HBO began pushing their new show The Leftovers quite a few months ago, and I must say that they did a great job of giving just enough to make me feel that I had to check it out. Though the pilot certainly wasn’t quite what I expected, with this episode they continued to give just enough to keep me interested.
Of course from the previews we knew that the show is about a whole bunch of people disappearing all at once, and they definitely cut right to the chase in the opening scene of “October 14”. The woman going about her day, complaining about having to use the laundromat, and then putting her crying baby in the car…she looks away for half a minute, and when she turns back around to check on her child, it’s gone. Nearby, a young boy is panicking over his lost father, and around the block one car – presumably driverless – slams into another. Suddenly it’s three years later, and while a lot of other scenes in the Pilot veered between choppy and drawn-out, the opening scene was about as good as it gets.
At first things appear to be normal, as the first ‘three years later’ scene is that of a man running through a nice town on a sunny morning – but then the background noise is an information broadcast stating that one in fifty people disappeared on that day three years prior. This was clearly the overwhelming theme of the episode; people are still jogging, listening to the radio, going to school, etc…only they’re also randomly shooting stray dogs and joining cults and constantly, constantly smoking cigarettes.
Currently The Leftovers is focusing on the small town of Mapleton, though there are brief glimpses into the outside world via televised debates and news broadcasts, as well as the plot line involving the desert compound. The somewhat narrow focus was one of the aspects that wasn’t quite obvious from the teasers that HBO released, but I think that it was a good choice, as they are still following quite a number of characters and the writers have already spread themselves pretty thin.
I’m not quite certain yet how I feel about most of the acting; I don’t believe any of it was outright bad, but to be honest none of it was memorable, despite there being quite a few hard-hitting scenes in this episode. Thankfully I think that there’s plenty of room for improvement and I hope to see some standout performances, especially if we eventually get more back story on the characters who are at the forefront of the show.
At an hour and fifteen minutes, the Pilot was a bit too long. I feel that they could have cut down the number of character introductions and spent more time on fewer of the characters, which would have allowed for some connections to remain secret while also not creating so much confusion with all of the jumping around they did, especially in the first half of the episode. That said, having the Pilot finish with viewers realizing that main character Chief Kevin Garvey actually didn’t lose any of his immediate family, and that his wife is a member of the “Remnant” group that he has been arguing against, was as strong of an ending as the opening was of a beginning.
The main problem with HBO’s wanting to give viewers just a taste of everything is that it was difficult for me to not spend half (or more) of the Pilot wondering why some people look like they’re living in shelters by choice while others have their own homes, whether I’m just old and all high school parties are that crazy or if that’s just how they are post-People Disappearing Day, and why the male lead is constantly running into (literally and figuratively) large deer. Thankfully certain questions are wrapped up in this episode, though not by any means in neat little packages. If the writers are able to continue handling this as masterfully as they did in the Pilot, viewers can look forward to a tension-filled season.
Author: Tara Lynne
Tara Lynne is an author, fandom and geek culture expert, and public speaker. She founded Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones convention in the US, and now runs its parent company Saga Event Planning.
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