I watched the first episode of The Leftovers blind -- I didn't read any background, follow any news releases. I didn't even watch "the making of" the show, which generally runs the week prior. I don't like to be manipulated into have any preconceived ideas about a television show. This week, however, I looked closely at the credits and saw some familiar names and realized who was involved in the production, mainly names I'd seen on Six Feet Under. Then I realized that this show is based on the book by Tom Perrotta, an author with a knack for artistic screenplays based on his novels.The film Little Children was based on his work and also the satirical Election. This explains why The Leftovers is unfolding in front of us like a novel.
Actually, truth be told, it is reminding me of The Wire in its plot structure; a single drop of drama falls into a large lake of swarming characters and the reverberant rings expand outward exposing a large, intricate tale. Kevin Garvey, played by Justin Theroux, continues to slog through his days filled with angst, and just when I was getting totally sick of his stoic depression, he visits his dad in a lockdown psyche ward and his father tells him to show some vulnerability. Then his dad points out that the entire cast of Perfect Strangers were among the raptured. Ha. It's absurd. But then again, so is the idea of 2 percent of the population suddenly disappearing.
Liv Tyler's character completely gives herself to the Guilty Remnant cult, Garvey's son Tom has found himself taken it a bit by a guru named Holy Wayne who has magical hugs, and we meet Nora Durst (played by Carrie Coon), a woman who facilitates government benefits for people who have had raptured loved ones. In the novel she becomes romantically linked to Kevin; we shall see what happens on the show.
The deepest scene of course happens with the bagel toaster. Kevin puts a bagel in one of those Noah's Bagel's type conveyer belt ovens at work, only to have the thing completely disappear. He unplugs the machine and bangs it around, shakes it upside down, no bagel. It doesn't take a lit major to see this as a metaphor for The Rapture and the disappeared. But this is Perrotta, and though magic realism tinges at the edges of the narrative like a debauched aura, we are eventually reminded that this is reality. Garvey comes back to the toaster later, power drill in hand, and takes of the back of the thing. He reaches in and digs around. Voila, burnt bagel.
He is relieved.