damon lindelof's "the leftovers,"
was is a hbo tv mystery/drama based on a book with the same name authored by tom perrotta that primarily deals with how humans react to loss, suffering, fear, abandonment, guilt and helplessness. in the show, 100 million people are taken in a unexplained event that happens on october 14th (trivia: the date the author started writing the book) which results in 2% of the world population disappearing in an instant. this show portrays a world that defines itself in relation to that date, that event, and focuses on those left behind, the so-called "leftovers" that populate this world, left to pick up the pieces and very often painfully continue to exist.
while intentionally cryptic most of the time, the leftover's prefers to ask questions, provoke mysterious intrigue and do world building flashbacks as it plods along at the pace of daily life in a world of flawed beings. make no mistake, this show is slow moving and even slower to hold your hand and feed you answers to anything that's not necessary to move the story along, often time not evening doing that. if you are getting a "lost" vibe here, your absolutely correct as domon lindelof was executive producer and joint show runner of it. where this show excels is in atmosphere and to that end it's use of it's piano/violin driven orchestral musical score. the show's slow pace gives you room to not only watch, but to look inward to find and confront your own pockmarked history of suffering and loss in life and compare it to the characters in the show and how they cope with the trauma.
everyone seems to react differently, most attempt to ignore the event and continue with their daily grind, working away their worries and leaving the loss to fester and grow in their subconscious until it manifests in unpredictable ways (/me takes out a mirror and stares at self while thinking "why are you like this?"). others embrace the event and are seen forming various religious organizations and cults trying to deal with the event in some hierarchical organized fashion. while the cultists ultimate goals are unknown, they are often seen as silent (literally) reminders of those that have gone. their purpose can only be discerned as to remind those that remain of the event, literally haunting them in various creative ways with their own memories of those who have gone.
in "the leftovers," it seems all the people who could have coped with a loss such as this in what we think of as a healthy and balanced manner have departed on a journey to the unknown. those that remain are left to look inward or to one other, individually reflecting a shared portrait of flawed beings in a flawed world, attempting to derive purpose and meaning from a fundamentally meaningless world. the story itself focuses intently on the people struggling the most in this world, their trials and the path they take to preserve whatever it is that keeps them tethered to reality. for some, it's duty and service to the community, for others it's service of a more religious inclination. these men and women are civil engineers of society, the pillars ensuring the sense of confidence needed to believe that each day the lights will stay, that 911 will always respond promptly and that order ultimately prevails over anarchy, unquestionably. for others still, finding meaning in their relationships with one other and coming together to collectively beat back the ever growing immutable darkness that casually looms just below conscious thought and just above reality as we can perceive it is all that is needed. in this great divide between a civil society and an undefinable tragedy we toil to know one another so that we may know ourselves and hopefully in the process be saved from the waking nightmare of our own creation.
this results in many sequences in the show being ambiguously framed as possible dream sequences or some form of multiple personality disorder with episodic amnesia between distinct personalities. whether what happens are delusions, manifestations of a deeply fractured mind or indeed supernatural phenomena, the distinction and definition mean little to those that are experiencing it. only the fact that "this is the way things are now," and the way in which the character copes with their restructured reality is what is shown to be important to the story as a whole. to this end the show suggests that our main character is "too good" to do what is necessary so he created someone who can. this other man, our protagonist's darker side shows himself to be the inverse of his prime personality, doing things motivated by emotions and reasons the prime shares but in a manner that conflicts with his good, lawful nature. this man, a father, a victim of the october 14th event and a police officer in the community clings to reason and sanity in an increasingly confused and irrational world which is slowly breaking down around and within him.
this conflict concludes with a "mock returning" of the departed as a twisted plot enacted by the cult group the "guilty remnant" to incite the towns people and cause chaos. they succeed and the town is destroyed by fires and rioting with many people killing or being killed by an unhinged population wrought with grief. this prompts the season 2 change of scenery to a place named jarden, texas but nicknamed "miracle" because on october 14th when the mass exodus occurred not a single person "departed." this causes the town of miracle to become a highly sought after place to live, forcing them to build a barrier fence around the town and guard it to keep the unwashed masses out and the residents cozy in their belief that they are exempt from the disturbing departure phenomena. this quickly changes though as season 2 starts with 3 young girls disappearing as soon as our family from season 1 moves in.
now let's get into theories, it's never spelled out but one obvious interpretation is it's a 9/11 allegory. the loss, the way the characters dance around and frame their reality in reference to the day. the way
season 2 episode 8 (spoiler warning) takes a turn for the surreal when kevin, our former cop and protagonist "good guy™" actually willingly dies as part of a ritual of sorts to remove his tormentor (who has been moonlighting as a full-on audio/visual hallucination and mental illness most similar to a schizophrenic psychotic episode, much as kevin's father was like) the leader of the "guilty remenants" cult from season 1 named "patty," who committed suicide and has by unknown means somehow indelibly attached herself to him.
the way she has done this, the reason for her doing this and who or what she actually is.. is unknown. what we do know is that kevin abducted patty during an overnight "sleepwalking" blackout he had in season 1. when he came back to his senses and was his regular old cheery kevin self once again he tried to release her, to which patty, failing to coerce kevin into murdering her, forced her to kill herself. good riddance, right? well it's never resolved whether kevin was actually "sleepwalking," or exhibiting a submerged personality or just being drugged in the night, dragged out of bed and lied to upon waking up but kevin tends to believe the story he is told by his mysterious dog-killing friend (who coincidentally almost always only appears during these season 1 sleepwalking episodes).
so in one of the few character arcs resolved by the show, patty is successfully removed from kevin, by kevin (with a little help) and is seen crawling out of a shallow grave after throwing the other-side patty down a well, and forcefully drowning her. gg kevin!
i dont feel this is finished but i'd rather publish it as is than let it sit in my drafts