Tom Perotta's 'The Leftovers' On HBO Might Give Us the Layered, Female Anti-Heroes We Deserve
Fans of moody, spooky television should be excited to check out The Leftovers , which premieres on Sunday at 10 p.m. on HBO. Think of it as The Walking Dead, minus the zombies: A Rapture-like event causes two percent of the world's population to disappear, leaving everyone who was left behind to wonder about what happened as they pick up the pieces. The series is based on a novel by Tom Perrotta, who wrote Election and Little Children, with Lost's Damon Lindelof as co-creator and executive producer (so you know it's going to be at least a little loopy).
There's been much discussion recently about the lack of complex roles for women in ambitious cable shows, where women never get to be the complicated anti-hero. From Cameron on Halt and Catch Fire , who until recently existed just to prop up her male cohorts, to Maggie Hart on True Detective , the latest in a string of neglected wife characters, we're still waiting on our female Walter White or Tony Soprano.
If there's anyone poised to write a female anti-hero, it's Perrotta. The Leftovers looks like it has a few possibilities. The most notable among them is Laurie Garvey (Amy Brenneman). She's the wife of the chief of police, Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), and, after the event, she leaves him to join the Guilty Remnant, a cult-like group that always wears white, smokes, and never speaks. She's not a good wife who's trying to help her husband achieve greatness in the wake of a crisis. Patti Levin (Ann Dowd), also a member of the Guilty Remnant; Nora Durst (Carrie Coon), whose entire family disappeared; and Meg Abbott (Liv Tyler), who finds herself the focus of a religious group, are other possibilities for meaty roles for leading ladies.
Sure, Laurie and Meg could turn out to be like the rest of the cable wives. But it makes sense to have higher hopes for Tom Perrotta, since his page-to-screen adaptations have given us a few complicated female characters before. Here, his two most memorable women.
Tracy Flick Started It All
Watching Election, it's hard not to feel everything for Tracy Flick. She's inspires envy and pity simultaneously; you want her to win that school election because you know she wants it so badly, and, at the same time, she just gets under your skin to the point where you root for her to fail. Then again, when you see the way she interacts with her mother, your heart breaks. It's no wonder Reese Witherspoon was nominated for a slew of awards for the role, including the Golden Globe, the Independent Spirit Award, and National Society of Film Critics Awards (which she won). In fact, Tracy Flick was hard for Witherspoon to shake; there are shades of her in Legally Blonde, too — it's as if Elle Woods is what Flick would've turned out to be if she had a better wardrobe and a nicer mother.
Sarah Pierce Took Things Further
Little Children's Sarah Pierce (Kate Winslet) doesn't inspire as much sympathy as Flick. Her choices are a little more self-centered: After pursuing an affair with the hottest dad in town, she contemplates leaving her family. Her affair is justified a little when some creepy things come to light about her husband, but mostly she's just allowed to be a flawed and, often, an unlikable person. There's no domineering mother in the background to blame things on. In some ways, that's even more innovative.
Here's hoping Perrotta's female characters are as complicated in the HBO adaptation of The Leftovers— because it's about time we had an answer .