Take the opening scene — in both versions — where the Guilty Remnant cult interrupts the Heroes Day parade. They show up with signs and stand quietly on the perimeter. At the end of the scene, and after the police are urged to leave them alone, Perrotta writes that “the people in white lowered their letters, turned around, and drifted back into the woods.” In the pilot episode, however, a riot ensues as citizens and officers find themselves in a violent, bloody battle. Garvey himself is involved, in a way that transforms him from the nice and calm mayor of the book to the show’s perpetually on-edge chief of police.
What’s most interesting are changes in Garvey’s very basic nature: Instead of the sad but aimless character in the book, Garvey is now more tense and angry. He yells, he argues, he throws punches, and he (unfortunately) murders dogs — where’s the “Hopeful Party” now? This isn’t the Garvey that readers are familiar with, but this is one of those rare instances where a faithful adaptation wouldn’t be as good or thought-provoking as a transformation.
It’s becoming almost cliché to place the “antihero” label on a TV character, but at this point, this type of protagonist has basically replaced the hero in prestige television. Almost overnight, TV seemed to abandon the simplistic good vs. bad narrative to instead provide viewers with characters who have more complex motives and inspire thrilling discussion. I’m sure it won’t be long until we hit peak antihero, with these once-fresh characters feeling used and recycled, but as of now? There’s no other way The Leftovers adaptation would work.