As predicted, the HBO premier of The Leftovers left viewers curious and anxious for answers. While answers are unlikely, the Garvey family guides us on a harrowing tour of human turmoil.
The show wastes no time establishing the main conflict, the Sudden Departure. For more on the Sudden Departure, please read my first review of the new series here. Since the cause of the Sudden Departure is not the show’s primary focus, show writers fast forward three years, on the cusp of the first Hero’s Day celebration- a phrase that raises much debate in the small town, Mapleton.
Mapleton is the microcosm of society and Chief of Police Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), our protagonist, along with the rest of his family, represent the different ways humanity copes with the devastation of being left behind.
While the family fills the every-man archetype, the more curious symbols include the deer and the dogs.
According to Elena Harris, a male deer connotes a unique blend of strength, determination, and gentility. It is also interesting to note that dreaming about running over a deer indicates a big obstruction is ahead (dreamdictionary.org). Kevin Garvey, who embodies these traits and is entrusted with maintaining Mapleton’s peace, is haunted by a deer three times.
First, the ever-humane Kevin visits a stranger to tell her that her dog has been murdered, but much to his surprise the woman is unphased- this is the first time he encounters a deer. He notices the statue of the deer when he approaches her door, but it is gone when he leaves. This sudden disappearance mirrors the Sudden Departure and also causes viewers to question Kevin’s judgement; after all, his father (the former Chief of Police) struggles with mental health issues.
Kevin also dreamed that he ran over a deer and was shaken out of sleep by its shrill cries. The scenario comes full circle when Kevin, chasing the man who murdered the dog I mentioned earlier, stops suddenly when a large buck blocks his path.
This is a spiritual moment for Kevin after an especially harrowing day. As he moves toward the majestic animal, he asks it if responsible for breaking into and damaging his home. The moment is interrupted when a pack of leftover dogs attack and devour the deer.
It seems his gentle nature and need to make everything seem okay may have driven his wife to the Guilty Remnant; his daughter to existential nihilism; his son to a “prophet,” Holy Wayne. His fractured family along with his crumbling town clearly obstruct his ability to enforce law and order. It also appears he is in danger self-destructing, or being ravaged by conflict.
Is the current distress of his town and family the only obstacle for Kevin, or is there something bigger on the horizon?
What’s interesting is that through one family and one small town, we can examine the whole of humanity and its reaction to tragedy.
Kevin’s wife, Laurie Garvey, abandons her family and thinks life is futile; his confused angry daughter, Jill, struggles to respect authority and delves into debauchery, trying to find pleasure in the moment; his son, Tom, completely disconnects from his family and pre- Sudden Departure life and turns to a so-called prophet.
All of the family members are doing their best to cope with the unknown. The only family left entirely intact is driven apart by a disaster that robbed other families of their loved ones. Did the Garvey family crumble because it felt guilty?
It is clear the show will give us no indication what made 140 million people disappear because the reason does not alter the leftovers’ fates.
The conflict will continue to escalate as Holy Wayne predicts something big is coming. What terrible thing do you think is on the horizon for Mapleton and the rest of the leftovers? Did you enjoy the first episode? Please share your predictions and reviews in the comment section.