UK VOD TV Review: The Leftovers Season 1, Episode 2
Ivan Radford | On 24, Sep 2014
Three years ago, 2 per cent of the world’s population disappeared. Gone. Vanished. Shuffled off their metaphysical coil.
Episode 1 of The Leftovers introduced the fascinating set-up in true Damon Lindelof fashion: with lots and lots of questions. Episode 2 continues in exactly the same vein: with little to no answers.
The second chapter sees the characters in much the same state as they were one week ago, full of doubt, confusion and worry. Wandering this strange new world of departed loved ones and mute cults, they seem to be looking for meaning in a meaningless existence – a pseudo-afterlife that may or may not be “after” anything.
Justin Theroux’s police chief, Kevin, remains the main focal point of this bewilderment – the eye of a storm that has sucked in his whole family. Teen daughter Jill continues to be distant after she found a dead dog in the trunk of her dad’s truck last week. That discovery followed a hunting session by a mystery man who only ever seems to appear to Kevin.
“They’re not our dogs any more,” he told the cop at the end of Episode 1, an ominous Statement that continues to loom.
Lindelof’s script underlines the animals’ metaphorical importance repeatedly in Episode 2, mostly by showing us more dead dogs – a sight that becomes no less shocking on repeat viewings. The Mayor and Kevin’s colleagues, meanwhile, question his sanity, even mockingly referring to the mystery man as “The Mystery Man”.
Theroux does a grand job of looking permanently perplexed, taking out his frustration on a bagel that seems to disappear from a toaster – is he really going crazy? A visit to his father in a care home subtly hints that he might one day, but Damon rams this point home as well, throwing in a mysterious prophetic statement just to add to the murky waters.
Kevin’s son, Tom, is having an equally bad time of it. Getting caught up with Holy Wayne, a cult leader on the edge of town, he finds himself crossing moral boundaries before getting worked up himself; if the Garvey family have anything in common, it’s anger management issues.
But for all the script’s grand posturing and overt symbolism, the most interesting moments of The Leftovers lie in its fringes. It is testament to Lindelof that he not only sells the key premise of the show, but that he sells it across an entire town; its believability covers a range of incidental characters, from Christopher Eccleston’s frustrated street preacher and Nora, a gun-toting widow whom Jill and her friend Aimee follow, to the silent movement of the Guilty Remnants.
Standing around in white, writing everything down on pieces of paper, the GRs should be as irritating to us as they are to the rest of the populace. But, led by Ann Dowd’s ruthlessly sad Patti, the horde of Polyphonic Spree lookalikes manage to be both creepy and moving.
Liv Tyler steals the show as Meg, a woman targeted by the group, who ends up running away to join their number. Last week’s revelation that Laurie, a member of the group, is Kevin’s wife, continues to play out, as the police chief checks up on Meg’s integration into the group; but the simplicity of their written communication gives these kind of contrivances a surprising amount of weight. It says a lot that the most powerful moment this week comes from two words on a notepad: I remember.
You wonder what The Leftovers would be like if it only focused on the Guilty Remnants. Lindelof, though, stretches your TV’s scope to breaking point, threatening to overwhelm the screen with too many conundrums.
“You’re all suffering and no salvation!” Wayne yells at Tom. The same could be said of the whole thing. But this second chapter introduces one other central piece of its intriguing puzzle: the opening credits, which were missing from Episode 1. Full of classical paintings depicting the Sudden Departure, and accompanied by beautifully haunting music from Max Richter, it’s a taunting introduction that points firmly towards the Rapture – a term that the programme resolutely avoids.
Is it an ironic juxtaposition, or a hint of what’s to come? For now, The Leftovers’ convincing characters and subtle cast makes the suffering of not knowing an enjoyable experience. One thing’s for sure, though: salvation won’t be spelled out for us any time soon.
Season 1 and 2 of The Leftovers available on Sky Box Sets. Not got Sky? You can watch The Leftovers online on with NOW, 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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