1. First of all, is The Leftovers good?
2. Critics are being awfully effusive. I liked the pilot, but didn’t understand why it got so much praise. Do critics know something I don’t?
Well, actually, yes. Critics were sent the first five episodes of the series, which is kind of unusual, and HBO wouldn’t have done it had they not had great confidence in the future of the series. For instance, AMC sent only one episode of Halt & Catch Fire, and it turned out, that was the only decent episode of the series.
3. Have you seen the next several episodes?
Well, no. I don’t like to watch ahead, because it makes it more difficult to discuss the series on a weekly basis. Plus, for a show that has theory possibilities, that feels like cheating. Plus, I forget things. But, from what I’ve heard from other critics, the third episode will rattle your soul and change the way you see the world. I’m looking forward to having my worldview rocked.
4. It’s awfully depressing though, isn’t it?
Well, sure. It’s not a happy show. It’s a show where 2 percent of the population disappears. It’s a show about the end of life. About grieving. And moving on. But I suspect that it will pose questions that will ultimately make us appreciate life even more. Have you ever seen In America? That was a depressing movie, too, but in the end, it provided maybe the most epiphanic, rewarding, tear-jerking and satisfying scene I’ve ever seen in a movie. I have a feeling that The Leftovers will be littered with those kinds of moments.
5. But it’s the summer. I’m not really in the mood for a heavy show about death.
To each their own, I suppose. I mean, I get it. But I think that The Leftovers raises a lot of questions that we don’t really ask of ourselves as often as we should. For instance, my son occasionally has a crippling preoccupation with death. On his third birthday, for instance, he asked, “How many more days do I have left to live?” That’s a hard question to answer, and it’s a harder question to hear asked by a three year old.
This week, ahead of his 7th birthday, he’s become very existential, inconsolably terrified by the prospect of dying. Though I am not a religious person, at this point, I wish that my son were simply because it would give him some comfort. Unfortunately, when we tried to introduce those concepts to him (“Some people believe there is a heaven we go to after we die”), he rejected them. “But what if they’re wrong? They don’t know. NOBODY KNOWS.”
How do you argue with that?
More concerning was his fear that there was someplace we go to after we die that’s worse. “I don’t want to go somewhere worse. I want to stay on Earth. I want to survive. HELP ME TO SURVIVE, MOMMA.”
How we do we explain fundamental questions about life and death to a six year old when we don’t even understand them ourselves? The Leftovers seems to take religion off the table. It provides a mystery that can’t be answered, leaving us to sort through our own feelings without the safety net of religion.
Hell, how do we manage to live our lives every day without constantly thinking about the fact that it will end someday (probably). Our bodies must have one hell of an emotional coping mechanism to keep most of us from becoming absolutely preoccupied with the fact that nothing we do matters because it’s all fleeting, that will all end one day. One day we will all just … disappear. We may not go 2 percent of a time, but sure enough, we’re gonna disappear from the planet one day. That sucks. How do we deal?
6. Wow. Are you OK?
Yeah. Sorry about that. It’s been a rough week.
7. How were the ratings for The Leftovers, anyway?
Not great. 1.8 million tuned in to the premiere, which I guess is middling. Although, only 2.2 million to 2.3 million or so tuned into the premieres of Game of Thrones and True Detective. The thing about HBO shows is, if they’re good, audiences will eventually show up. The Leftovers is good. I think the audience will come out for it, if not during its first run, then during the fall, or on Amazon Prime, on DVD, etc.. If Girls can survive with only 800,000 viewers or so, then so can The Leftovers.
8. Will there even be a second season?
Good question. Damon Lindelof didn’t write it with a second season in mind. The first season is meant to stand on its own, though obviously, if it does well, a second season is likely.
9. Let’s turn to the substance of the show. Why does The Guilty Remnant smoke?
They smoke to proclaim their faith.
10. But smoking’s bad for your health.
God’s judgment is upon them. They don’t expect to be around for very long.
11. Why not?
Because they spook people. They remind them of their losses. They don’t allow people to move on with their lives. They’re not exactly endearing. They get beat up a lot. It’s not unreasonable to believe that they may be killed by angry people trying to get on with the business of living. Or maybe they think they’re going to be raptured next. I don’t really know. But isn’t it a curious question?
12. Will we find out why 2 percent of the population disappeared?
Probably not. This is not Lost. It does not seek to poorly answer unanswerable questions. Think of it is a very well written, very well acted existential intellectual exercise (oh, be quiet, Jezzer. There’s nothing wrong with a little intellectual masturbation).
13. What’s up with the dogs, and that deer, anyway?
That’s another good question. I’m guessing they are some sort of metaphor. That the deer represents the Guilty Remnant. That the feral dogs represent society and their rabid need to move on. It’s in our DNA! The Guilty Remnant wants to remind people of death. The Guilty Remnant destroyed Kevin’s family, much like the deer destroyed Kevin’s house. Society wants to destroy The Guilty Remnant. Should we kill the dogs that seek to obliterate thoughts of our mortality? Or should we let them destroy, so that we can move on? So on and so forth.
Or maybe they’re just a Lindelofian smoke monster.
14. That spin the iPhone app that had, among its choices, FUCK, HUG, or CHOKE. Can we get that in the ITunes store?
God, I hope not.
15. What was up with this?
I dunno. Weird, right? I’d probably drop out of college if I saw that, too.
16. Is Stephen Root in this?
No, Joanna. That wasn’t Stephen Root as the Senator in the Congressional hearings, though I understand the confusion.
17. Who else is going to be in it?
Janel Maloney! Donna from The West Wing. Also, Christopher Eccleston will have a much larger role.
18. Did you know that Margaret Qualley — who plays the daughter Jill on the show — is the daughter of Andie MacDowell?
I didn’t! Not until Joanna told me on our podcast last night. Wow!
19. Who is the hottest person on the show?
Oh, Justin Theroux is a very attractive man, although I’ve always had a little bit of a thing for Amy Brenneman. Liv Tyler is in this, too. She’s very pretty (and won’t speak, which is well suited to her acting talents).
20. OK, but honestly, why should we trust Damon Lindelof again?
I think I explained that fairly well here. Just trust, OK?