There are terrible people within The Leftovers, but there isn’t an overarching enemy. It’s not a cut-and-dry drama, soaked in shocking scenes and big acts of violence (though there are plenty); it’s about exploring grief through all the different ways everyone deals with the Sudden Departure. The teenagers in Mapleton have chosen hedonism and nihilism, going to drunken parties where they play an updated version of Spin the Bottle. They burn, choke, and fuck each other, but it’s more of a necessary routine than a sexy party game.
“I’m always fucking worried,” Kevin says at one point in the pilot, and I’m sure everyone else in the town would echo his statements. No one knows what happened — the book doesn’t ever attempt to explain the Sudden Departure, though it seems like Lindelof might (and I’m fucking worried about that) — or whether it will happen again, this time to them. There is quiet rage in everyone but nowhere to put it, so people take it out on kitchen appliances, framed photos, and steering wheels. Three years later, everyone’s trying to get on with their lives, but the pain and confusion is still too much. At the bar, Kevin raises his beer to a woman and says, “We’re still here.” It’s meant to be a toast, a celebration that they are still on earth and getting by, but it’s a shaky statement, as if Kevin is unsure if he even exists.
The Leftovers is a natural fit for Damon Lindelof, who wrestled with these existential questions, science vs. religion, and unexplainable supernatural events in Lost. His touch is all over the The Leftovers — particularly with the stylized and jarring flashbacks, the overall confusion, and the surrealism of certain scenes — and it definitely works. It’s a bit reminiscent of the earlier Lost seasons, the ones that we all watched in awe, though this forgoes the lighter moments for nonstop despair. Hurley wouldn’t fit in The Leftovers‘ world, but I wouldn’t want him to. This is an odd thing to say, but the bleakness is what I like most about The Leftovers. It is unrelenting but necessary. It’s the only way to tell this story. In the much-hated finale of Lost, Lindelof engulfed his characters in light, but The Leftovers proves that Lindelof is at his best when he surrounds everything in darkness.