HBO's glum new series, The Leftovers ponders what would happen if two percent of the worlds population were to suddenly vanish... apparently, such an event would make everyone left in really, really bad moods for no less than three years. The new series is nothing short of a tidal wave of televised angst, a study in gloom and post-crisis nihilism, as the people left behind struggle to put everything back together after the rapture-like event tears their lives asunder. Showrunner Damon Lindelof fills his latest series with just as many twists, turns, and questions as his earlier series Lost. Here are the mysteries that have us scratching our heads after just the first hour. Warning: spoilers to follow!
What's with the cult?Perhaps the most mysterious element of the pilot — you know, besides the whole people vaporizing into thin air thing — is the GR: a cult whose members spend their time staring at empty picture frames, eating regularly scheduled "sustenance," smoking like chimney stacks to "proclaim their faith," and mercilessly following specified targets. What's the end game here?
Why does Chief Garvey's wife join them?We spent the premiere assuming that our main character, a police chief and father named Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) lost his wife on that fateful day three years past. But the final moments of the episode reveal that Kevin's wife Laurie didn't vanish in the event, but instead joined up with the GR. She doesn't seem entirely brainwashed by the cult, looking pretty heartbroken upon seeing her husband. So what's making her stay? Does she just like smoking wherever she wants without judgment?
And why does Liv Tyler ask to stay with them?Right after she doles out a hostile slap to a pair of GR agents who follow her and her fiancé around town, she pays a visit to the cult's compound, asking to stay a couple days. Whatever their plan is, the recruiting tactics seem to work.
What's with the other cult?What's worse than one cult? Two, obviously. While we have some sort of handle on what the GR are and what they might stand for (some sort of spiritual guidance in the wake of the "rapture"), we still have no idea who or what The Leftovers' second mysterious group, which works meditative miracles in the desert, is up to.
Who is Wayne?We do know that their apparent leader, Wayne, is the "real deal." Whatever that means...
And what did he say to the congressman in that room?Wayne continued to confuse by taking an uptight Texas congressmen into a room and somehow "unburdening" him. What did Wayne say to the guy to make him so chipper? It must have been more than just the cool British accent.
Why did Tom, Garvey's son, join this desert organization?This rapture thing really hit the Garvey family hard. But Tom doesn't seem as mentally harangued as his poor mother.
And what's with the girls by the pool?Tom has taken a liking to one of the girls at the compound he works for, but they seem to be under lock and key. Why are they being so strictly guarded?
Why won't Tom talk to his dad?Maybe some lingering tensions from the mom going away?
And how did he get those scars?Does it have to do with why everyone went missing?
What’s coming now that “grace period is over?”Wayne's super ominous warning doesn't bode well for anyone. Now that three years have past, humanity is in a heap of trouble. Garvey isn't too thrilled that the mayor is bent on throwing a memorial parade to celebrate the lost.
Why can't the parade have clowns?Clowns are fun and not creepy at all, right?
Is that Kathy Geiss?Yup. Same actress who plays the perpetually silent, unicorn-obsessed interim head of NBC on 30 Rock is a cult member on The Leftovers.
Why the dogs are going crazy?In genre fiction, dogs are often acute to the supernatural. There's definitely something coming, and it likely has something to do with "grace period" being over.
Are gummi worms really the preferred candy of the rapture?We would have gone with Peach Os.
Where do I download that spin the bottle iPhone app?And does it have Twitter integration?
Why did Gary Busey get taken?And Shaq for that matter? Why them? And what is the world doing without them?!
What’s with the deer imagery?I thought Hannibal had the market cornered on that.
What’s with that huge tattoo on Garvey's back?The huge back piece seen on actor Theroux's character is a real tattoo, but we wonder why the series didn't bother digitally removing it? Will it figure into the story later on (like Jack's tats did on Lost), or was it just easier for the series to leave them be?
What the hell is up with Justin Theroux's hairline?This is the biggest mystery of them all.
The war for LGBTQ equality still rages on in America... mostly in Arizona. But luckily, television is making that struggle a little easier. More balanced and accurate portrayals of people under the rainbow flag are starting to crop up. This helps the community both on and off-screen. Openly gay actors like Zachary Quinto, Neil Patrick Harris, and Ellen Page can play straight. And straight actors like Cameron Monaghan, Andre Braugher, and Sara Ramirez can play for the other team. And LGBT actors like Laverne Cox and Jonathan Groff can play characters a little closer to themselves.
Television is making some pretty major political moves by exploring more than just character whose sexual identities are more complex than the labels of gay and lesbian. Cox has used her role on Orange Is the New Black to spread awareness of transphobia and other issues affecting the transgender community. There also is a movement towards exploring queer sexuality. Distinctly different from bisexuality, queer people don’t define their romantic partners by gender, instead embracing a fluid sexuality. There are even roles of LGBTQ young adults and children that allow these parties to be themselves, perhaps paving the way for boys who paint their nails and wear makeup to be free from bullying and discrimination.
Here are a few of our favorite, and arguably some of the most influential, LGBTQ characters on television. They show there is a wide spectrum of sexual preferences and gender identities but ultimately we are all people.
GALLERY: Our Favorite LGBTQ Characters on Television
Here are this week's highlights from VH1, Celebuzz, Flavorwire, and Hollywood.com.
Wouldn't George Clooney and Sandra Bullock be a great couple? VH1 Celebrity think so. See the couples that they think should get together here.
Check out some women who will be big in 2014. It looks like it will be a great year for powerful women. From author Helen Oyeyemi to Angelina Jolie, Flavorwire lists the women leading culture in 2014.
Chuckle over these honest titles of the Oscar nominated movies. They may not be the real names, but they sure are accurate. We all knew that Her was actually about Siri. Find out all the other names at Celebuzz.
Will Ferrell has a hilarious new show. It's called The Spoils of Babylon, and it's super weird. Find out more at Hollywood.com.
The undervalued HBO series Treme is coming to an end with its fourth season beginning on Dec. 1. This final season, extended as essentially a courtesy from HBO, will consist of five episodes. Just as unwatched but somehow less critically appreciated than Enlightened (another series gone too soon), Treme at least has had the chance to negotiate its demise, and creator David Simon is confident that this season will bring the series to a satisfying close.
The trailer promises the thrill of Obama's hard-to-believe first election, trailing some measure of hope into the characters' difficult lives as they still, years later, are piecing together their former lives, accompanied by plenty of music, from inexperienced kids all the way to seasoned professionals. And throughout it all, the thread of neglect and police corruption that leaves many dead bodies behind in a show that doesn't normally focus on graphic crimes. Simon is clearly bursting to combine the thrill of new hope with the struggle of a New Orleans that still hasn't managed to completely recover almost 10 years later.
Less transformative than The Wire and less devestating than The Corner, Treme is still one of the most ambitious TV projects of the last ten years. While it could never truly capture a city as sprawling and historied as New Orleans, it fills in some of our preconceived notions — about the crime, the food, the music — with lovingly rendered detail and explodes common assumptions. Exploring haute cuisine instead of fatty fried food, or drawing out the hip hop and funk influences in local jazz instead of the expected big band. And, like The Wire, Treme is at its most affecting when exploring the school system. Wendell Pierce's struggling musician-turned-elementary school teacher Antione Baptiste shows yet again that placing a character in a classroom can transform how you see them.
Without the familiarity of the cops/criminals dynamic, Treme struggled to hold on to David Simon fanatics coming off The Wire looking for the next great HBO series. But while that show was about the death of the American city, Treme, for all of the indignities and injusticies foisted upon the characters, is about the eternal life of an American city. People didn't discover The Wire until it came out on DVD, but that doesn't have to be the case with Treme. There's nothing more satisfying than saying you watched a show before it caught on... you have the chance this December.