Everything Television: Examining HBO's The Leftovers

An Argument For Aliens

Image courtesy of Watching the Leftovers

Image courtesy of Watching the Leftovers

A few weeks ago, after listening to episode 8 of our Leftovers podcast, listener Boomer emailed me with an interesting take on the Departure. After exchanging a few emails, we've decided to share it on the website to allow for further discussion and feedback. Below is Boomer's unedited take on the departure.

One thing that bothers me about the show is what the characters seem to think about the disappearance. Now, let's assume the show's creators want to project some semblance of reality. If a person were to think about the consequences of the kind of disappearance that happens on the show for just a minute I think they'd come to the same conclusions I do: Since the people who disappeared did so without a trace--that is, they went with all their clothes, without a bang or sound of any kind, no puff of smoke, no lingering smell, no scorch marks or anything in their place--one has to immediately conclude that whatever happened, happened outside of natural events.

If two percent of the world's population of humans--and only humans--disappear, and there's been no other contiguous, extraordinary event--like a comet's passing, unusual sunspots, a sudden increase or change in the bombardment of neutrinos, a giant supercollider spinning--then one has to come to one of two conclusions: either there's a God or gods at work and He/They took the people for His/Their own reasons, and thus it's a supernatural event . . . or the people were taken/eliminated by aliens.

There are so many religions in the world, and if there's a God involved with the disappearance then at least one of those religions is in some kind of connection with Him. That religion would have insight into the disappearance that no one else would, and we'd know because they predicted it. Obviously Christianity is that religion, and you have to give them MAJOR props for being the winners over all the other religions. If the disappearance happened just the way they said it would, you'd have to acknowledge that. . . . But it didn't, because Christians were not the only ones taken--and that's the central belief of their prediction of a rapture. So, with that in mind, I believe one would have to eliminate the supernatural as a possibility, or at least place it waaay back on the back-burner, otherwise you'd have to say, "Oh, God gave those Christians the insight to see that there would be a rapture, but He told them a lie about how it would happen and who it would happen to," and that's not reasonable.

So, then, we turn to the second possibility: aliens. In the real world I think with such a disappearance most people would have to come to the conclusion that aliens with far superior technology than we have were the culprits behind it. The shows creators, however--and to my great annoyance, have chosen to completely ignore that side of the coin.

But back to "our world" . . . Now, once we've established the fact that aliens are involved, then we turn to the "why" they would do such a thing. Well, since the alien's thinking is "alien" to us, we will never truly uncover their reasoning, but I think we could postulate a couple of reasons. What does it mean that aliens exist and are interested in our world to some extent? Two things come to mind: 1. Either the earth is facing extinction, and the aliens want humanity to continue, but they only had room for two percent of the population, or 2. The aliens are conducting a strange experiment on those who remain to see how we respond as governments, cities, towns, neighborhoods, and individuals. In this twisted experiment--and since they can do practically anything, apparently--the alieans will not only be watching our response with interest, but they'll probably be conducting mini-experiments as well; they'd be inserting themselves in human form into our world for various reasons, and doing other random acts like "vanishing bodies from a mass grave site."

Now, back to the show . . . Even if you want to do a series covering the sudden disappearance of two percent of the population without resorting to a "Falling Skies" recreation to some extent (and extensively including aliens in the series), in my mind you have to--at . . . the . . . least--address the topic of alien involvement at some level for the satisfaction of the viewer. Either you do that, or you make your show about aliens, but you specifically do not mention them simply to keep that aspect of the plot hidden and a mystery for a while. It bugs me.

While I still fall firmly in the camp of some sort of spiritual/religious event, I think Boomer presents an extremely well-thought out and compelling argument. What do you think?

You can share your thoughts or ideas by emailing me at justin@brownbluewhite.com, leaving a comment below, or checking out the reddit discussion thread.

For further conjecture on why aliens would do such a thing, you should check out this Wait But Why article on the Fermi Paradox, and then listen to me and Keith discuss it on our podcast Everything Is Interesting.