*SPOILER WARNING FOR THE LEFTOVERS AND LOST*
For a television show to be fully satisfying for its viewers it is important to tie off all the loose ends that you can. Especially when it comes to mystery TV, it’s a genre where lazy writing shines out like a shrimp boat on fire in the middle of the ocean, or an island in the middle of nowhere that turns out to be purgatory. I am referring to Lost. A show with a simple start, a plane wrecks on an island and the passengers are stranded together. How do you get off the island was the big question followed by endless follow ups. What’s with the polar bear? The hell do those numbers mean? Why can some people give birth on the island and some can’t? After not getting the answers to these or/and a constant rigmarole away from real answers my interest in Lost trickled away quickly. It was a series that was bringing too many new mysteries in before solving the old ones. Part of my frustration was that the world in this reality was created by the writers, these ideas had to come from somewhere with some sort of reasoning. But maybe I’m thinking too highly of the show’s head writer Damon Lindelof…at least that’s what I thought before I started The Leftovers.
HBO’s three season long drama in which two percent of the population on earth simultaneously disappears. 1 in 50 people just vanish from thin air. Who were they? The ones who departed are random. As the government gives out reparation checks for those who lost their loved ones they require a questionnaire to be answered to try and find a common thread between them all. The first victim we are introduced to is a baby who departs from his car seat as his frantic mother begins to scream his name. A little boy behind her searches for his dad as the cart he had been pushing rolls down the parking lot. It becomes obvious a few episodes in that there was no reasoning in who stayed and who went.
With such a massive supernatural occurrence to have seemingly no point or reasoning the world searches for answers and peace elsewhere. Some keep their faith in religion while most of the world has decided to believe in something else. Violence, drugs, pointless risk taking… some people decide to join a cult and become living reminders of October the fourteenth, the day it happened. They take a vow of silence and wear all white while chain-smoking and have an agenda full of chaos. Others look to take their pain away by going to a man who claims to be able to hug the pain from anyone. It’s a power that can’t really be shown or proved, but the belief in it is enough for it to be real, at least for a time.
Some believe that the event will happen again in seven years, and flock to the small town of Jordyn, Texas where no one in the town disappeared. When four girls in the town go missing it is led to believe they simply vanished. The town and the government begin to assume they did indeed depart. Even one of the characters claims to have seen it happen and adds more reason for the audience. It shows the power of a story, how it can become truth so easily, even if temporarily. The reality is revealed and turns out the girls had planned their disappearance with the living reminders in white to make people uneasy. The whole goal of the chain-smoking troublemakers is to make a world hell bent on forgetting the past remember their trauma.
The second season ends with a rocket blasting the reminders away, the bridge to the city is opened, and the masses of squatters living just outside the walls are let in. The third season begins to answer the question of “Where did they go?” An organization of scientists based out of Australia offer a chance at finding out. They have built a machine that copies the event’s molecular structure and can repeat it and make people depart, though they have no way of coming back. Nora, a woman whose husband and two children vanished, decides to take the risk. The last thing we see is the final seconds of the process before we are brought to the future, years later, where we see her older and in a rural setting. It is meant to be questioned at first. As she is visited by her ex-partner we find out that she is in the same reality as before, proving she either did not depart or she made it back. She tells him the story of where she went and what she saw, how she got back and that she never went back to him or told anyone because no one would believe her. He confesses he does and the series ends there, the most perfect and simple ending to a television show I’ve ever seen so far in my 22 years. The importance isn’t in the story or the conclusion she gives but that she is believed. She could have lied out her teeth but as long as he believed her it would be enough. Or she could have gone crazy and hallucinated the whole thing but it all comes down to the story and its power over the audience. When we look into religion in a similar lens, it becomes just stories being believed from generation to generation. Whether these stories are true or not is completely irrelevant. We all make our own truth with the stories that we put faith in.
The Leftovers. HBO, 2014-2017