As a television fan, I've come to easily recognise writing practices or tropes television series use on a fairly common basis. And as with most aspects of television, one's appreciation of these writing practices is subjective to the taste of each individual television viewer. This week's episode of The Leftovers, 'The Garvey's at Their Best', used a very common storytelling device in the form of a flashback, the entire episode being based pre-rapture, which the rest of the series has been based several years after this event.

I feel it necessary to preface this review somewhat with the knowledge that I hate flashbacks. I still love The Leftovers, and there were many great parts about 'The Garvey's at Their Best', as well as a lot more background information about the characters we've grown to know this season, but inherently, I tend to scrutinise the use of flashbacks more than most, so if my review is a little harsher than usual, that's why. My question to series that rely heavily on flashbacks is, is the story you are telling in the present time so boring and un-informative that you feel the need to travel back to the past to excite and inform viewers? If the answer is yes, my next question is, if the stories you are telling in the flashbacks are so exciting and important to the overall series, why isn't the series based during that period of time? Why didn't it start then instead of you giving us all this information later?

And so I asked these very questions of The Leftovers this week, and the answers, as they usually do, sort of made me question how good the series is. The fact of the matter is that 'The Garvey's at Their Best', for all intents and purposes, could have the pilot episode for the series. Honestly, the series as a whole would make a lot more sense had this episode been it's pilot. The rapture was the catalyst for the events of the series, and that is usually the best starting point for a series. The Leftovers obviously chose not to do this, which is both perplexing and exhilarating. Many have expressed their distaste at the lack of answers the series has given thus far, and one can't help and think that had The Leftovers started with the rapture and continued following the distorted lives of the citizens of Mapleton from that point, viewers would be more understanding of what the series was/ is trying to be. It didn't do this however, and for this I'm glad. It is so easy for me to say that The Leftovers may have been better suited to having a traditional story beginning, and then I instantly check myself. In my opinion, great television breaks the boundaries of writing traditions and clichés, and The Leftovers definitely did this by throwing us into its world with little warning and understanding. It is because of this that I'm annoyed 'The Garvey's at Their Best' reverted to such a common trope as flashbacks to start to explain itself, but alas, I've probably digressed far too much already and should probably actually review the episode itself.

At least, however, The Leftovers didn't try and convince us that things were so much better for everyone before the rapture. Sure, brace-face Jill was disturbingly peppy (somehow she's even more annoying like this then she is as a passive aggressive depressive), but The Leftovers has never been a 'happy' series, as many will tell you, so it was refreshing that we were able to see some serious drama unfold in these characters lives that wasn't directly or indirectly effected by October 14th.

Nora was the stereotypically unfulfilled housewife who wanted more than to just decide what juice boxes her children should consume. And her husband, who we knew had an affair before he poofed, was already enough of a jerk without this knowledge, basically spent his time ignoring Nora and his children and going through life on a smile. Tommy, as any young boy who's been abandoned by his father does, had a longing to reconnect with said father that left him and Laurie behind. Laurie, a therapist, struggled to keep the dialogue within her own marriage going, causing large amounts of stress for all the Garvey's. But we as the audience, knowing little about Laurie, but a lot about Kevin, were definitely made to assume that majority of these problems were Kevin's doing.

He lied about smoking, he lied about Tommy visiting his real Dad, he lied about wanting a dog - and for what? This pre-rapture Kevin was all about keeping up appearances that everything was okay and that everything was happy, except the cracks were starting to show, and people, in fact, could tell that Kevin was not okay. In a conversation that mirrored (and subverted) the one they shared towards the end of 'Solace for Tired Feet' Kevin Sr. basically told Kevin that every man fights with the idea that there's nothing more to his life, but that he needed to accept that there was nothing more, no larger purpose for him, or he'd end up with nothing.

Throughout the episode the Mapleton police department struggled with a startled and confused deer breaking into and getting stuck in various properties around town. Despite wanting to tranquilise it, Kevin eventually put it out of it's misery after it was hit by a car. Probably as a more overt reading, Kevin was the wild deer who longed to break free of the restrictions adult life had set him. Who knows whether by putting the deer down he was accepting or rejecting them, agreeing or disagreeing to keep up appearances. We do know, however, that he was willing to keep on lying to himself and everyone else as he dropped the women who had hot the deer off at her hotel, and then preceded to join her in her room.

The biggest advantage of having the knowledge that the rapture would soon be approaching as the episode concluded is that it created more of those heart in the mouth feelings The Leftovers has provided so many of. I assumed Kevin's new friend would poof, and she did, much to his amazement. A pang of sorrow shot out as I watched Matt and his wife leave the doctor's office, knowing that in a few minutes she's be reduced to a vegetable after a car crash. The most poignant moment though, was from Nora, who totally lost it at her family - only for her to turn for a second and literally lose her entire family.

I may have not totally appreciated having a flashback episode, but is was undoubtedly an important part of the story that the series is telling, and with some intriguing insights into the past of our characters, I'm eager to see where the series wants to take them in the future.


- I'm getting a strong feeling that this won't be the last flashback episode we see. There's still a lot left to show us, like Kevin Sr.'s breakdown, and the breakdown of Kevin and Laurie's relationship.

- And for the record, I don't hate all flashbacks, some shows can do them, and use them, really well (like Lost), but more often than not they come across as pandering and unnecessary (like in True Blood). What are everyone else's thoughts on flashbacks? Love them or hate them? Which shows do them well, which don't?

- One of the good things flashback provide is to see characters that have died. It was so good seeing Gladys and Patti again, even for a short time.

- So Laurie lost her baby, yes? This seemed a little odd to me. A women screamed in another room, presumably signifying that someone had 'poofed', and Laurie and the doctor turned from the ultrasound at this point. If Laurie had lost her baby once she had turned back, doesn't that mean that not everyone disappeared at the same time. It seemed like there was a slight time discrepancy here.

- I share Kevin's sentiments, Lou just needs to fuck off.

Note: Sorry about the lack of pictures this week, I couldn't find too many, I may have to start doing my own screenshots, but if so, I'll likely put up the reviews and add them later as to get it to you all a bit earlier.
Follow this Topic