Review of The Leftovers, HBO television show, 2013-2017

Usually leftovers refer to some food that is left after a meal that can be used again to create some other meal.  Not so in this case.  This is sci-fi/horror.

The first episode opens with an exhausted busy mom in a shopping center laundry trying to handle some business situation and talking on the phone while doing her laundry.  Meanwhile, her baby is screaming at the top of his lungs annoying everybody in the laundromat the whole time.   Lugging laundry and her screaming baby back to her car, she is still busy on the phone. 

You want to say to her so badly.  Get off the phone, lady.  Did you bring a bottle or pacifier?   Check to see if the baby is wet.   Things that might ease his nerves as well as her own.   It appears that she doesn’t notice the baby until the baby stops crying in his child safety seat, because the baby is no longer there.   She finally puts down the phone and gets back out of the car screaming the baby’s name, like the infant has been playing a game with her and is going to come running out because she’s calling him.

In her hysterics, she doesn’t notice a little boy who is calling for his father after he sees that the cart rolling next to him is no longer being pushed by his father.

At the same time, a car accident occurs on the street nearby and a family in one car is hit by a car with no driver.

People in the shopping center look up to see a plane crashing in a nearby neighborhood.

This is how The Leftovers begins.   According to the fictional news, 2% or 140 million people (men, women, children, enfants of all races and ethnicities) have disappeared all over the world.

Cut to three years later and people are still wondering if it was the biblical Rapture—Christ’s return for good people to leave the damned behind?   A great many people disagreed.   Christ could not possibly have picked their aunt, grandpa, child, mother or father, for that matter—not those doozies!   Any number of other reasons are suggested like radiation, time travel, other dimensions, aliens, etc.

The performances by diverse actors, special effects and the music are amazing.  Justin Theroux (formerly Mulholland Drive, The Spy Who Dumped Me) plays the confused police chief, Kevin Garvey, whose predecessor (his father) goes nuts.  Amy Brenneman (former NYPD Blue, Judging Amy) plays his therapist wife, Laurie Garvey, who joins a cult after losing a baby she saw on an ultrasound on the day of the “departing”.  Christopher Eccleston (formerly Dr. Who, in Thor: The Dark World, etc.) plays the minister Matt Jamison who tries to help all the factions and loses himself in the attempts.  Chris Zylka (formerly Secret Circle, Freaks of Nature) plays the sheriff’s adopted son who joins a different cult than his mother. Margaret Qualley plays the sister Jill Garvey who can’t even enjoy hanging around with other young people her age because of the missing.   Veteran actor Scott Glenn (formerly Urban Cowboy, The Right Stuff, Silverado, etc.) plays the former sheriff and father, Kevin Garvey, Sr. who hears voices and is in a mental facility on disability.

The Leftovers is a wild intense ride from beginning to end.   Just when you think, this episode will probably end the series—hold on little grasshopper—it continues.  If you miss one episode, you won’t know what the hell is going on.   The characters are doing unbelievable things to make some sense out of what has happened to the missing.

Although this is not the first show or movie with this plot idea, this one is outrageously serious.  Factions pop up all over the place—those against remembering the missing, those trying to forget the missing, those who don’t know what to do, those who are scarred mentally and/or emotionally, and those who try to take advantage of others’ losses.

Just about everything you see will be used in a later episode so watch closely.  Bottomline:  everyone was already damaged before the worldwide disappearances.   The “departures” just nudged the meter up to critical mass.

The series was created by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta based on Tom Perrotta’s novel of the same name.  Mimi Leder (On the Basis of Sex, Pay It Forward, Deep Impact, The Peacemaker, etc.) was the director.

Since I’m not one to keep up with any series after the first couple of episodes, I borrowed all three seasons on DVD from my public library and binge-watched them a couple of times. 

Source:  Wikipedia

Written by Rosa L. Griffin

Review of Ripper Street television show

The series was created by Richard Warlow and lasted from 2012-2016.   It was broadcast on the BBC Two network.   The fictional series is set in the 1800’s in White Chapel, a hamlet in the East End of London, England. 

“White Chapel was considered one of the worst districts to live in even before the Ripper murders.   It was overcrowded, crime was high, living and sanitation conditions were horrendous, sheep and cattle were herded through the streets, only two in every ten children lived past the age of 5, the smell of raw sewage had to be unbearable, and each street was only lit by one gas lamp at night.   Dorsett Street was so bad that policemen had to enter in groups of four.  There were over 1200 prostitutes, some of whom plied their trade for as little as three pence or a loaf of bread.”  (https://strawberrytours.com)

Ripper Street is intense.  The series starts just as the Jack the Ripper murders cease.   At least five women’s bodies were found shredded during his or her rampage.   Killings after that were also blamed on him/her though they didn’t fit their MO (mode of operating or modus operandi).   Some believe Jack was a man but there were women trying to be licensed as doctors at that time.  If not for the strong character studies, the series would have been depressing.

Our “hero”, Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (played by Matthew Macfadyen), is based on a real policeman Edmund John James Reid in 1888.  In the series, Inspector Reid wants to develop a crime lab at his headquarters to help with identifying criminals, perhaps the first CSI (Crime Scene Investigation).   He recruits a former American military captain Homer Jackson (played by Adam Rothenberg) who was a medic in an American war.  The captain and his “wife” Long Susan (played by MyAnna Buring) operate a brothel which keeps quite a few women from walking the streets.   Houses of prostitution operated legally for the more upper-class prostitutes while the lower-class prostitutes had to wander the streets at night to sell their bodies.   Murders of prostitutes were not even covered in the newspapers, so it’s possible there were more murders committed than reported.   This made it easy for Jack the Ripper to get away with his/her murders.

This series also shows how police became the monsters that put as much fear into people’s hearts as the criminals.   Once the police saw the females’ mutilated bodies and other horrors, it would be hard to un-see such trauma or not to develop PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder.   Policemen were not allowed to use guns at first.   The lack of support financially or emotionally didn’t help either.  Detective Sergeant Bennett Drake (played by Jerome Flynn) is great as Inspector Reid’s sidekick who complained of not making enough money.  (Flynn was great also in Game of Thrones).  Eventually the Inspector works 24 hours a day and can’t relax because of the things he has seen, heard, and done.  

Drugs like “cocaine, cannabis, opium and their derivatives like laudanum were widely and legally available as painkillers and pick-me-ups in over-the-counter remedies from pharmacists.  The drugs were present in nerve tonics, throat lozenges and gargles.  They were used in local anesthetics, in wines, sherries, and ports.  They were commonplace among rich and poor alike.”    https://www.jack-the-ripper-tour.com/generalnews/sherlock-holmes-and-the-seven-percent-solution/

The most heartbreaking episode for me was in season 3, “Live Free, Live True”, in which women went to doctors to be healed after back-alley “doctors” mutilated their bodies because abortions were illegal.   I assume that the rich had their own doctors who kept their daughters’ secrets and gave abortions on demand when necessary.  

In this series, women were just starting to become doctors and running for political office.    However, even running for political office or having rights was illegal for women.    In this episode, a young woman is impregnated by her boss who loves her, but she doesn’t tell him until her near-death abortion and supposed help from a male doctor afterward.    But it turns out that the male doctor is experimenting on the young women so he can sterilize them to keep them from having babies in the future, not healing them.   The additional twist is that the young woman’s father-figure who has been with her all of her life is actually her mother, who works as hard as a man does.   I cried through the whole episode seeing what men and women had to go through in the 1800s.

Today, a little responsibility by both parties would make abortions less necessary.   Condoms as contraception are free in many places like colleges, some doctor’s offices, etc.  And, abortions were never meant as birth control.

Written by Rosa L. Griffin