TV review: “The Leftovers” is intriguing

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From the June 26, 2014 edition

Dammit, Damon Lindelof! You’ve pulled me back in — using your trademark ambiguous, enthralling storytelling — as the co-creator of HBO’s new drama “The Leftovers.”

As the co-creator of “Lost,” Lindelof (with Carlton Cuse) churned out one of the most watchable television series ever. Then it ended with a season that was not only poorly executed, but also downright frustrating.

I wasn’t peeved that so many of the questions “Lost” asked were left unanswered/ignored — although, I’m well aware many viewers were. It was the final season, which [spoiler alert] introduced a new side-verse, a glowy hole and had a completely unsatisfying conclusion to it all.

Like “Lost,” “The Leftovers” (co-created with Tom Perrotta, author of the novel it’s based on) is immensely watchable. Other similarities to “Lost” include: flashbacks (even more vague quick-cut versions), weird religious/cult figures and strange happenings. And there are a lot of questions that may or may not be answered when all is said and done.

“The Leftovers” is about a rapture-like event where 2 percent of the population suddenly disappears. Children and adults, celebrities (Gary Busey?!) and regular Joes — the righteous and the evil all vanish inexplicably. Things pick up three years later in a world forever changed.

Centered on fictional town Mapleton, “The Leftovers” examines how screwed up everyone and everything is since “The Sudden Departure.” Police Chief Kevin Garvey (series lead Justin Theroux) has it pretty bad. His family is torn asunder by the departure, leaving him with only his dispirited daughter Jill (Margaret Qualley). He’s also struggling as an authority figure and is prone to excessive drinking and bouts of rage.

Others have it bad, too. Reverend Matt Jamison (Christopher Eccleston) is struggling to get the town to embrace faith, but that’s hardly his worst misfortune. Nora’s (Carrie Coon) whole family disappeared that fateful day. Laurie (Amy Brenneman) and Patti (Ann Dowd) are so disenfranchised they’ve joined the out-there Guilty Remnant cult.

“The Leftovers” is severely bleak, with little hope. Life has gone on since the departure, but its wounds will never heal. At times, this can be tough to watch, while still being completely addicting.

There’s something about “The Leftovers” that made me barrel through the four episodes sent for review. Mystery and character-based drama abounds. And, most importantly, these are characters the audience will quickly invest in — especially a top-notch Theroux and Eccleston, but nearly all are interesting.

Photo courtesy HBO