Different Ways The Leftovers Challenges Our Sense of Purpose

Different Ways The Leftovers Challenges Our Sense of Purpose

Like a vacuum that implodes an object, the Departure seems to have crushed the details of each character, hardening them into more simplified shapes in keeping with whatever in them responds to their truest purpose. Prior to Episode 9, we saw the aftermath of several years of Post-Rapture Tribulation – Kevin Jr. seems to be coming apart psychologically, Patti was driven to suicide as a rhetorical device, Jill has joined the G.R., while Laurie ascends its ranks. Each of the main characters have been explored, and we finally got to see an informative glimpse into where they came from, revealing that the Rapture wasn’t the story of who disappeared (as Matt stubbornly insists), but what purpose they served in the next stage for those who remained. The show illustrates – in a more speculatively humanist, less dogmatically Christian way – a society, conspicuously similar to our own, that was already ripe for an unraveling.

Read More
Multitasking Ourselves to Oblivion: The Parasitic Smartphones in The Leftovers

Multitasking Ourselves to Oblivion: The Parasitic Smartphones in The Leftovers

Objects – both symbolic and useful – play important roles in The Leftovers. For example, Kevin’s shirts illustrate the life he lives during his fugue states. The G.R.’s cigarettes suggest both the ridiculous circumstances of a commodity culture they resist and the willingness of the group to bodily self-destruct as a means of meditation. The National Geographic from Kevin Garvey, Sr. is a treasure trove of referential possibilities. Symbols and object relations are everywhere in the show and create a rich subtext operating concurrently with the rest of the story. They provide a kind of pastiche of references that, read together within the context of the show, provide a secondary narrative layer that might provide clues about what the show is trying to convey.

One such object that makes a conspicuous appearance throughout the season is the cell phone. It plays an important role in the lives of characters both before and after the Departure and suggests changing relationships between people, people and objects, and people and society. It shows up as a presence, lurking here and there as a distraction, a lifeline, or a doorway to an individual set of experiences that are simultaneously inclusionary (drawing individuals into relationships with vast, invisible communities) and exclusionary (in the way it supplants real relationships between people, families, and communities). It’s a timely subject, and one that the show treats in interesting ways.

Read More
Of Wolves and Charlatans: The Lurking Savagery of the Post-Departure World

Of Wolves and Charlatans: The Lurking Savagery of the Post-Departure World

The increasing futility and potential danger of clutching to pre-Departure symbols and institutions seems to be at the heart of The Leftovers, leaving each character in the position of establishing a new identity atop a barely concealed set of volatile, more primitive emotions. In Episode 1, Chief Garvey storms out of a pre-parade city council meeting with the warning that “Everyone’s ready to f**kin’ explode.” In Episode 2, the police department-mandated psychiatrist Kevin is ordered to see explains the presence of a blow-up penguin sitting in his office. The psychiatrist offers that, in his dealings with children, they often need an outlet toward which to redirect their aggression, so they attack the penguin. The penguin exists solely as the recipient of abuse, and the necessity of its presence suggests a lingering psychological problem in the patient – a benchmark for how much aggression still remains. The title, “Penguin one, Us Zero” suggests that the community is beginning to redirect its aggression toward the mysterious and ephemeral nature of the rapture at objects of convenience who do not fight back and who exist to be hurt. The community’s lack of acceptance for the mysteries of their universe and the rise of their latent aggression is evident in the character of Matt.

Read More
A Meditation on the Guilty Remnant as a Metaphor of the Dispossessed

A Meditation on the Guilty Remnant as a Metaphor of the Dispossessed

The Guilty Remnant embodies the nihilistic spirit in myriad ways – from replacing the air they breathe with the smoke of one of modernity’s most insidiously manipulated products to wearing a uniform of all white. The G.R. are the most puzzling religious upstarts in a world mired in disillusionment, the breakdown of the symbolic order, and the lurking horrors of a society trying to maintain homeostasis in the wake of the Rapture and the rise of tyranny. The federal government, represented here by the AFTEC, has begun to make the turn toward the murderous. Rev. Matt, in my opinion an anti-Job who resists the will of God instead of absorbing it, grows increasingly menacing and potentially despotic. Chief Garvey, the everyman and arch-hero for a jaded, confused, cynical and existential age, desperately clings to a normative home in which to raise his daughter and one he might be able to offer to his wayward son (clearly pulled into the orbit of a megalomaniacal cult-leader). 

Read More