Critical Orientation: The Leftovers

This semester I will be blogging about the most interesting and intricate show on television, The Leftovers. In this post I will talk about some characters and storylines from season 1 but I will work a majority with season 2 as I continue into this series week by week. Since I cannot possibly cover all the story lines of the first season in one post, you will have to bear with me as we continue along.

I was attracted to this program because it is made by the creators of one of my favorite series, Lost. Lost was a constant battle of good vs. evil and the battle took place on an island that was a big metaphor for purgatory. Before starting The Leftovers I knew I was in for a journey to the realm between life and death. Being a huge science fiction nerd, I knew that this show would be right up my alley.

The characters of The Leftovers are all a little screwed up by the emotional trauma they have all suffered through. But do you blame them? Two percent of the world’s population disappeared at one single point in time, on what people claim to be the Rapture. The people left over are left to numb the pain of not being selected to join God beyond the pearly gates. I can identify with a few characters in this show, like Jill Garvey (played by Margaret Qualley), a high school student who is being pushed into beliefs that she has no idea about. She is trying to make sense of a world that, at the moment, makes no sense at all. Millions of people just straight up vanished and no one has a good answer for what happened. Jill is at the point where she is about to say screw it, by the end of the second season, she is just starting to figure out that the only sense she will make of this world is the sense that she creates herself. This is where I most identify with her. Even though millions of people have not disappeared in a “rapture” (yet), the world I live in is confusing enough.


Protagonist good cop bad cop, Mapleton, N.Y. Police Chief, Kevin Garvey (played by Justin Theroux) is one of the most likable characters on the show because he is put through the ringer. In the first season Garvey has to deal with a vicious cult called “The Guilty Remnant” who’s only goal is to torment those who are trying to forget the October 14th and the Sudden Departure happened by way of organized acts of emotional terror.

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These whack jobs walk around in nothing but white clothes, chain smoke cigarettes, and don’t speak a word once they are fully enrolled in this cult culture. They only communicate through written word on note pads. Garvey tries to stop the local branch of this cult from doing awful things to abuse the minds of people who lost people in the Sudden Departure. Meanwhile Kevin is going crazy, much like his father who is currently in a mental institution. Garvey sees people who are allegedly not there and sleep walks in the middle of the night to places he has no recollection of when he wakes up. Sometimes he wakes up in strange places, like the middle of the woods or at the bottom of a reservoir. But we will get into that at a later time.

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One of the most intriguing relationships in The Leftovers is that of Kevin Garvey and his wife Laurie (played by Amy Brenneman). Laurie was the psychiatrist of local Guilty Remnant branch member Patti Levin (Ann Dowd) before she joined the cult herself. Kevin tries numerous times within the first season to convince Laurie to come home to him and their daughter Jill, or even just speak a word instead of communicating through way of note pad script.

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Kevin beats himself up about letting Laurie leave to live the cult life but she denies him because of the pain she feels inside. By being part of The Guilty Remnant you are expected to live a life of solitude and never forget the events that happened on October 14, you must constantly remind yourself why you were not chosen to live eternally within the luxurious confines of heaven.

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Kevin finally frees Laurie at the end of the first season when there is a fire at the local Guilty Remnant branch clubhouse. Jill gets trapped inside because she wanted to be with her mother so much that she decided to give the cult life a try. The fire happened the first night that she was there. Jill makes it out alive and Laurie decides that she cannot be a detrimental part of her daughter’s life so she quits the cult.

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In the first season final Patti Levin brings Kevin Garvey to a remote cabin in the woods while he is sleep walking. He comes to next to Patti and she has a shard of to her own throat. She tries to convince Garvey that he wants her dead although he tries to convince her otherwise. She ends up slicing her own throat and forces Kevin and a friend who he calls to take care of her dead body. She remains with Kevin even in death, becoming the primary person he sees that is not supposed to be there in the second season, but I will get to this part of the story at a later time.

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This program is novel because there has never been a show quite like it. Theories are tested in the show that light hearted mainstream television shows cannot possibly cover. Plus with showrunner, Damon Lindelof, you know that every episode is going to take you for a trip. The spiritual concepts behind the show make it worth the watch week in and week out. As a viewer, there are so many undercover creepy things that happen in each episode that will keep you at the edge of your seat.

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