in Television

The Leftovers 1×01 “Pilot” Recap: A Plodding, Unfulfilling Affair

The pilot episode of HBO’s new series The Leftovers was a slow and plodding affair that kind of made me wish I was one of the ones who had disappeared.

The series centers around the people left behind after 2% of the world’s population suddenly disappears on an undetermined year on October 14th.

It opens with an overwhelmed new mother dealing with the issues of life and a very cranky, crying baby. She places the baby in her car seat when the baby continues to cry and then suddenly the crying stops. She looks back to see the baby is gone and the camera pans out to show others are missing loved ones as well.

Flash-forward three years and the “leftovers” are still struggling with the puzzling mystery – each doing their best to find answers. Some try to continue as if nothing had happened, others live as if there is no tomorrow and two factions have formed – which can best be described as cults.

The two cult factions are polar opposites. Though their true ideals and motives have not been fully fleshed out, it is assured that they will be.

One group, the Guilty Remnant, is a white robe-wearing, chain-smoking pack which seems to have adopted a vow of silence. The second is a gun-toting group who hole up in a compound with a messiah-type leader who also appears to like to be surrounded by young women and doesn’t like anyone else even looking at them.

A series like this also has to have one family to rally around and this one is no different. For The Leftovers it’s the Chief of Police and his family, or what is left of it. He is trying the single father route after his wife left and joined the Guilty Remnant. The Chief is looking after his teenage daughter and worrying over his son – whom the audience learns has joined the gun-toting cult.

A layered lattice of ground-work was laid out for the series in the pilot but it was so convoluted I felt like I was wading through a thick fog. There wasn’t a hook in the first episode and really no one to root for. I am hoping that will change, but I am not feeling confident.

The Leftovers was an odd choice for HBO to add to its schedule. The series looks more at home on the FOX network. HBO is known for its edginess, grittiness, and let’s face it, nudity, but The Leftovers had none of that. I truly felt like I was watching the same leftovers I ate for dinner the night before – there was a moment of remembering how good it was or could be, but it ultimately left me unfulfilled.