Tuesday, July 01, 2014

HBO's "The Leftovers": A "Sudden Departure" is not necessarily "The Rapture of the Believers"

I caught up with HBO’s Pilot (72 min) for “The Leftovers” (by Peter Berg) late last night on HBO GO, after returning from a trip.
I had been intrigued by the idea of a series based on the possibility of the Rapture (as in the 1992 movie), or perhaps the “Left Behind” movies, and I knew that religious theology itself would get left behind.
As the Pilot opens, a young woman pulls up to a strip mall parking spot with her baby wailing in a car seat  (properly strapped in) in the back.  The crying stops.  The mother gets out, and there’s no baby.  Sirens go off.  Auto accidents happen. 

But then the Pilot shifts to three years later.  We learn that it is set in a Hudson River town of Mapleton, NY.  The people are dealing with the sudden loss of 2% of the population, with no explanation, from either science or religion.
Now, I personally think that when something traumatic happens, it’s a lot more interesting to cover the news story as it happens.  How would CNN have covered it that day?  Presumably this happened everywhere.   I had the same objection to the strategy of “Revolution”, and I thought that the concepts behind “The Event” and “Flash Forward” worked a lot better because the series took the audience through the unfolding of the news as it happened.
The plot threads seem ambiguous. There is a troubled sheriff (Justin Theroux), a pastor (Christioler Eccleson), lots of undisciplined teenagers (who play a dangerous game of spin the bottle with a smart phone), and a cult called the Guilty Remnant.  The town plans to have a commemoration of the three year anniversary of the event (it’s a Saturday October 14, but the leaves haven’t changed yet) , but the cult, comprising chain-smoking members, mostly women, in white, stages a demonstration of the sort you expect to see from Westboro Baptist Church.  The other curious plot thread is “all about animals”, as if from a dream.  There’s a rogue deer that likes to interfere with driven cars (I’ve seen these on Highway 60 south of St. Peter MN myself one time), until a pack of wolves descends on the deer, right at the end of the episode.

I’d rather see more about how people would cope with the implications of such an event.  Could another Rapture occur?  Remember the promise “There’s going to be another blackout” that keeps “Flash Forward” moving?  I don’t pick that up here.
Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta discuss “The Sudden Departure” in an interview on HBO, here.   They talk about a Chief Anomaly and a Brandenburg Carousel.  Maybe these could get interesting if they really crawled out of the woodwork. (Note: the original video went private; replaced in 12/2015/)


It isn’t hard to imagine another idea, that those who departed will return, maybe as proxies – but then we have something like “Resurrection.” 

Picture (mine): near Great Neck, NY, Long Island north shore (June 30).

July 6, 2014

Vox media has a perspective on the show from Brandon Ambersino that is interesting, here

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