Scribbles, &c.

The Leftovers

We recently finished The Leftovers, and I’ve been deep in thought about it. A few thoughts follow, along with spoilers if you’ve not seen it.

I thought the show was a gorgeous and profound meditation on loss and our attempts to find meaning in the aftermath of loss. The shows doesn’t pull any punches. I felt the same sort of gnawing, existential dread that I found while reading Children of Men - the sense that while things have taken on a semblance of normalcy, the slow-motion collapse that was underway continually broke through any attempt to move beyond it.

I really wanted to see the character’s occupations fleshed out a little more. We got to see Laurie at her counselor’s practice; I wanted Kevin to do more Cop Stuff. I mean, he was the chief of police. Maybe I’ve seen too many procedural shows, but it might have been interesting to see him apply some investigative experience to the things he was witnessing. Ditto for Matt Jamison. As one of the only deeply faithful characters, we only get to see him in vestments once. I hoped for a scene of him conducting a worship service of some kind.

I liked that a lot of the show is left to the viewer’s interpretation - was this or that event supernatural? A coincidence? Part of this or that character’s madness? The show doesn’t say, so we’re free to read into (or out of) as we like. With the characters, we spend a lot of time trying to suss out what, exactly, the Sudden Departure really was. The mysterious act of a silent God? Freakish act of nature? Aliens? I’m not spoiling anything here if I tell you that no explanation is given, ever. If you’re looking for an answer, you won’t get one. You will get a conclusion though - the show winds up with a finale that is as fine as anything I’ve seen in a television show.

The performances are simply astonishingly good, it’s beautifully shot, and explores the sorts of Big Ideas that I tend to look for in books and movies. I’m glad it wound up well, but I miss following the characters as they looked for answers. The show was large on God - biblical symbols can be found all over the place: baptism, white doves, character names, and so on. All of it Old Testament, though. Very few references to Christ except some offhand comments and one very powerful dialogue in the final season. I’m not sure what to make of this, except that perhaps there’s more to mine in the way of cataclysms and mystery in the OT than the NT. Job figures prominently, for reasons that will become apparent as you watch.

In other news: have been digging deeply into some OT research of my own, thanks to a discussion in an adult study group last Sunday: 1 Samuel 15:3, to be precise - placing the Amelekites under the ban, i.e., total extermination. I believe I’ve come to an understanding and want to dig a bit further before I write it up here.