There’s a lot of TV out there, and some it is depressing. On purpose.
That would be the HBO series The Leftovers.
What’s the premise?
One day, out of the blue, about 10% of the human population just vanishes without a trace. The people who disappear are a fairly random bunch. Neither science nor religion can explain what happened to the vanished people. The series focuses on those left behind, often left miserable and confused, wondering why the people who vanished did so and what happened to them.
What’s the appeal?
Now that’s a tricky one. The series was created by Damon Lindelof of Lost. Like Lost, there are a lot of mysteries in play, but this show is being more up-front about how likely the mysteries will be solved (not at all in the case of the rapture event thingee). The focus on the series is instead on the human drama in a small town and the people who are still hanging around.
Really, the whole thing plays out as being very sad. Most of the major characters are different types of miserable. Some join a cult in white called The Guilty Remnant whose whole purpose seems to be to say nothing, smoke nonstop, and piss off everybody else. Another, smaller cult exists around a man named Wayne who has mystical hugs. Also, dogs who witnessed their masters’ disappearances have gone feral. The show’s kind of a mess.
Anything stand out?
While the main focus is on a family a four, all in varying degrees of estrangement, there are two standout characters, a brother and a sister.
The brother is played by former Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston. He’s the town minister who actually tries to offer comfort to everyone, who didn’t quite let the fact he’s still here after a rapture ruin the fact he’s a man trying to help others, and he’s one of the few people who’s nice to the Guilty Remnant. And the way they repay him is downright awful. He’s also caring for his wife, a woman who suffered brain damage and seems to be in a permanent coma after a car whose driver vanished collided with theirs.
Meanwhile, Carrie Coon (seen on the big screen in Gone Girl as Ben Affleck’s sister) gives a moving performance as Eccleston’s sister, a woman coming out of grief as the only member of her family not to disappear.
The two of them each got an episode that may be the two finest episodes of the first season.
I can’t say the acting is bad, but this is one sad show. Just about everyone is miserable. Eccleston and Coon stand out, in part, because they come to terms with their respective loses and move on just a little. The final shot of the first season is an ecstatic Coon holding up a baby left on a doorstep.
That said, there is something wrong with a show when the ostensibly main characters, the family of four at the center of most plot lines, are not as interesting as various supporting characters. I chalk part of that up to the story itself. It doesn’t seem to really be going anywhere. The first season did wrap up well for the most part, but I can’t say why I should care what happens to anyone in this world.
Everything about this show seems to drag people down. No one has any answers, everyone’s confused, and everyone’s miserable. There’s something to be said for a show that isn’t afraid to tackle a subject like this, but it isn’t exactly light entertainment.