What's 'The Leftovers' Really About?

by Christine DiStasio

HBO is killing it. The network debuted the first trailer for its new series, The Leftovers , during the Game of Thrones Season 4 premiere. And with each new promo — especially after the new Leftovers trailer release and the the reveal of the show's deeply emotional poster — I've gotten more and more excited about a show that we know very little about. Is it about the Rapture? Is it a crime thriller? Who are those people in the white prison outfits? So, before the June 29 premiere of The Leftovers , let's get familiar with the story, shall we?

Like HBO's current hit Game of Thrones, this new series is based on a novel. Tom Perrotta's best-selling 2011 novel by the same name, to be precise, that asks "What if the Rapture happened and you got left behind?" That pretty much answers the question about what this chilling new series will be about, right? It's about the Rapture — kind of — but really, it's about the people left behind and how they grapple with understanding the event and the new world they're living in. Which brings us to the specifics of HBO's TV-adaptation of the novel and why we're going to be glued to our televisions on Sunday nights even though some of us are so tired of True Blood.

HBO's official synopsis for The Leftovers reads:

When 2% of the world’s population abruptly disappears without explanation, the world struggles to come to terms with what happened. Three years later, the HBO drama series, 'The Leftovers' is the story of the people who didn’t make the cut.

Considering HBO devotes an essay each week to summarizing each GoT episode, this seems a little light to me. But, the most important information is there — we've got a what and a time frame to work with. In typical HBO fashion, they've taken a little bit of license with Perrotta's novel — here's what the remainder of the show's About page reads:

Based on the bestselling novel by Tom Perrotta, 'The Leftovers' follows Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), a father of two and the chief of police in a small New York suburb, as he tries to maintain some semblance of normalcy when the notion no longer applies. Created by 'Lost' co-creator Damon Lindelof and acclaimed novelist Tom Perrotta, the series is executive produced by Lindelof, Perrotta and 'Friday Night Lights' executive producers Peter Berg and Sarah Aubrey. Lindelof serves as the series showrunner.

In the novel, Theroux's character is the new mayor of their town — but police chief is a lot more badass so, I'm cool with this. Other than that, the tone of the series remains true to that of the novel.

So here's what we've got — the Rapture happened, people disappeared without warning, and everyone that was left behind is figuring out how to deal. We've seen images of a post-apocalyptic scenario where people are starting to lose their wits out of grief and its Theroux's character's job to keep it under control, even though he's losing his own internal battle. The Leftovers seems like it's set out to answer an even bigger question than how to deal with our grief — it's exploring what breaks in a person when they're hit with tragedy and once they've recovered, how they've been indefinitely changed.

Watch the latest trailer here:

Image: HBO