The disappearance, or “Sudden Departure,” as it’s known, takes place on October 14, but the story’s action jumps ahead three years when people are more concerned with how to move forward than finding a reason for why the event occurred. The show centers around the community of Mapleton, New York, and begins on a day of remembrance known as Heroes Day.
Co-creator Perrotta talked about the show’s time-jump in HBO’s Making The Leftovers Show extra:
The thing about the three-year gap and picking up the story later is people have absorbed this blow and are really trying to figure out, ‘How do we go one from here?’
2. No Religious or Scientific Meaning Exists for the Disappearance
Unlike the Christian Rapture, the people taken in The Leftovers didn’t all follow a particular belief system or stand out as moral superiors. They included “babies, lawyers, drunks, thieves, surgeons, murderers, grandmothers, bartenders, celebrities and even the pope,” writes The New York Times.
The idea of the Rapture inspired Perrotta to write the book and ask what would happen if a large number of people simply disappeared, he told HitFix. He changed the disappearance to a random event rather than only the Christian believers leaving the Earth:
The fact is, tens of thousands of Americans believe that the Rapture is going to happen in their lifetime. Because I’m not especially religious, my first impulse is to think that’s really odd, or even quaint. But then over time, I started to think, ‘Well, what if it did happen?’ That to me is the better writerly question: not to satirize the Rapture or people who believe in it, but just to imagine how would I respond to that?
The religious and scientific communities in the show exhaust all possibilities for the disappearance. This lack of an explanation brings the remaining population “back in time to a place in human history where everyone’s lives were dictated by the gods of Olympus or the gods of the heavens,” Lindelof told Vulture.
3. The Show May Never Reveal the Reason for the ‘Departure’
— The Leftovers (@TheLeftoversHBO) June 15, 2014
Lindelof and Perrotta wanted to focus on the characters and their question “How do we go on from here?” after this unprecedented event, Perrotta told HitFix.
The creators have no plan for whether the story will reveal or forever keep secret the reason for the “departure,” but Lindelof did tease Entertainment Weekly that he knows The Leftovers should have a “finite” ending:
The answer is yes, but I think that there is a fair amount of hubris in planning too far ahead, because we don’t know if anyone’s going to watch the show or if there’s going to be a second season of the show. If the first season works … then it will be time to start having conversations about how long this story should be, and in parentheses I would put: not as long as you’d think.
4. The Remaining Adopt Different Ways to Cope
— The Leftovers (@TheLeftoversHBO) June 27, 2014
The remaining will seek out understanding in a variety of ways: joining The Guilty Remnant cult, visiting a man called “Holy Wayne,” or embracing a nihilistic outlook.
The Guilty Remnant “serve to remind people” that the departure occurred and are “living memorials” to the event, Brenneman said in the HBO extra. Their presence causes pain for those who want to memorialize the lost but also try to move on with their lives.
Holy Wayne can “hug the pain out of people,” according to HitFix. With the possibility of another departure at any moment, the teenagers have given up on the idea of a real future to over indulge in drinking, drugs and sex.
— The Leftovers (@TheLeftoversHBO) June 21, 2014
5. Justin Theroux Plays the Town’s Chief of Police Kevin Garvey
The Leftovers follows an ensemble of characters, but they all look to Theroux Chief of Police Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) to keep a sense of order in the town. His family has separated since the departure and leaves Garvey “getting pulled from several different sides,” Theroux said in the HBO extra.
— The Leftovers (@TheLeftoversHBO) June 28, 2014
Garvey’s wife, Laurie, has joined The Guilty Remnant. He is estranged from his college-age son, Tom, who travels the country trying to understand what his life means after the departure. His teenage daughter, Jill, lives at home, but Garvey’s too busy trying to hold everything together, and he neglects their relationship too.
Lindelof told Entertainment Weekly what role Garvey plays in the town of Mapleton:
It’s not about watching him do the job of the sheriff but the fact that he is the one that everyone is looking to to solve a very large problem just puts this tremendous pressure on him that is enormously dramatic to watch. Especially because he’s kind of coming apart at the seams just like everybody else is but he’s not allowed to show it.