The Leftovers–Or, How Do I Mourne Thee? Let Me Count The Ways…

Because make no mistake, there’s a lot of mourning and weirdness going on here, and precious little else.

I watched the second episode of the new HBO series The Leftovers last night, because very rarely do I give up on a series with any hint of spec fic about it without giving it at least two episodes. Also, HBO is a major source of my joy right now, and they could pretty much pitch me any show and I’d skip the trailers and tune in.

I have to admit, the trailers for The Leftovers confused rather than intrigued me, but I thought, hey give it a chance. After the pilot, I was one big, ‘Hmmmm…’ But a few seconds before episode two started last night, I think my sister called it.

‘This,’ she said (to paraphrase), ‘is pretentious crap that’s headed nowhere by the end of the season. Lost all over again.’

I fear she is right.

I know, I know, lots of people loved Lost. So did I, for about 5 and a half seasons. Then I realised that not only did they clearly have no plan for how to tie things up while explaining all the mysteries, they were starting to make characters do strange things like hook-up in bear cages because viewers really wanted the couple to do it, and it’s hard to find a place to be alone on a tiny island.

I’ll admit my flaws. I’m a plot and story girl, through and through. I love me some characters, but not without a good story. Sure, I was in love with the characters on Lost in the beginning. But when logic, story and plot were sacrificed on the alter of ‘we really like these people so we’re just going to dissect every bit of their lives until no one cares anymore and we ride off into the sun’, I jumped ship.

I think I’m going to have to jump ship on Leftovers early too. It’s not because it’s not pretty–it’s beautifully shot. It’s not because it’s badly directed–Peter Berg is one of my favourite directors and he does a great job with the first episode in particular. It’s not because the acting sucks–everyone does a bang-up job with what they’re given.

It’s because this is a story that hooks you with a central mystery and a bunch of questions and yet again, the creators are sending signals they may or may not provide answers to any of it. Now, for the record, I think Lost probably taught everyone the way to go down in history is to NOT chicken out on your own story. I do believe The Leftovers will actually address the reason for their missing people. But for once, the promise of story is not enough to hook me.

Because the characters are a real drag. I mean, a real, real drag.

There is not a single person in The Leftovers that I like, care to empathize with, or relate to. Everyone is depressed or fucked in the head or going through the motions, or all three. Everyone. Why would I spend an hour with any of these people if they’re not properly restrained in a padded room?

Well, except those very nice boys who let depressed, fucked in the head schoolgirls take over their car so they can tail a depressed Mom who lost her kid in the Departure. Those boys are nice. They even buried a dead dog they had nothing to do with.

Don’t ask.

My question is, when did it become okay to assume that we need all the characters to react the exact same way to stimulus because we’ve, you know, got a THEME! (capital letters, exclamation point)? And the reaction, in this case, is to unload buckets of crazy all over the place. It’s not that I don’t get that an event like 2% of the world’s population going missing would not  have a seriously depressing effect on those left behind. But not one single person appears to be just really freaking glad to still have their family. Or their friends. Basically people are like, ‘Oh wait. You’re still here too. Great. Don’t really care about that, but let’s go do something together. I guess.’

Which reminds me–what exactly is the major trauma that the police chief’s family suffered for mom, dad, son and daughter to have been so completely fractured? Seems to me they were the lucky ones, but maybe the real issues just haven’t been brought up yet.

I guess what I’m saying is that for a show that purports to be putting a lens to loss and grief, it has paid precious little attention to the other side of the coin. Humanity coming together in the face unimaginable tragedy. Just throw your thoughts back to the events of 9/11 and how many people helped each other and showed kindness to each other in the aftermath. I find it hard to believe that three years later, everyone in town–EVERYONE–is still stuck in the first 4 stages of the 7 stages of grief.

That’s some determination. We. Are. Very. Focused. On. Our. Psychological. Study.

Anyways, my hope is that the writers take pity on us soon and show us something about these people that doesn’t make us either roll our eyes (Could you at least *pretend* to be sane for your day job?), or look away in disgust, (Oh look, the creepy guys who likes to hug away the pain and sleep with only Asian girls is kissing a dead man), or just plain make me want to slap the silly out of them (Really, teenage girl, does your father not have enough to deal with? Must we be every teen from ‘The Breakfast Club’ all at once?).

Me? I think there’s way too much good stuff on TV right now to stick with something that is at once so well done, so boring and so in love with being unlovable. If you guys decide it’s a good show, drop by and let me know and I’ll Netflix it at the end of the season.

Now, where did I put my new episode of The Musketeers?…

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