I’m hooked on The Leftovers, and boy, did I not see this coming! When I first saw the trailer, I thought it was interesting, yet TOO depressing. Then I ran out of shows to watch and decided to give it a shot. I’m glad I did.
OK, so it has scenes once in a while that I’m not in love with or characters whose behaviors I find unrealistic. But I stick around because the acting, soundtrack, how everything is tied together, and most scenes are just plain incredible.
And man, can Justin Theroux act! (This is my first Justin T. experience. I was pretty familiar with Amy Brenneman, Liv Tyler and Christopher Eccleston from before). Also, love Carrie Coon’s storyline and acting.
But this isn’t a review for a show that I’ve grown addicted to. It’s about the mystery behind the premise and mystery-writing in general.
So let’s talk about the premise of The Leftovers for a bit:
%2 of the world’s population disappears one day. No one knows what happened or why. The Leftovers deals with the reactions of the inhabitants of one New York town, and mainly police chief Kevin (Justin Theroux) and his family.
Kevin has at best a strained relationship with his teenage daughter Jill who goes to weird parties with her best friend Aimee. He also has a sleeping problem, drinking problem, a former police chief dad in the psychiatric hospital, an estranged young adult adopted son and a wife in a strange cult-like group protesting the attempt to move on from the disappearance.
The church has emptied, a strange man is going around shooting dogs, his cop friends and mayor are questioning Kevin’s sanity. Kevin deeply misses his wife whose “cult” doesn’t have room for even speaking.
The Leftovers is definitely more about the aftermath of the event than the event itself. Still, I’d like to know.
Not everyone feels the same.
When I visit the message boards, some people speculate about the reason behind the reasons. The usuals come to mind: God, aliens, alternative timeline, time travel… Some argue it doesn’t matter because the show is about the aftermath.
I disagree. I think it matters. At least to me.
Have you ever written something, mystery or something else, without knowing the reason behind it? While we might not necessarily know what our characters have for breakfast or whether or not they have a middle name, we know why they do what they do. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be able to craft the entrie story.
But just because we know, it doesn’t mean we all share it with the audience. Personally, I’m all for sharing. Because as a viewer, I love knowing.
Sometimes it’s not necessary. When you are watching an episode of Castle, you don’t care that much about the killer’s reasons or psychology. You are just more into the banter between the characters. It’s a lot of fun. Hell, during the first seasons I didn’t need a comedy show to make me laugh or smile that much.
Yet I find the Canadian cop show Motive inherently more interesting than not just Castle, but pretty much any other cop drama/mystery show I’ve watched. It might deliver that much humor, but it’s fine. It shows you who did it from the first scene. The cops don’t know the murderer. You do. But you’re as clueless as the cops as to the motive, and you figure it out together. You get to know the killer. And more often than not, you understand. You might not approve or forgive, but you understand. Mysteries are unturned. Reasons are shown. I’m one happy viewer. I wish I’d created Motive every time I watch an episode.
The Leftovers isn’t a crime drama. It’s a mystery drama with the potential for fantasy elements. But we can’t exactly let of the disappearance because every single episode shows us the effects. I frankly want to know.
Now, the storytelling and acting are so fine that I’ll hang around even though it’s never explained. I’d just be more content if it was.
What about you? How do you feel about mysteries left unturned? Please share your feelings as a viewer and/or a writer in the comments.