The Leftovers Season Two

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The first season of The Leftovers was divisive. Some thought the show took itself too seriously. (The opening credits didn’t help.) But those who stuck around through episodes three and especially episode six were rewarded with a series as good as any other last year. Now it’s back for a second season and if the critics are to be believed, it’s even better. Watch it. Read the recaps. Spread the word.

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Indistinguishable From the Miraculous: The Leftovers Season Two

I’m not religious, or at least I don’t admit to being religious. I believe in The Big Bang, in evolution, in everything happening for a reason except that the reason is probably trivial. I believe that the Earth orbits the sun and our solar system is part of the Milky Way which is part of something bigger and so on and so on. I believe there is life on other planets and I’m pretty certain that this will not be proven in my lifetime. There is plenty of wonder in the world, and most of it can be explained by science or a belief in chaos or a conviction that the answer has yet to show itself but is either science or chaos. I can believe this because I have never had to live in a world like the one in The Leftovers.

The Leftovers was created by Damon Lindelof (previously of Lost) and Tom Perrotta (based on his novel of the same name). The series and the novel both start two years after two percent of the world’s population disappeared without a trace or explanation (the “Departure”). The reactions are as you’d expect; some try to use science to find an answer, some try to move on as if it never happened, and some start to believe that it is not possible to understand the world only through reason. Just as our ancestors came up with explanations for the moon and seasons and the meaning of life, some in the world of The Leftovers take the opportunity to polish up the old religions or to start up some new ones. The post-Departure world is as fertile for belief systems as the Holy Land of five or two or one and a half millennia ago.

The most interesting choice in The Leftovers (and I believe also in The Leftovers) is that no attempt is made by the series to explain the Departure. This allows us to watch the series and imagine ourselves in it. What would it mean to me? Who would I be in that world? Nora Durst, who lost her husband and two children, needs to believe that the Departure was a one-time event and will not happen again. Kevin Garvey, Nora’s boyfriend, wants to keep his new family together and move on even as he is haunted by someone who killed herself in front of him. Nora’s brother Matt Jamison is a pastor who thinks he can shoehorn the Departure into his faith. John Murphy, new in season two, does not allow that anything supernatural exists in his world, all evidence to the contrary.

The only thing that all the characters share in The Leftovers is grief. They grieve for the ones who Departed. They grieve for parts of their lives that were destroyed by the Departure. They grieve for the world that no longer exists. What do you hold on to when the world has proven to be so unreliable?

We will never know who is right, just as our ancestors never knew if they were right. One of Arthur C Clarke’s “three laws” is that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. The Leftovers shows that any sufficiently unexplainable occurrence is indistinguishable from the miraculous. What would you do in response to the miraculous?

The Leftovers Two Boats and a Helicopter

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Credit: HBO

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

A devout man whose house is going to be washed away in a flood waits for God to save him. The man turns away two boats and a helicopter, telling the would-be rescuers that he has faith. The man dies and when he asks God why he didn’t save him, God replies that he sent two boats and a helicopter.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

A man is bothered by the chaos in the world and constructs a belief system to bring order to the chaos. This man interprets everything that happens through this belief system and convinces himself there is order in the universe despite evidence to the contrary.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

A man is convinced that he sees things the way they are, and he can’t understand why others don’t see things the same way. He is frustrated that he acts on his knowledge while others do nothing.

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The Leftovers

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Credit: HBO

The two networks for which I most look forward to new series are HBO and FX. If I were to make a top ten list of my favorite current TV series, HBO and  FX would take up all but a couple of spots. This means that I will watch The Leftovers when it debuts on June 29 unless the reviews are mostly disappointing (you know, like for FX’s Tyrant).

Lucky for me, and for all of us, the reviews are not disappointing. It appears that HBO has another show we will all be talking about.

Season Reviews

Matt Zoller SeitzAlan SepinwallAndy Greenwald, Todd VanDerWerffWilla Paskin and Mo Ryan.

Also, Alan Sepinwall interviewed Tom Perrotta, on whose novel the series is based, and show runner Damon Lindelof.

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