For some unknown reason, 2% of the world's population vanished without a trace. There appears to be no pattern to who disappeared and who didn't, and even with extensive questioning of those that knew the departed, no pattern or link can really be determined between those that are gone. After showing the event and the confusion that the sudden vanishing caused, the show jumps ahead three years and focuses primarily on a small town in New York that lost about 100 people on October 14th.
The show primarily follows the town's police chief, Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux, Mullholland Drive), his family and those he interacts with. Kevin has a few problems to deal with these days. For one, his son, Tom (Chris Zylka, The Amazing Spider-Man) hasn't been in contact lately and Kevin doesn't realize he is helping a self-proclaimed prophet known as Holy Wayne (Paterson Joseph) who claims to be able to hug people's troubles away. Kevin's 17 year-old daughter, Jill (Margaret Qualley) ends up spending her evenings in parties filled with drugs and alcohol and last, but not least, Kevin's wife, Laurie (Amy Brenneman, Private Practice, Judging Amy) is a member of a local cult-like group known as the Guilty Remnant. To make matters worse, Kevin starts to think that he might be going crazy, just like his father (Scott Glenn, the Daredevil tv series, Silence of the Lambs), the previous police chief.
Another town member is Meg Abbott (Liv Tyler, Armageddon, The Lord of the Rings trilogy) who has just decided to join the Guilty Remnant. It is through her that we get our insights into the white-clad, silent and chain-smoking group lead by Patti Levin (Ann Dowd), but we don't get a really good picture of just who these people are and what their goal is until the season's final episode.
The show also spends a lot of time on a local priest, Matt Jamison (Christopher Eccleston, the Ninth Dr. Who) and his sister, Nora Durst (Carrie Coon, Gone Girl). Matt's life is in shambles as his church is in danger of being sold out from under him due to foreclosure. Since the disappearances, he has become a kind of nuisance on the town as he plasters signs noting that there was nothing special about the ones that vanished. In an attempt to get people to stop thinking about the missing as heroes or that the event was a rapture, he spends a lot of his time digging up dirt on those people and proclaiming their wrongs. Meanwhile, Nora lost her husband and both of her kids to the event, and her current job is interviewing family members of the Suddenly Departed. She asks a lot of seemingly random questions in the hopes that some pattern can be found to link the missing people. While most of the show follows Kevin, there are two episode, one for Nora and one for Matt, and they shed some interesting light on the world that has changed in the last three years.
There is a lot more to The Leftovers: The Complete First Season than these brief descriptions of the show's main characters. Each of them will interact with others, sometimes in surprising ways, and all the while, you can see that Kevin is trying to hold everything together. His fear of going over the deep end like his father grows stronger and stronger has he starts to have blackouts and starts to see people around the town that no one else recognizes. We get to see the Guilty Remnant's plans develop and unfold in a very calculated manner that is vague until the very end, and we get to see Tom's strange journey when a raid on Wayne's place leaves him looking after one of Wayne's women. Jill's journey this season is a bit more grounded, but she is dealing with a high school environment that has been shaped by the event of three years ago.
The Blu-ray release also contains several interesting special features. Not only is there audio commentary for the season's first and last episodes, but there is also a making-of featurette that doesn't spoil anything beyond the show's first episode. There is another special feature that talks a whole lot more about the events throughout the season. This is a conversation with the show's two creators, Damon Lindelof (Lost) and Tom Perrotta, who is also the writer of the book the series is based on. There is also a featurette that focuses on the Guilty Remnant and another that talks about where the show could go now that it has reached the end of the book that Perrotta wrote.
The Leftovers is a show with a long, slow buildup, but each step is required to get the characters to the season's final scenes. I found myself flip-flopping between Kevin's father's insanity, or whether Kevin himself was actually going crazy as well, and I'm sure that waffling was exactly what Lindelof and Perrotta were hoping for. As stated in one of the special features, could Glenn's character be insane, or could he be the least insane and actually see what is going on? This, coupled with how other relationships grow and change, makes the whole show all about the characters that were left behind.
If you go into The Leftovers: The Complete First Season expecting for answers to be given and to learn what happened to those that disappeared, then you will be disappointed. Much like The Walking Dead isn't really about the zombies, The Leftovers isn't about the people that vanished, it's about how those still around are dealing with the loss years later. If you approach the series from that viewpoint, then you will enjoy seeing how the season plays out.