The Leftovers begins three years after 2% of the world’s population disappeared. No bright lights. No puffs of smoke. Just vanished. Through the Garvey family we get glimpses of how the event has affected the town of Mapleton and beyond.
Chief Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux)
None of Kevin Garvey’s immediate family vanished, but they’re still fractured. His wife, Laurie, left (more on that in a bit) and their son, Tommy, has taken up with a cult-like group headed by a man named Wayne. His daughter, Jill, fights in school, smokes outside of school, attends parties with highly questionable activities, and stays out all night without calling.
As Mapleton’s police chief, Kevin expresses his misgivings over the upcoming Heroes Day. Mainly, he doesn’t think The Guilty Remnants (a straight-up, bonafide, for reals cult) should be allowed to attend the festivities honoring the missing. His objections fall on the mayor’s deaf ears. She thinks the celebration will help people move on and because The GR are peaceful, they can’t stop them from attending. The relationship between Kevin and the mayor seems strained and it’s not entirely clear why.
The episode’s most troubling events (you know, besides the missing people) occur after Kevin witnesses a man shoot and kill a dog and then pull off in his truck. Kevin delivers the bad news to the dog’s owner, who doesn’t seem to care since the dog ran off years ago. Later, Kevin hits an animal in the road, but before he can survey the damage or even see what the animal was, he awakens on his couch as if the whole thing was a dream. But his kitchen is trashed like a wild animal tore through it. By episode’s end, he watches as a pack of dogs attack and kill a large buck. The man who’d earlier shot the dog pulls up and announces that “they’re not our dogs.” This is reference to an earlier confrontation where Kevin yelled at him that he couldn’t just “kill our dogs.”
“Am I awake?” Kevin asks.
Dude, I have no idea. But I’m intrigued.
Jill Garvey (Margaret Qualley)
So far, Jill’s story is filled with every parent’s worst nightmare: She’s fighting in school, smoking, lipping off to adults (including Kevin), and attending parties where the kids’ idea of a good time is random sex prompted by a Spin The Bottle-like app on an iPhone. When Jill’s spin lands on ‘choke,’ she goes into a bedroom with a young boy and chokes him while he jerks off.
Tom Garvey (Chris Zylka)
In the pilot, Tom has zero interaction with his family and this is on purpose: He twice ignores calls from Kevin. Tom is living on a compound of sorts, a member of a group that follows a man named Wayne. After witnessing two students commit suicide, Tom left college to join this group.
Tom drives a visiting congressman to the compound. The fact that the visitor has to wear a blindfold and that they’re met by some serious security (played by Peter Berg, the episode’s director), signals this place and these people may not be good news. After the congressman meets with Wayne, he is a lot cheerier and reports that he is “unburdened.” We’re not sure what happened in that meeting, but earlier Tom told the congressman that Wayne was the real deal. So, perhaps he’s some kind of medium or psychic, claiming to communicate with the departed?
At the end of the episode, Tom goes for a nighttime swim, screaming his frustration while underwater. Prior to this, Wayne had warned Tom to stay away from a particular girl. Why is she so important?
Laurie Garvey (Amy Brenneman)
By the end of the episode, we get more clarity as to why Kevin is so angry and Jill is spiraling out of control: Laurie (the wife and mother) has joined The Guilty Remnants. The cult has purchased houses in a cul-de-sac and they sleep and eat together. They’re creepy as hell, too. They wear all white, chain smoke, don’t speak at all, and have assignments where they’re paired up to follow certain townspeople all over the place. This last bit gets Laurie slapped in the face by Meg (Liv Tyler), a depressed woman in the middle of planning her wedding, after she and her partner follow and observe Meg.
Laurie manages to get assigned to the group of GRs going to Heroes Day. They hold up signs that spell out, ‘Stop Wasting Your Breath!’ This goes as Kevin predicted as the people there to honor the missing attack The GR and a fight breaks out. I’m thinking they should have been more upset over that weird statue placed in the park to remember the missing.
When Kevin shows up at The GR cul-de-sac, drunk, and demanding to speak to his wife, Laurie doesn’t budge. She remains silent and doesn’t respond to his pleas to come home. After he leaves, Meg arrives in a taxi wondering if she can stay for a few days. Have they stalked this woman into submission or does Meg have other plans?
This was a pretty depressing hour of television. The show’s creators have warned that the show is more about what happens to the people left behind than it is the reason why millions of people were taken to begin with. While I don’t have a problem with that, I already have a feeling that the why is something I’m going to want to know, eventually. For now, I’ll sit back and enjoy
Other Things of Note:
- The list of celebrities who vanished was a funny and nice touch. The list included Gary Busey, Bonnie Raitt, and Jennifer Lopez. Whew. No Beyonce.
- What’s up with The Guilty Remnants and their chain-smoking?
- No, seriously: What the fuck is up with those dogs?
Share your thoughts on the episode below or on our Facbeook post and we’ll read them when we record our podcast Monday evening. I’ll be doing a deeper dive into the episode then.