Christopher Eccleston as Reverend Matt Jamison and Carrie Coon as Nora Durst in <em>The Leftovers</em>
Photograph: Paul SchiraldiChristopher Eccleston as Reverend Matt Jamison and Carrie Coon as Nora Durst in The Leftovers

The Leftovers: TV review

HBO's bleak new drama series is rudderless journey through a sea of melancholy


Premieres Sunday, June 29 at 9pm on HBO.

After a recent brutal death in HBO's wildly successful and frequently bloody Game of Thrones, some began questioning whether the show was a little too bleak. In choosing The Leftovers to follow the fourth season of Game of Thrones in the Sunday night lineup, HBO has clearly proven that bleak is not something that they're afraid to lean into. In presenting a world consumed by personal grief and loss of faith, The Leftovers presents a uniquely dismal perspective.

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Three years after an unexplained event wherein 2% of the world's population disappears, the remaining members of the suburban New York town of Mapleton struggle to move on with their lives. Some are rocked by the loss of family members, while others are consumed by questions of what happened and why. This isn't the Biblical style rapture that was foretold. The people that were taken seem to have been chosen at random, including infants, philanderers and criminals.

With the usual sources of faith unable to provide answers or comfort, an opportunity is presented for new ideologies to take hold. This includes a mysterious guru (Paterson Joseph) and a cult dubbed the Guilty Remnant. The cult is the source of some The Leftovers most striking emotional imagery. An eerie group intent on keeping others from putting the mass disappearance from their minds, members dress in all white, chain smoke, do not speak and stalk members of the community that seem emotionally vulnerable.

Beautifully shot, featuring a haunting score and fierce performances, on the surface The Leftovers seems like another slam dunk prestige series for HBO. And yet, for all its beauty and ambition, there's something remarkably hollow about this tour of human misery. With so many characters wandering around, searching for something to connect them to the world they now find themselves in, it's hard to latch on to any one of them, leaving viewers awash in a sea of melancholy with nothing to anchor them.

Still, despite its profound sense of hopelessness, there are occasional moments of profound beauty in The Leftovers's depiction of mass grief, ones that are far more relatable than those found in similarly somber series like Thrones or The Walking Dead. Still, without a spoonful of dragons or zombies to help this medicine go down, it's hard to imagine an audience game for a weekly hour of crushing sadness.

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