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article imageOp-Ed: Why 'The Leftovers' is one of the year's best TV shows

By Michael Thomas     Dec 15, 2015 in Entertainment
In an age where literally dozens of excellent shows are vying for your attention, 'The Leftovers' left many of them in the dust with its simply arresting storytelling.
Warning: spoilers for all of season one and two to follow
Created by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perotta, based on Perotta's book of the same name, The Leftovers follows a group of people after two percent of its population mysteriously vanishes. The first season takes place in Mapleton, NY, and follows Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), the city's police chief. A mysterious group called the Guilty Remnant has been aggravating citizens since the disappearance, and Kevin has his own personal problems with them — his wife, Laurie (Amy Brenneman), left him to join the group.
While season one was at times surreal and grappled with issues of faith and trying to move on after a tragedy, it was deeply polarizing. News for the show didn't look much better when headlines came out that the show was switching locations, and that a vast majority of the supporting cast wouldn't be returning for season two. Further, this new season would be entirely original; Lindelof and Perotta used all of the book's material in season one.
With a new location and new cast members, and not tethered to anything, the second season of The Leftovers has been nothing short of jaw-dropping. A key to enjoying the season to its maximum potential is to understand one thing — Lindelof and Perotta will never explain why the disappearance happened, or why it may happen again. The show is not Lost, which Lindelof was also involved with — it's more interested in how people react to something they cannot comprehend.
Season two is also not interested in becoming more accessible to those turned off by the first season. The first 10 or so minutes of the season two opener are seemingly completely unrelated to everything that follows; set in a prehistoric time, a woman gives birth and struggles to survive the harsh wilderness with her child in tow. From then on, the episode, "Axis Mundi," sets the scene in the season's new location, the fictional Jarden, Texas (nicknamed Miracle, because not one person from the area vanished during the Departure).
Kevin, his now-girlfriend Nora (Carrie Coon) and Kevin's daughter Jill (Margaret Qualley) have moved to the city. Their next-door neighbours are enigmas themselves. John Murphy (Kevin Carroll) is seemingly hellbent on stifling any talk of supernatural occurrences. His son, Michael (Jovan Adepo) is delivering prayers to residents of the town. This is not to mention the residents themselves; a woman who waters her lawn in a wedding dress and a man who surreptitiously slaughters goats in public are just a few of the strange people.
When the Garveys arrive, everything seems to go wrong. Jarden's earthquakes seem to become more frequent; crucially, John's daughter Evie and two of her friends mysteriously vanish. Kevin is now tortured by visions of Patti, the Guilty Remnant leader in season one who killed herself.
The season's biggest strengths are the performances of its actors. It doesn't take much to see that everyone is pained in their own way. John is trapped in denial; Nora still can't get over the Departure of her kids and husband; Regina simmers with rage she can't vocally express. Theroux's performance throughout the season is the highlight, as he grapples with the ghost of Patti while trying to be a father.
The entire season seems to take place within the realm of a few weeks, and tells a robust story with many episodes simply focusing on one character. Fourth episode "Orange Sticker" follows Nora when she finds out that she may be the reason her family Departed. "No Room At the Inn" follows pastor Matt Jamison (Christopher Eccleston) and his vegetative wife, Mary. "Ten Thirteen" shows Meg (Liv Tyler) getting more and more deranged by the fact that she lost her mother a day before the Departure.
Though the season flirts with the supernatural, it takes a full dive into it with "International Assassin," and finale "I Live Here Now" brings all of the series' carefully placed threads to a close. Those hoping for a more grounded storyline might have jumped ship by "International Assassin," but again, Lindelof doesn't care.
The Leftovers is the product of a creator indulging his vision without pandering to audience expectations. As a result. it's one of the most mesmeric shows of 2015.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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