What happens when the only thing you have left is the memory of what you’ve lost?
It’s the central question in HBO’s latest series, “The Leftovers”, created by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta. The show, based on Perrotta’s novel of the same name, takes place three years after a global “Rapture” known as the Sudden Departure which caused the unexplainable disappearance of 2% of the world population.
The story centers around Mapleton, New York – a town trying to find hope in a world rocked by the worst tragedy in human history. But the show’s premise doesn’t go the route other shows may have taken – capturing an alien force or unveiling a government conspiracy.
Instead it asks, given the demonstration of a staggering power and no scientific or religious explanation, what do you believe?
The random mass disappearance destroys the core assumptions of science and religion, leaving the world with nothing but their belief system of nihilism – the belief in nothing. This is exemplified by the cult group the Guilty Remnant, the members of which wear simple, white smocks and chain-smoke cigarettes on the principle that our world won’t survive long enough to die from the cancer.
The real subject of the show is ultimately humanity and the personal loss we can all identify with, but looks at it on the most colossal scale imaginable with no explanation or enemy/entity to point fingers at. Without answers and in the midst of being left with nothing but memories of a time that once was, how can a society cope with their losses?
The answer is, they can’t.
The first season was outrightly spiritual. Faith acted separately from religion, and hope was a lifestyle, not a feeling. But it was about people in an unusual spiritual predicament, summed up by this passage:
They have proof of something greater than themselves–but something so terrifying and life-altering instills an indescribable fear in all of us that cannot be fixed through some hymn or bible verse.
“The Leftovers” is one of those shows where developing theories is a waste of time…at least, for season one. But the town of Mapleton is just one town out of many trying to survive the aftermath of The Departure. And I’m guessing that those forces will drive the show forward in its sophomore season.
Before may be lost, but there’s always an after.
So think about it: What do you believe?