The polarizing first season of HBO’s The Leftovers could be read more as an experimental art project than a traditional TV show. It ostensibly focused on the citizens of a small town after a mysterious event known as “The Sudden Departure,” during which millions of people mysteriously vanished. In its execution, the show meandered, often plotlessly, building characters, meditating loss, dwelling on self-delusions. It was abstract in the way that only prestige TV can be. An excellent soundtrack helped to carry it.
It followed the four members of the Garvey family as they reacted to The Sudden Departure in different ways. Philandering patriarch Kevin tried to keep order in the town and maintain a grip on his sanity, mother Laurie joined a cult, daughter Jill started hanging with a troublemaker, and son Tom embarked on a mysterious mission for a philosopher con man. When the show worked, it was unlike anything else on TV. It varied wildly from episode to episode and took risks, like devoting its best episode to an in-depth study of a minor character.
It was often moving — though not as moving as the blaring musical cues wanted it to be.
But it was genuinely unsettling and provocative, anchored by strong performances.
It was not perfect, but neither was True Detective’s beloved first season, which garnered far less scorn than The Leftovers, and it was eons better than the second season of True Detective. Season Two, premiering on October 4th, will have a change of setting and more of a plot.
Season Two looks intriguing even to Leftovers eye-rollers. Even when it doesn’t quite connect, you’re certain to see a show taking the medium in directions that no one else will be this fall.