I am all in for the niche ruminating about The Leftovers after the premiere of its 3rd and final season last Sunday because there is so much fun to be had. The series is a triumph of imagination, combined with the highest arts of TV writing, directing, and acting. It is pure enjoyment to be pulled into its narrative spell and try and makes sense of what’s going.
Warning: The below presumes the reader has watched the 2 seasons and the season 3 premiere, both for comprehension of points, and what might be spoilers.
1. Let’s start with the title: The Leftovers. Terrible title. Who doesn’t think of doogie bags from restaurants or Tupperware sitting in the refrigerator.
As for the Guilty Remnants sect, I see scraps of fabric, maybe because my mother is a talented seamstress, and she was always buying something from the remnant table, the fabric that was too small to sell in yardage.
So from a verbal/visual side, it was off to a strange start.
2. I began weekly watching in season 2, I don’t remember what drew me in to start.
So I binge-watched the first season to catch up, which was good because it helped me to connect some of the craziness very easily.
Season 1 tracked the original underlying novel. A pivotal episode— “The Garveys at Their Best”—comes 9 episodes into the 10 episode season.
As Sonia Saraiya said in the AV Club:
“Tonight’s episode offers a lot of helpful information. So what was the point of making us wait to see the backstories of these characters, nine weeks after the pilot, instead of making this, or some version of this, into the pilot?”
Messing with the narrative timeline certainly energized the storytelling.
It also meant that we learned about post Departure life first. So when in episode 9, we were shown extended flashbacks to our characters before the Departure, something jumped out at me:
3. Much of post Departure world is a projection of Kevin's pre-Departure psyche.
Pre Departure: Kevin didn't want to stop smoking, Laurie wanted him to, and so he hid the fact that he smoked.
Post Departure: Smoking is a part of the very faith of the Guilty Remnant and they smoke ALL THE TIME.
Pre Departure: Kevin didn't want a dog, Laurie did.
Post departure: Kevin gets to shoot multiple feral dogs. Like the smoking, a wildly heightened expression of feeling in his Pre Departure life.
Pre Departure: Kevin feels threatened by how competent and loved his father is.
Post Departure: Dad is certifiably crazy & put away.
There has to be some reason Post Departure tracts back to Kevin's psyche. Among the mountain of things not explained, this connection is never explained. In season 2, there are no more specific parallels, though season 2 is not from the novel, but is the extension of the story written by the novelist Tom Perrotta and Damon Lindelof.
4. For now I will consider Kevin and his multiple resurrections.
For Justin Theroux now has a world-class beard.
For Christological symbols abound, my favorite being the deer that appeared throughout season 1:
Sonia spoke of it in terms of Kevin:
“And then there’s the whole thing with the deer, which takes on a resonance and significance that implies a whole bunch about Kevin. The show has visited and revisited deer in unexpected spaces: The Garvey kitchen in 2014 is torn up because a deer got stuck inside; the wild dogs kill a deer in the pilot, leading Kevin to take up thinning their ranks.
Stags are beautiful and dignified animals, and there’s a lot of subtext written into these huge beasts being trapped in houses, terrified. There’s even more subtext when Kevin introduces the idea that it’s just one scared deer that keeps getting confused.”
The stag is a medieval symbol of Christ. So a little interesting foreshadowing in season 1 that is leading to the Book of Kevin.
And now, season 3 episode one, The Book of Kevin. He may not want to be the new, New Testament, but his rational mind will need an answer for himself about his ability to cheat death, even if he rejects Rev. Matt's interpretation.
I try not to read things in advance, but apparently everyone knew that The Leftovers will end in Australia, and the prologue of The Book of Kevin was a look at the Millerites cult in 1844, in Australia.
Then the reveal at the end, with Nora, an aged woman. In Australia, with a dove/carrier pigeon coop just like the 1844 gang had.
Of course I don't know what this means. But if Lindelof and Perrotta write themselves into an end of times in Australia, I hope they do some serious homage to Peter Weir’s The Last Wave, and to a lesser extent Nevil Shute’s novel On the Beach, two pieces of art that got there first.
The novel On the Beach is much superior to the film. It is a terrific read, and the final page chilling.
The Last Wave (photo above) is one of those films that will stay with you your whole life.
Looking forward to episode 2—