Television: The Leftovers, "Pilot"

A slow start. It seems to be the fad these days to throw a lot of pieces of information into the air and let them scatter: here's a character and a flashback, here's another person, oh and look! they're related! Things of that sort. I suppose it's meant to keep people actively engaged in the story, but I find it annoying. And tiring. And boring now because everybody does it.

I dig having multiple story lines, but there's always going to be a few that are stronger and more interesting than the others. Which means when the show starts to focus on a less interesting plot, viewers sort of deflate and groan, "This again."

Anyway, for those who were trying to figure out from the cryptic previews what the show is actually about—is it the Rapture? what is it?—it's pretty much exactly what the ads said: A bunch of people all over the world disappeared on October 14. No one knows why or where they went or anything. Fast forward three years and the world is still hung up on this mass disappearance. Which makes sense, I guess . . . Or maybe it's just that the episode focused on the third anniversary of the event. Maybe on a normal day no one really talks or thinks much about it any more. It was difficult to tell from the episode.

At the very least, the characters we're dealing with are hung up on it. Justin Theroux plays Kevin Garvey, police chief of the very generically named Mapleton. His life has unraveled since the sudden disappearance, not because he lost anyone (his immediate family seems to be accounted for) but because it broke his family apart in other ways. His wife joined the Guilty Remnant, a cult-like group that smokes but won't speak. His son has hared off to help some kind of modern messiah named Wayne. And his daughter Jill is acting out in bizarre ways. Kevin himself seems to be prone to drinking and hallucinations.

I realize The Leftovers is a drama, but I found the pacing of the pilot somewhat slow. I spent a lot of time thinking, Yes, we get it, move along. There was a desire in the writing and/or direction to linger a little too long on people and things. That was when I got bored and played Bookworm on my iPhone.

But there are interesting elements. Something seems to be building, and I'm curious to see what might happen. What's Wayne's deal, for example? Why does Tom need to guard Christine, and why would Wayne put Tom in that situation knowing full well that Tom is in lust with Christine to begin with? I also want more of Chris Eccleston's character. His job this episode was a tidy bit of exposition declaring it wasn't the biblical Rapture because the people taken weren't especially good—one was a child abuser, for instance. Answers that question, I suppose, and with so many people in the world gone, can anyone hope to find a common denominator?

Here's hoping, then, that The Leftovers picks up the pace a bit and delivers on all the curiosities it has presented. I'll give it another couple episodes (assuming it doesn't bore me too much) and see if it makes any real progress.

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