom Peretta, will follow the non-raptured (hence the title) as they feud and fuss in post-apocalyptic suburbia.

We’ve had a lot of Rapture in our media lately, but The Leftovers scores a couple of big points early on. For one, it’s not a comedy. And for two, it doesn’t have Craig Robinson in it. On those two factors alone, it’s a completely different beast than the cinematic Second Comings we’ve seen in recent years.

But there’s still a big point of contention within The Leftovers, and that big point of contention’s name is Damon Lindelof. He is known for his hairpin turns and plot twists and for writing material with a sense of spirituality, as with Lost and Prometheus. He’s also known for petering out in the third act and leaving us viewers confused and disappointed, as with Lost and Prometheus. The Leftovers, with its central question of “hey, where’d everybody go?” seems firmly entrenched in Lindelof’s comfort zone. Whether that’s a positive or a negative, well, we’ll see.

At least it’s got a solid cast (Justin Theroux, Liv Tyler, Christopher Eccleston, among others) and the few snippets of actual footage in this teaser look reasonably exciting. A cult-y looking group in matching white outfits, a couple leaping off a building, a guy trying and failing to breathe underwater: all good. I’m guessing The Leftovers will have enough mysterious apocalyptic goings-on to draw us in for at least an episode or two. Where it goes from there (maybe a satisfying conclusion, maybe a series of disappointing Craig Robinson cameos) is anyone’s guess. Watch the teaser below.

The Leftovers premieres on June 15th.

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