Reflecting on The Leftovers Leads The Mind to a Weird Place

By  · Published on October 18th, 2016

Happy fifth anniversary for the Sudden Departure.

This October 14 was a special one for fans of HBO’s The Leftovers. Not only is it the fifth anniversary of the “Sudden Departure”, but HBO has released the show’s pilot for all to view online and show creator Damon Lindelof had a special message for fans. It is no secret that I am a massive fan of this show; one only needs to look at any of my writings about this year’s Emmys to see that. The Leftovers is completely unlike anything else on television in the best possible way.

The concept of the show begins five years ago when 2% of the world suddenly disappears with zero explanation. The show creators, Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta, never reveal if this is the Biblical Rapture or not, but the show actually respectfully explores how religious people would react to being left behind. When Pastor Matt Jamison (brilliantly portrayed by Christopher Eccleston) is left, he sets out on a mission to expose the sins of those who are departed. If some were gamblers, adulterers, liars, thieves, etc. so how could they possibly have been departed an not him? The greatness and uniqueness of The Leftovers lies in how that question is answered.

There have been several standalone episodes devoted to just a single character that have all offered different answers. For Nora Durst (delicately played by Carrie Coon) in her standalone season one episode, the answer is to find redemption and feel alive. Nora’s entire family was departed, her identity is stolen at a conference and her whole episode is about who she is when no one knows her.

Then, the best episodes of season two were actually standalone episodes. One followed Matt Jamison and the other Kevin Garvey (beautifully played by Justin Theroux). Matt’s episode, entitled “No Room at the Inn,” tells us his. answer by wearing The Leftovers religious themes on its sleeve. Matt remains here to be a constant reminder of the importance of perseverance and faith. Matt will never give up on his faith that his wife will recover, that God is still in control of his life, and that his religion means something personal to him. Later in season two came The Leftovers’ magnum opus in “International Assassin.” Apart from being the greatest episode of television of the 2014–2015 season, this Kevin centric episode offers an insight into what purpose he might be serving. Is he where wants to be? Is he who he wants to be? Kevin spends every waking second of this episode discovering those answers and battling his demons. It is truly a spectacular hour of television to behold.

The real world may not have had a real “Sudden Departure,” but that does not mean that we cannot ask that question to ourselves. What is our purpose here? Thankfully, we have shows like The Leftovers to help guide us to answer. The characters of this show are flawed and honest and yearning for these answers just as we all are. So, this week, let’s take a second to appreciate that The Leftovers exists and is here to answer tough questions about our human existence. Be sure to watch the excellent pilot for The Leftovers now streaming for free on the HBO site.

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