On 14th October, 2 per cent of humanity disappeared. Why? Viewers tuning into Damon Lindelof’s series The Leftovers in the hope of finding out will be disappointed. Because it’s not about that. The mystery of the series isn’t the cause of the departure, but the people affected by it three years on. Forget why those people vanished: why the hell is everyone so messed up?
With one episode to go, the show finally gives us the answer. Yes, this is a flashback episode, Lost fans, which takes us back three years to just before the event. And the city of Mapleton? Well, it all looks peachy from here.
That is, until we start catching up with each of its residents.
“I think something terrible’s about to happen,” says Patti, who is now talking like a normal person. She’s convinced that bad juju is on the way, but her psychiatrist won’t listen. Who’s her therapist? None other than Laurie. While it’s fascinating to finally hear what she sounds like, it’s even more intriguing to see how their dynamic changes post-happening: from patient to cult leader; from informed authority to devoted follower.
Each interaction between our characters has that same weight of foreshadowing, setting the scene for the looming shock, which no one expects. Or do they?
It’s a smart decision to hold back on all of this information until now – something that, fittingly, we only appreciate in hindsight. Beginning with these stories (impatient mother Nora in a noisy kitchen; eager pupil Tom at a science fair) would only present us with an unengaging, boring portrait of a typical American town. After weeks of scrutinising their actions and examining their dysfunctions, though, we’ve become invested in this ensemble. Expertly performed by all of the cast, The Leftovers has become a series driven by its characters rather than its plot – and even as this hour threatens to turn into a generic TV drama, the ending of The Garveys at Their Best provides a huge pay-off to that approach.
Smiling and brimming with confident faith, Reverend Matt bumps into Laurie at the doctor’s surgery, heading out to celebrate after hearing some good news. “I want a drink!” he laughs, smiling and looking contented. “I’ll drive,” retorts Mary, a harmless joke that carries all too fateful consequences.
As the title suggests, though, the focus is primarily on the Garveys – and, inevitably, they’re far from great. Jill is like a completely different person, bouncing around the house singing along to her headphones, but both kids sense that their parents’ marriage isn’t working. Laurie does her best to appear normal, even throwing a party for Kevin, Sr., who is currently the celebrated local chief of police. Kevin, though, is stressed, hunting escaped deer (he really loves his animals) and not passing up an opportunity for some action on the side. If this is the couple at their best, it certainly explains them at their worst.
“I think there’s something wrong with me,” he confides in his father. “Why isn’t it enough?”
It’s something audiences may well have asked themselves, faced with a stubborn lack of information from Lindelof and his writing team. But in an age where people obsess over details and make videos dedicated to picking apart “Everything That’s Wrong With” films, sometimes, not having enough can be satisfying all by itself.
That question joins a whole host that hang in the foreboding air. Are you a good man? Why do you want this job? And, most chilling of all: “Are you ready?”
The Leftovers introduces hints of more mysteries to (not) solve in the final episode – let’s not forget the church from last week – but this penultimate chapter gives us all the answers we need to the show’s most important mystery. Why is everyone so messed up? As mundane, everyday events build up to The Event, the show’s carefully woven narrative evolves into a delicate tale of loss; whether it’s intimate contact in bed, virtual contact through a hospital monitor, or handheld contact carrying a current for a school project, these leftovers all suffer a sudden emptiness, some more literal than others. And that hole inside their bodies is impossible to refill. Nothing can ever be enough again.
Laurie knows it, for sure. For Kevin Garvey, though, that same question is still eluding him three years later: why wasn’t it enough? While others have taken action, or reaction, to 14th October, he hasn’t moved anywhere. And that is the most intriguing mystery of all – one that not even he has begun to work out. Roll on Episode 10.
Season 1 and 2 of The Leftovers available on Sky Box Sets. Not got Sky? You can watch The Leftovers online on with NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription that includes live and on-demand access to Sky Atlantic, Sky 1, FOX UK and more.
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