The Leftovers on HBO: Hopelessness bliss

Quick Note to Leftovers fans: Justin Theroux’s Kevin, the fucked up centerpiece of HBO’s unpredictable marriage of Lost and The Twilight Zone, isn’t dead. Calm down. Regroup. Make more coffee. He wasn’t killed off on Sunday’s episode.

Yes, he did drink the poison glass in order to escape the Patti confrontations and restore order in his life. Yes, he did foam at the mouth Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction style. No, the old wise man who promised to bring him back squirted the drug onto the floor and blew his head off. Yes, Kevin is more than likely alive and well. Co-creator Damon Lindelof didn’t kill his Matthew Fox 2.0 just yet. Take away Kevin and there’s plenty of juice dripping from the steak of HBO’s fall tentpole, but I can’t see a situation where it’s done in the second season.

Bold strokes keep a show like this afloat but with the season devoting so much time to the Kevin storyline, why would they just kill him off by drinking a glass of dirty magic water. That is no way to dish Jennifer Aniston’s new beau the death ticket. He will be back next week as Season 2 takes its final swings.

Part of the hysteria of watching an original piece of entertainment like HBO’s weirdo blend is having zero clue what is going to happen with the quiet assurance that every exit will be a big one. Lindelof has created along with Patrick Sommerville and novelist Tom Perrotta a series that asks the toughest questions without answering the obvious one. Such as, three years on October 15th, where did all those people go? The Departed, vanished, missing or all together gone up and burst into one puffy flakes folks. I prefer the answer to never drop because it will never match the hype that has built for over a year. Aliens would be lame. God stepping in for some weeding would be lame. A spiritual arrival would be lame. Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga kidnapping thousands of folks from their homes would be twisted but still not work. The trick with the Leftovers is peering into the human soul via this organic plot device.

Take Theroux’s Kevin, a former cop who can’t find any inner peace because the woman he kidnapped while sleepwalking and saw commit suicide haunts his daily movements. Yeah, he sleepwalks so much that his girlfriend Nora needs to handcuff him to the bed. A predicament that set him back on Sunday’s episode. An episode that was devoted to the “Is Kevin a psycho or simply an innocent dead people viewer” conundrum. Apparently, it’s bad to tell your lover that there is another person in the room taunting them. It’s an even worse idea to tell them its the same person you watched stab herself in the throat. Especially if your lady is a woman who lost her entire family in the Departed and used to cure her pain by having strangers shoot her in the chest.

Tell me there isn’t a more romantic couple on television than the sleepwalking rippled arm Kevin and the former gunshot vested Nora. No way.

In trying to save that love and defy the idea that he is like his crazy people seeing father(Scott Glenn, missed this season), Kevin says yes to the old man’s wishes in drinking the poison to go fight his demons. He takes the plunge for love and sanity. Did he pay the ultimate price? No. Kevin is still alive folks. He may still be damaged, sweaty, and full of misery but he isn’t gone.

How good is the acting on Leftovers? It’s astonishing. It’s not just convincing. These actors meld themselves into the roles. A cast of ensemble performers, stage trained thespians, and names no one has seen on a poster before. Theroux, better known for his wife and the fact that he co-wrote Iron Man 2. Carrie Coon, known for playing Ben Affleck’s sister in Gone Girl. Christopher Eccleston(who may have stole the best episode from each season) from an assortment of supporting roles. Regina King, a face from film’s past. Amy Brenneman, who will always be Judging Amy to most and Robert DeNiro’s girlfriend from Heat. Kevin Carroll. Margaret Qualley. The gifted Ann Dowd. Several true actors and no stars. All going for broke for Lindelof’s spooky drama.

Every character on this show could carry the show for their own hour. Look at Eccleston’s solo act two weeks ago. The hour starting with the tale of Matt and his

What is next? I suppose Matt’s wife is going to get out of that wheelchair and convince everyone the holy man isn’t nuts. John is going to find out Kevin’s palm print was the one found on his missing daughter’s car. That should be a nice wakeup call for our poisoned anti-hero. Nora will come back to Kevin but that won’t end up. I suppose a front lawn boxing match with King’s Erika could suffice. The town will be revealed as bullshit by the end of season 2 due to the fact that the three girls supposedly disappeared. What if they didn’t though? What if the three girls ran away? If not, what is the real season 2 theme? Same old departure all over again. Kevin sleepwalking. Matt getting his wife pregnant. John and his anger management issues.

The biggest kick in Season 2’s story has been the strain that belief can put on the human soul. What if thousands of people flocked to one town because they thought it was safe? What if it wasn’t a miracle and just a chance encounter with luck? What if John’s angry firefighting ex-con is right and it’s all made up. Isn’t that a direct tie to religion general? A bunch of people thinking someone above them is in control instead of themselves. That a higher power is their reason for what happened three years ago. What will be the big reveal of Season 2’s finale?

Maybe the cast will just act the shit out of their scenes, present new twists for Season 3 and retain our attention. The greatness of a TV show like the Leftovers is making the viewer think a little while examining their own needs and identity. This show will turn the tables on you more than once.

The show has gotten better this year. It was always interesting and wacky fun in Season 1, but this year the complexity has developed. The second act has been more invigorating, intense and well put together than the first season. As long as the season doesn’t end on a major cliffhanger and doesn’t show Aliens sucking people into the sky, The Leftovers will have survived the dreaded sophomore curse(looking at you True Detective). 

Speaking of that recent HBO misfire, Lindelof is chasing the same themes that Nic Pizzolatto did on True Detective. Loss, abandonment, false sense of security, meaning of life, destiny, desolation, and the idea of living with what you are in this world. One creator is doing a better job of expanding on his story than the other. Instead of focusing on the “what”, Damon Lindelof is keeping his focus on the characters and their plight.

And one more time. Kevin isn’t dead.

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