The Leftovers: Hellhounds, Cigarettes and Lost Souls

*This review is for the pilot episode of the Leftovers. I have yet to see the second installment, but expect that review soon.

This Isn’t Typical.

The Leftovers opens with a mother’s worst nightmare. She blinks and her child goes missing. You know you are supposed to feel something for the mother while she’s screaming “where is my baby?” but you don’t, because this scene is beyond played out in television and movies.

A missing child is so commonplace in modern media that it’s difficult for the scenario to have an emotional impact.

What does have an emotional impact is the following scene where an unidentified man shoots a seemingly friendly dog in the head.

Even before I had a dog, I couldn’t handle pets being hurt for entertainment purposes – but of course, this scene isn’t meant to be entertainment. It’s to show you how very wrong this story is.

It’s not typical. The consequences are more than the emotional weight of knowing two percent of the world’s population has mysteriously vanished. What’s going on is even more damaging than coping with the fact that the supposed Rapture has come and God hasn’t called you home.

The Leftover Consequences.

The event isn’t over. Something is wrong with many of the leftovers – most notably, the dogs.

Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) spends most of the pilot episode chasing the man who shot the dog in the opening of the story. He finds the dog’s owner and gives her the sad news that her pet is dead. She doesn’t care though. Her dog ran away three years ago when he saw her husband disappear.

Eventually, it’s revealed that a group of dogs has turned feral after witnessing the Rapture. They’ve run away to the woods and there are rumors of them tearing apart other animals and possibly even people. The account reads as an urban legend, a tale to further add to the mystique of the disappearance.

But it’s not a legend.

In the final scene Garvey witnesses a pack of dogs rip apart a giant buck. They don’t take out his jugular first, they keep him alive, going for his limbs first. You hear the stag’s wails for quite a while. They are intelligently vicious.

Garvey is joined by the man he’s been chasing. He tells Kevin “these are not our dogs” and they both begin shooting the animals.

We’re not given an explanation for the canines’ feral behavior. All we know is that they saw people vanish and then a switch flipped in their brain.

So far, this show only makes passing references to religion, but with my background, I wonder how much that comes into play here. Have they become hounds of hell? Will they serve a mystical purpose in this story?

Or is the answer something less mystical. One would assume that the vanishing of millions would have taken a tremendous amount of energy. Were they so close to the vanished at the moment of their departure that a shift in their electromagnetic field scrambled their brains?

the leftovers

Amy Brenneman as Laurie Garvey

The dogs are not the only ones drastically altered by this situation. A group calling themselves ‘the Guilty Remnant” serves as refuge for people after the Rapture.

We don’t know their purpose or the individual members reasons for joining.

What we do know is that they all wear white. They never speak and instead pass notes to one another.  They are all chainsmokers – the purpose of which not yet revealed.

It’s not stated in the story, but it’s likely that the Guilty Remnant is comprised of people who directly witnessed someone being taken. Most people did not “see” the actual event. They blinked or weren’t looking at the person who was taken. Those that did see it, saw something and they are forever altered, just like the dogs.

What did they see? Again, my brain wonders if they saw angels or maybe demons. Perhaps they don’t know what they saw because they cannot process something so terrible. Whatever it is, it has irrevocably changed them.

One of the changed is Kevin Garvey’s wife, Laurie. We spend most of the episode believing she vanished but near the end we learn that she is one of the Guilty Remnant.

Of course, we don’t know why she’s joined them and her family doesn’t either. Garvey pleads with her to come home and she is moved to tears. She wants to be with him, but something in her won’t let her go.

liv tyler the leftovers

Meg (Liv Tyler) arrives at the Guilty Remnant compound.

Members of the group are a bit like ghosts, haunting certain people, like Liv Tyler’s character Meg. They silently stand outside of her home, smoking and waiting. They follow her to restaurants, staring at her through the windows.

Meg herself is a haunted women. She is always near tears and her body seems to subtly shake at all times. It doesn’t appear that she is physically unwell, it all seems to be emotional. Her emotional well-being leads her to the Guilty Remnant’s compound where she asks to join the group.

What we, the viewers, saw as stalking was, perhaps, helping. They knew this woman was like them. They knew she needed them.

To me, the Guilty Remnant is the greatest mystery of the show. What did they see? What do they know?

Even the Children are Haunted.

The Garvey family is the center of the story. Through the course of the pilot episode we are introduced to Jill, the teenage daughter, and twenty-something Tom.

Jill is a bit of a typical teenager at first – rebellious, snarky, awkward around her crush, etc… In reality, Jill doesn’t know who she is or what she wants. She follows the crowd, doing whatever her friends expect of her, all in an attempt to hide the fact that she’s barely surviving.

It would be damaging enough had her mother been taken, but level of betrayal she must feel knowing that her mother abandoned her to join the Guilty Remnant is unimaginable.

Her brother, Tom, coped with his fractured family by taking up with a supposed prophet named Holy Wayne. People flock to Holy Wayne, whose son was taken in the Rapture, to be “unburdened,” yet it’s obvious Tom fears him.

Wayne’s prophecies are standard prophetic fair: vague and disturbing. The only marching orders he gives Tom are “time to go to work,” leaving us to wonder if that work will have positive or negative consequences for the world at large.

I have no idea where this show is going, but the pilot episode has set up so many mysteries that it has my attention.

The Leftovers airs Sundays at 10pm on HBO. 

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