Everything Television: Examining HBO's The Leftovers

The Leftovers Are.....Moving?

Justin and Keith sit down for a quick discussion about the recent news that the Leftovers may be moving.

For more information and more podcasts please visit Brown Blue White.

You can follow the show on Twitter @brownbluewhite. You can also follow the hosts, Justin is @blizzzzzzzzzard and Keith is @ThingsComeRight.

You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes, or any podcast app with the rss feed: http://www.brownbluewhite.com/leftovers?format=rss

Music for this show was found on the Free Music Archive and is provided by johnny_ripper.

Gifts from The Guilty Remnant

The galleries below are all the things I've been sent from HBO since the beginning of The Watchers program. From what I gather, the program began around week 2 or 3 of the series. HBO sent me an email asking me to participate in The Watchers program, and because my level of curiosity was higher than the level of cautiousness I felt about sending my address to a complete stranger over the internet, I accepted. Luckily that decision has paid off in spades.

The first package I received, not too long after episode 4, contained the notecard, the 'We Are Living Reminders' decal, the dossier, the 'Don't Forget Me' Zippo, the Holy Wayne burner, and the empty box (maybe my favorite of all, as it is a really clever GR analogy for society's emptiness, and a great call back to the pamphlet the GR hands Tom at the bus stop). Cryptic text messages have been sent to the cell phone throughout the season. Some are regarding Wayne, while others have been suggested reading before and after episodes, and teasers for things to come. The texts are as follows:

07/31/2014 - 02:25pm - Watchers: Welcome to The Leftovers.

07/31/2014 - 10:14pm - Watchers: http://is.gd/YoureInvited

08/01/2014 - 11:14am - Watches: A hug from Wayne always comes with wise words. "You want it gone because you don't deserve it. You do deserve hope."

08/02/2014 - 10:14am - Watchers: "Nothing is forbidden." Are these the words of an angel...or an assassin?

08/04/2014 - 10:14am - Watchers: Your pre-'Solace for Tired Feet' reading: Job 1:21

08/09/2014 - 10:14am - Watchers: Reacquaint yourself with this Holy Wayne quote: "This girl, she's everything, yes?"

08/10/2014 - 10:14am - Watchers: Is Holy Wayne taking notes from...Job? "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart."

08/10/2014 - 11:00pm - Watchers: Your post-'Solace for Tired Feet' coordinates: 30.0500 N, 31.2333 E.

08/10/2014 - 11:30pm - Watchers: Your post-'Solace for Tired Feet' reading: Quran 12:5

08/15/2014 - 10:14am - Watchers: Coming revelation about someone's "hijacked" grief. Any guesses?

08/17/2014 - 10:14am - Watchers: In the words of Patti Levin: "It's not gonna be long now."

08/17/2014 - 10:14pm - Watchers: A precarious position, indeed. "Can't let me go, won't let me die."

08/17/2014 - 11:00am - Watchers: Your post-'Cairo' reading: William Butler Yeats' 'He Bids His Beloved Be At Peace.'

08/23/2014 - 10:14am - Watchers: Who is saying this...and to whom? "Something is wrong...inside you."

08/24/2014 - 10:00pm - Watchers: "We're reaching the point of no return." But is that a bad thing?

08/24/2014 - 11:00pm - Watchers: Rather prophetic words from Patti: "This is the big one. Like the world is gonna end."

08/24/2014 - 11:00pm - Watchers: Your post-'The Garveys at Their Best' reading: 'A Man Said to the Universe' by Stephen Crane.

09/04/2014 - 10:14pm - Watchers: Such nice sentiment is right around the corner: "Is there anything I can do to help you?"

09/05/2014 - 10:14am - Watchers: If Holy Wayne granted you one wish, what would you wish for?

The second package arrived the Saturday before episode 8, "Cairo," aired. It only contained one thing: a shrink wrapped copy of the classic children's board game 'Trouble.' I wish I could say that I left it shrink wrapped, only to tear it open after episode 8 where Jill finds Nora's gun stashed away in her children's copy of the game, but I have a 2 year old, and as soon as she saw it, she wanted it opened.

The final package arrived yesterday, the Friday before the finale. I was somewhat surprised to receive something else so late in the game, and even more surprised by how heavy it was. Like the first box, this one was also an all white acrylic plastic box, but this latest one felt a little more ceremonially. Not only was it heavier than the first, but it also had hinges, and no distinguishable markings on the outside. I opened it up to find a solitary digital picture frame surrounded by a dense styrofoam cradle. I plugged it in expecting nothing more than production stills, but what I found on the memory stick really piqued my interest. The memory stick contained a single file, and it was labeled: 'lft_302_justin.mp4.' Excitedly, and somewhat creeped out, I exited the menu and let the mp4 play. I uploaded the video to youtube, you can watch it below:

As you may have noticed in the gallery above, at about the 30 second mark, the Guilty Remnant member on the left holds up a sign that reads: "Stop wasting your breath, Justin." Towards the end of the video she holds up the familiar "We are living reminders" sign, and the video ends; 4 minutes of silent staring. I have to admit, the silent staring, even knowing it's fake, was somewhat unnerving.

Say what you will (and I have) about the series, but the viral marketing for The Leftovers, and the thought behind it, is second to none.

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.

The Leftovers S01 - What We Missed

Justin Blizzard and Keith Krepcho of Everything Is Interesting discuss what we know after nine episodes of HBO's The Leftovers, and share their predictions on what might happen on the season finale, "The Prodigal Son Returns." For more information and more podcasts please visit Brown Blue White.

You can follow the show on Twitter @brownbluewhite. You can also follow the hosts, Justin is @blizzzzzzzzzard and Keith is @ThingsComeRight.

Email the hosts your theories and thoughts on the show:



You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes, or any podcast app with the rss feed: http://www.brownbluewhite.com/leftovers?format=rss

Music for this show was found on the Free Music Archive and is provided by johnny_ripper.

Stone's Throw

Chain smoking, silent protest, stealing family pictures from their frames; in the post-Departure society of Mapleton, NY, these actions are justification for murder. Maybe. After watching Sunday night's episode of The Leftovers, I hopped into the "Gladys" discussion thread on reddit to get a general idea of everyone's thoughts on the episode. I was surprised to find a subset of the conversation centered around whether or not Gladys, the Guilty Remnant member who had been brutally stoned to death in the episode's cold open, deserved it. Surprised because the question had never even occurred to me.

A surface reading of the episode presents the scenario that a group of Mapletonians, most likely those whose houses were broken into last episode, were responsible for kidnapping Gladys, bounding her with duct tape, and ending her life, but are the relatively benign actions of the Guilty Remnant enough to drive them to such an extreme? I don't see it. There are valid arguments to the contrary: the aggression the community shows to the Remnant whenever they're around, or the smaller-scale drive-by stoning we saw in episode 3. But even in that example Matt's inclusion in the attack lends itself more to nihilistic teenagers on a joyride, their post-departure version of mailbox smashing, than blood-thirsty neighbors seeking retribution. And yet, when reading through the episode's discussion thread on reddit you'll find countless comments sympathizing not with the woman who was stoned to death, but with the people doing the stoning. From comments as benign as "I don't want this happening to them, but I'm not surprised either" to as malignant as "I can't be the only one cheering. Brutal or not, they pushed people around. What did they expect? " (Are the Guilty Remnant pushing people around? Because it seems like they're doing the exact opposite.)

I can't sympathize with the Guilty Remnant or empathize with their cause, probably because I don't fully know what it is, and that ambiguity has also led me to largely not care about them. Their actions could be summarily categorized as "Things a Moody Teenager Does," see: Jill Garvey, who refuses to interact with her dad on any real substantial basis, steals things for attention, and smokes. I find the most intriguing aspect of the Remnant to be their ambiguity; intriguing because I want to know more, not because I'm infuriated. Which is why I was so surprised with the bloodthirst by proxy found online. (I'm not downplaying the hurt that could be caused by having someone steal a picture of a departed loved one, but unless you've experienced that, or something similar, I think it's pretty difficult to know what you would do or how you would feel, and the leap from being understandably angry at that person to forming a snatch and grab mob to kidnap and stone someone to death is enormous).

So what is causing the citizens of Mapleton, and in turn some portion of the viewing community, to get so worked up about the Guilty Remnant? Are they just a plot device to create tension supported by a community that is really invested in the show? Is Mapleton's attitude toward the Remnant a legitimate reaction in a post-departure world to what seems like a minor nuisance in a no-departure world? It's difficult to say having not experienced one half of the equation, and it's easy to use that inexperience to justify what would normally seem like indefensible behavior. The closest analogy we have in our current society is the Westboro Baptist Church, a fringe religious group that regularly protests outside of events with way more offensive signs than, "Stop Wasting Your Breath." Even though we aren't outright ignoring the Westboro Baptist Church, we certainly aren't stoning them either.

The Guilty Remnant are designed to provoke, both as an organization and as a device for the show, and by throwing rocks, or slushies, or spewing curse words at them, the citizens of Mapleton are justifying the Remnant's existence. Imagine what would happen to the Guilty Remnant's message if everyone did ignore them. If they showed up at The Day of Remembrance, held up the "Stop Wasting Your Breath" signs, and everyone in the crowd proceeded to turn around and continue with the celebration undeterred. How better to answer the decree of "Stop Wasting Your Breath" then by showing the decrier that they are the ones wasting their breath. If we keep in mind that someone can only mentally torment you as much as you allow them to, then the worst crimes in the show so far, throwing one rock at a random Remnant and another that put Matt into a 3 day coma, or stoning a woman to death, have been committed by the citizens of Mapleton, not the Guilty Remnant. So, what is it about the Guilty Remnant that is so provocative?


The Devil is in the Details

There is a fine line between being pedantic and observant when engaging a film or television show. In my experience it represents a Herculean effort to just produce a single paragraph that I can be artistically proud of (I am immediately regretting and rethinking this last sentence), and I cannot imagine the effort that goes into producing an hour of television let alone a whole season. There is a level at which we should approach any artistic creation with a humility that regardless of the outcome someone dedicated themselves (or even hundreds or thousands) to making this object come into being. This sentiment is not far from what Steven Soderbergh expressed in his Oscar speech for Traffic (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JK5slvV7Lbw).

The pilot episode is generally the grace period. It is easier to overlook a show’s shortcomings and instead focus on a show’s promise, but flash-forward a few weeks in and you will see comment sections on any recap overrun by complaints of the sketchy accents of the show’s leads, or the unconvincing special effects or period details, an extensive list of plot holes (both real and imagined), and a countless host of other greater and smaller critiques and criticisms. What is interesting is that the list of viewer complaints usually blurs the line between the careful and considered watcher and the surface level one who is just looking for a safe space to voice their general frustration with the world. Some of my favorite critics will mention similar complaints as some of the most ban-ready internet commenter. From wobbly accents to mentions of thorn-in-the-side actors, professional reviewers can seem pretty pedantic in their criticisms as well, so how do we distinguish between the elements of the show that deserve criticism and those that are just petty nit-picks?

I asked myself this question during and after the second episode of The Leftovers. In that episode, in my mind, there was plenty to be petty about, and I struggled with what was worthy of comment. As representative of a longer list I just want to mention one thing I made note of but did not bring up in our podcast. The scene in question takes place in the coffee shop when Jill and Aimee bump into Nora Durst and notice she is packing heat. They watch as she purposefully knocks her coffee cup off the table and it smashes to the floor. As soon as the cup smashes we hear an employee of the coffee shop (or perhaps it is the owner) yell, “What the fuck!” and come angrily around the counter and towards where Nora is. My first thought was, who says that in response to a broken cup? Even if you weren’t at work and someone in your house dropped a cup would you really have such a vehement response?

It seemed so absurd to me that it has stuck with me for over a week and persisted even through a very good episode. I made note of this scene but then did not bring it up in the podcast, mainly because I think it felt like it was more on the pedantic side of things. There did not seem to be much you could illuminate by discussing that scene and largely trying to make fun of it. Perhaps the show was trying to address the rage that Kevin mentioned in the first episode and show how everyone seems to be “on edge”, but to me it just seemed like a silly detail that was probably an ad-lib by the actor.

I seek to be constructive and instructive with my views on these episodes, but I guess I am realizing that there is no way to fully escape my pedantic side. The internet can be a great place to give voice to that particular demon on your shoulder, but many times it is a slippery slope, and then before you know it, all your conversation is just focused on the small details and you are incapable of enjoying a great episode like “Two Boats and a Helicopter”.  Before this post gets too preachy, I did want to ask and invite anyone else who wanted to add a particular nit they might have with this show, or perhaps with another show from 20 years ago that has stuck with them and they are just looking for a safe space to unload their built up vitriol. As a sign off, what does everything think of the twins?

The Leftovers Expectations and Speculations

Our first episode of Everything Leftover is being shared with our other podcast Everything Is Interesting. In it we discuss what we are expecting out of the show and it's creators Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta. Keith shares a few of his thoughts on the book, while Justin tries to figure out what the show will even be about.

Show Rundown:

The Leftovers: 15m 59s

Twitter: 40m 35s

Recommendations: 01h 06m 06s

If you have any comments, suggestions, or would like to share your thoughts on The Leftovers, please email us at justin@brownbluewhite.com or keith@brownbluewhite.com

For more details on this episode please click here.