Series / The Leftovers

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The Leftovers is an HBO series created by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta (based on the latter's novel of the same name) which debuted in 2014.

A mass disappearance of people totaling two percent of the world's population has wreaked havoc among the disappeared people's family and friends. After three years, the world's religious and scientific communities have no concrete answers as to what happened.

The story revolves around residents of a town called Mapleton (which itself lost 100 people), and amid the ordinary residents trying to live out their lives in the aftermath of the mass disappearances, others have not dealt so well with what has happened.

The first season of the show loosely follows the plot of the book; it was picked up for a second and then a third season; at the same time the third season was announced, it was also said it would be the show's last.

This series provides examples of:

  • Adam Westing: Mark Linn-Baker appears as a post-departure version of himself in "Don't Be Ridiculous".
  • Adaptation Expansion: The first season covers the entirety of the book, so anything going forward (including the second season and beyond) is unique to the TV series.
  • The Alcoholic: Kevin Garvey does a lot of drinking in the early episodes.
  • Adult Fear:
    • Best exemplified by the opening scene in which a woman loses her baby to the Great Departure. Taken to a more horrifying level in "The Garveys At Their Best", as it's heavily implied that Laurie, who was receiving a pregnancy ultrasound at the time of the departure, saw her baby disappear in utero. She reveals this to Kevin in Season 3.
    • Also in this episode , we discover that Nora's last interaction with her family was yelling at her daughter for spilling her juice over the cellphone.
  • Alternate Universe:
    • Whenever Kevin dies, he goes to an alternate reality where he's an assassin as well as the President of the United States in a world where the GR has become a global power.
    • In the series finale, Nora claims that the Departure split the human population between two otherwise identical dimensions, one with 98% of the population and the other with 2% of the population.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: The real Mark Linn-Baker really does have two degrees from Yale.
  • Apocalypse Cult: Several are known to have formed.
    • The Guilty Remnant, people who wear all white, chain-smoke and never speak aloud. They dedicate their lives to reminding people of the Great Departure, specifically targeting those that were personally affected by it.
    • Wayne's cult, led by Holy Wayne. He can supposedly take away the pain of others by hugging them. These guys are so fanatically loyal that they'll fire on the cops to protect him.
    • The Barefoot People, people who paint targets on their heads and never wear shoes. Apparently it's to help God target them for the next Great Departure.
  • Arc Words: "Are you a good man?" or variants, directed at Kevin Garvey.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: In "Lens", Erika gets reprimanded by Nora for associating her actions with the disappearance of her daughter. In turn, Erika asks about Nora's kids, and whether they died or departed. Her follow-up is enough to cause Nora to break down in tears.
    Erika: What were the last words they said to you, to the best of your recollection?
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In S2E02 "A Matter of Geography," Nora suggests that she and Kevin open up to each other if they're going to be a family unit. Kevin recounts his sleepwalking episodes - which leads into him kidnapping Patti, watching her commit suicide, and recruiting Matt to help bury her. He finishes his story with "And I smoke."
  • As Himself: Mark Linn-Baker, revealed on the news to have faked his Departure, shows up as himself in Season 3, delivering a message to Nora. In the process, he references his actual degrees from Yale.
  • Asleep for Days: Matt Jamison after getting hit with a rock. Rule Of Drama applies to him rushing to the bank assuming it's still the day he got hit with the rock. After three days in bed without food he probably would have been tired out by the time he got out of the hospital and a half a block down the road, if not sooner, and the hospital staff would have absolutely stopped him from leaving.
  • The Atoner: Virgil considers himself this. He wants to atone for horrific acts he committed as a younger man by helping an increasingly unhinged Kevin find peace.
  • Back for the Dead: Dean the dog-hunter returns in the third season premiere, and dies trying to murder Kevin and Tommy.
  • Back from the Dead:
    • Kevin is given a fatal amount of poison and buried, only to come back to life of his own volition after a spiritual journey at the end of "International Assassin". Michael, who witnesses this, gives an entirely understandable "Holy shit!" in response.
    • In the season 2 finale "I Live Here Now", Kevin once again finds himself back at the hotel after being shot by John Murphy. This time he gets out of it by doing a karaoke performance of Simon & Garfunkel's "Homeward Bound" in the hotel bar.
  • Badass Grandpa: The elder Garvey is a muscular old man and a former police chief. He's still considered very dangerous at his age and even beats up a younger police officer.
  • Batman Gambit: In "B.J. and the A.C.", a library fundraiser is held. Garvey asks Patti nicely to leave the event alone, believing that this would make the GR more likely to show up and give him an excuse to jail them all during the Christmas season. Unfortunately for him, they see through the gambit and plan accordingly.
  • Beard of Sorrow:
    • Kevin in the first season, who is suffering from a broken family, always has about a week's worth of Perma-Stubble in spite of being a police officer. He apparently gets away with it because he's the Chief.
    • Kevin grows a beard in the third season, and he's just as damaged as ever, though a flashback reveals that he did so on Nora's request.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: When a mugger tries to steal Matt's casino winnings, which he needs to save his church, Matt flips out and smashes the guy's head into the ground until he stops moving.
  • Big Bad: Patti in season one. Meg in season two.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Garvey's father is crazy, his wife is in a cult, his step-son is off the grid with another cult, and he's raising his Bratty Teenage Daughter alone. On top of that, he has to deal with the pressures of the Guilty Remnant and his own possible insanity.
  • Blatant Lies: "Not a cult," Laurie says of the Guilty Remnant. This while using textbook brainwashing methods on Meg to recruit her.
  • Bookends:
    • The first season starts and ends on days to remember people, starting on the day to remember those taken, and ending on Memorial Day.
    • One of the first and last things that Garvey does in the first season is approach a dog in the street.
    • Episode 2.06 ("Lens") begins with Nora angrily throwing a rock through the Murphys' window. At episode's end - after Nora has confronted Erika with the new DSD questionnaire, and as Kevin admits to Nora that he's being haunted by the ghost of Patti Levin, Erika returns the favor.
    • "International Assassin" begins with Kevin breaking the surface of water and ends with Kevin breaking the surface of soil.
    • The first two seasons end with a once peaceful town (Mapleton in Season 1, Jarden in Season 2) falling into anarchy and flames. And in both cases, the Guilty Remnant are the cause.
    • Season 3 opens with a sequence set in the 1800s, which ends with a man sitting on a roof, confused as to why the world hasn't ended. 6 episodes later, Kevin Sr. does the same thing.
    • Quite literally in the season 3 titles: episode 1 is "The Book of Kevin", episode 8 is "The Book of Nora".
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Jill, Chief Garvey's daughter, has been acting out ever since her mother abandoned the family to join the Guilty Remnant cult. She gets a lot better in season two.
  • Brick Joke:
    • In "Gladys", Patti reminds Laurie of a conversation they had before the Great Departure, illustrated by a white bag with a name on it which she leaves at the doorstop of a house. "The Garveys at Their Best" shows this was Laurie's idea: the bag represents all of her repressed feelings, and the house belongs to her husband.
    • One of the Series 1 gags was that the entire cast of Perfect Strangers vanished in the Departure. In the Season 2 opener, "Axis Mundi," it's revealed that Mark Linn-Baker faked his disappearance, and has been found alive in South America. In Season 3, he makes an appearance as a messenger for the group purporting to send people to the destination of the Departures.
    • The title of the episode "Two Boats and a Helicopter" is based on a joke about religious faith.
  • Burying a Substitute: At the beginning of the series, about 2% of the world's population just suddenly vanishes, with no apparent cause and No Body Left Behind. After a little while a company comes around that will build expensive, lifelike dolls that look like the deceased for a mock burial.
  • Call-Back: In the pilot, Garvey says that people are ready to explode when Lucy says Memorial Day is meant to help them move on. In the season finale, set a year later on the same holiday, a riot breaks out in response to the GR's latest stunt and Lucy admits that he was right.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Literally for Chief Garvey, as the Call comes in the form of his father who knows his home address.
  • Caught Up in the Rapture: The exact nature of the disappearance is unclear, but many people straight away jump to the conclusion that it is indeed the Biblical Rapture. Not everyone is sold on the idea, however, and there are constant televised debates. Matt Jamison runs a newsletter that is dedicated to proving that many of those taken certainly would not have qualified under Rapture logic.
  • Chekov's Gun: The "Departure dolls" are advertised and shown in a few Season 1 episodes, before having a major role in the season finale.
  • Creator Cameo: Peter Berg, an executive producer on the show and director of the first two episodes, appears in a small role as one of Wayne's guards.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right:
    • The Mayor, who began to question Kevin's obsession with the Guilty Remnant, sees him on the street in the finale and tells him he was right.
    • Also the attitude of the government cult agent towards the Guilty Remnant. The Guilty Remnant is far more destructive and sinister than they initially appear.
    • Kevin's father seems less crazy as the show goes on, particularly in light of the events of "International Assassin".
  • A Day in the Limelight:
    • "Two Boats and a Helicopter", "No Room at the Inn", and "It's a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World" focus on Matt Jamison.
    • "Guest", "Don't Be Ridiculous", and "The Book of Nora" focus on Nora Durst.
    • "International Assassin" and "The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother)" are focused on Kevin Garvey.
    • "Axis Mundi" introduces and focuses on the Murphys, with the Garveys appearing in more of a background role.
    • "Ten Thirteen" is focused on Meg Abbott.
    • "Crazy Whitefella Thinking" follows Kevin Garvey Sr's travels in Australia.
    • "Certified" centers on Laurie.
  • Deadly Euphemism: In "Gladys", while speaking with Chief Garvey on the phone, ATFEC Agent Calaney offers to make the Guilty Remnant 'disappear' from Mapleton, permanently. Kevin refuses the offer, which he later regrets.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Patti died in Kevin's arms. Twice.
  • Distant Finale: The majority of "The Book of Nora" takes place at least two decades into the future, with Nora now living in Australia under the alias of "Sarah".
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Disturbingly averted in "Off Ramp" with Meg and Tom.
  • Downer Beginning: It doesn't get any more depressing than the sudden disappearance of 2% of the world's population, as highlighted by a mother losing her child.
  • Dream Sequence: Lots of them, adding to the surreality of the show.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Patti in "Cairo."
    • Kevin in "A Matter Of Geography," although he survives thanks to the lake having vanished after he somnambulantly tied a brick to himself and jumped in. In "Orange Sticker" he admits to Patti that, like her, he really wants to kill himself.
    • A horrifyingly literal example in "Off Ramp" by Susan, a rescued former Guilty Remnant member, due to the trauma of her experience among them and knowing they'll go after her. She shuts her eyes and swerves her car into oncoming traffic, taking her family along with her.
  • Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!: Discussed when Mary becomes pregnant, with people suspecting Matt had sex with her in her comatose state. Saying she woke up briefly and they had sex isn't believable to many. She wakes up again in "I Live Here Now," and confirms what happened.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Guilty Remnant's policy is to never target children (and they never attack people physically unless the others attack first). Meg has no such scruples.
  • Everybody Knew Already: Kevin Garvey Sr. assumed Matt would eventually be going after the stash of money in his yard, hence when Matt sneaks in and digs it up, there's already a note inside saying Matt probably really needed it and is welcome to it.
  • Expy: The Guilty Remnant appear to be one for the Westboro Baptist Church: showing up uninvited to sensitive group events to provoke people through offensive protests.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death:
    • Gladys, a member of the Guilty Remnant, is brutally stoned to death.
    • Patti Levin stabs herself in the neck with a shard of glass.
  • Fan Disservice: "No Room at the Inn" ends with Matt stripping naked before being put in the stocks. Let's just say it isn't only the Ninth Doctor's ears that are big...
    • In "I Live Here Now," the Guilty Remnant members who've been hiding in plain sight in the park disrobe to change into their white uniforms. Suffice to say not all of them are as attractive as Liv Tyler or Margaret Qualley.
  • Fanservice:
    • The series hardly runs on this, but there is both male and female nudity - Kevin in particular shows several times that Aimee (Jill's best friend) is correct about him being ripped. The woman who Kevin is cheating on Laurie with is also very attractive and naked when she vanishes.
    • Jill herself has a brief underwear scene in "The Prodigal Son Returns" but she's changing to put on a Guilty Remnant uniform at the time.
    • "Axis Mundi," the season two premiere, has Evie and her friend Taylor streaking in the forest outside Jarden.
    • Kevin makes a Naked First Impression in the very first scene of "International Assassin."
  • Foreshadowing:
    • As Matt drives Kevin back to Mapleton there's a news story about a manhunt on the radio. It's Holy Wayne, who is dying in the restroom where Matt and Kevin stop for lunch.
    • In the first episode of season 2, Evie and her friends drive home from a swimming excursion in stony silence. This foreshadows that they've secretly joined the Guilty Remnant.
  • Flashforward: From S3E7 "The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother)" to S3E8 "The Book of Nora", the story line jumps ahead decades while still remaining in Australia.
  • For Want of a Nail: In the second season, an MIT research group buys Nora's house because they're been studying anomalous Departures (specifically, large groups like her family). Through their research, they've come to the conclusion that the event was geographic in nature, and the act of walking over to use the sink because her kids spilled something on her phone spared Nora from being Departed as they were.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: The antagonists. Wayne was an ephebophile street preacher who somehow moved up to cult leader having meetings with U.S. senators. Patti was one of Laurie's patients who wound up as the leader of the local Guilty Remnant chapter. Meg has the starkest change, from a depressed wife to a borderline psychotic member of the Guilty Remnant who is willing to throw fake grenades onto school buses to scare kids. Even other members of the cult find her methods repulsive.
  • Gas Leak Cover-Up: The drone strike on the Guilty Remnant members in Miracle is officially spun as a gas leak ignited by a cigarette, even though it happened in broad daylight and is well-known enough that pretty much anyone can look up the truth.
  • Give Me a Sign: Tom nearly gives up on Wayne's cult in "B.J. and the A.C.", insisting that Wayne call the phone he was given with some kind of explanation. The phone rings... but it's just a telephone ad. He sticks around anyway.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Susan, the cult member who Tom and Laurie rescue at the beginning of "Off Ramp," is still haunted by the Guilty Remnant - but she's reunited with her husband and son, who are happy to have her back. Then, realizing that they'll still be coming for her, she drives their car into oncoming traffic and kills herself and her family.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Jamison actually is a nice, caring man, but his commitment to proving that the disappearance wasn't the Rapture has him digging up dirt on people who have Departed and airing them out in public. This greatly upsets many people, to the point that he regularly gets beaten up by relatives of those he's targeted. He is, however, in all other respects a very nice man.
  • Good Shepherd: Jamison. In spite of all of his trials and hardships, is still deeply committed to being a righteous man and doing well by his community.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: The Guilty Remnant are required to smoke as part of their very cynical philosophy. It helps characterize them as seedy and vaguely threatening even when they're just standing around. Sympathetic characters who smoke, like Kevin and Nora, do so because they subconsciously want to die.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: The ATF has become ATFEC; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, Explosives and Cults. Post-Departure, their primary focus is on wiping out cults with extreme prejudice.
    • There's also the Department of Sudden Departures, which Nora works for. Their main focus seems to be paying out benefits to the family of people who departed and investigating Departure related fraud.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: When Nora is awoken and Kevin is gone, she fears that another Departure has occurred and taken yet another person she loves. She breaks down and ultimately passes out.
  • Heroic Suicide: Virgil shoots himself to enter the afterlife and be Kevin's guide there.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight:
    • Tom is able to walk back into a hospital he ran out of while pursued by cops by disguising himself as a member of the Barefoot People. People pay more attention to the target on his forehead and lack of shoes than his face.
    • After cleaning herself up, Nora attempts to walk right back into the hotel where she's been banned, but is quickly stopped by security.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: After the Guilty Remnant buys his church, Matt shifts his operation from exposing the departed to exposing the members of the Guilty Remnant, using the same tactics they do to remind them of the families they've abandoned. It succeeds in getting Meg to freak out and attack him, hypocritically decrying him for doing what they do. To a lesser extent, it also makes them spend energy trying to counter him, rather than sticking to their normal routine.
  • How We Got Here:
    • S3E1 ends with Nora looking many years older, living in Australia under the name "Sarah," and denying ever having known a man named "Kevin." The rest of the season jumps back in time to show how we got here.
    • "Certified" explains how Laurie showed up to the Ranch alone, in a stolen van with a black eye.
  • Ironic Echo: When Kevin confronts Meg in Jarden, Meg will only respond by singing the gospel theme song of Miracle, which she has utterly destroyed.
  • Ironic Juxtaposition: "Cairo" opens with Patti carefully laying out sets of clothing intercut with scenes of Garvey preparing for dinner with Nora.
  • It May Help You on Your Quest: When Chief Garvey's father decides it's time for his son to learn about his destiny, he breaks out of the psych ward and goes on a search to pick up... a 1970 National Geographic magazine, apparently because there's something important about that specific issue.
  • Just a Flesh Wound: John Murphy shoots Kevin in the torso, sending Kevin back to the afterlife-or-is-it hotel. When Kevin comes back, the gunshot is not life-threatening and he's able to wander around the town with apparently only moderate pain. There might be some magic going on.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Matt Jamison has severe money troubles, is being followed by the Guilty Remnant, and his church has already been foreclosed on. Then the Guilty Remnant buys his church, guts it, and paints all the windows white.
    • The Guilty Remnant tops themselves one episode later, stealing family photos from houses under cover of darkness. This is part of a larger plot to make corpse dolls of the Departed individuals in the photos as part of some big operation.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Instances of the Guilty Remnant being abused are often interspersed with them being creepy or vicious.
    • When one of the members is murdered, the scene immediately follows a sequence of her and her partner being assholes, such as ignoring an old man who has fallen down right in front of them.
    • The ATF implies that it wipes out chapters of the GR for towns that are tired of dealing with their crap. Their authority has been expanded to include cults, apparently with the purpose of harshly cracking down.
    • After the GR set up a bunch of corpse dolls of everyone who was Departed, the town just completely loses it, wantonly beating them, murdering them, and burning down their homes.
    • In the second season, Kevin confesses to kidnapping Patti and burying her body. The police refuse to even investigate, and he's allowed to walk away without a form being filed.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: A man mugs Matt for his Jarden wristband, breaking his wrist and giving him a concussion. He's later hit by a truck and killed instantly.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: Many, but The Departure and Departure (Home) are the most notorious.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The show often teases people or circumstances to be supernatural. Sometimes it's later revealed that they are not. while other circumstances are never resolved completely.
    • No one knows why people were disappeared, so no one knows whether it has a scientific or supernatural/religious explanation. It's telling that the song over the season two opening titles is Iris DeMent's "Let The Mystery Be."
    • Garvey's clinically-insane father hears voices that seem to be prophetic. It's not clear whether they have a supernatural origin or if he just has hallucinations (he's in a mental institution when first seen).
    • Holy Wayne's ability to hug a person's pain away. Is it a real supernatural gift or just a hug? On the brink of death, he admits that even he doesn't know whether he's a fraud. Tellingly, Tom copies Wayne's techniques and seems to get the same results while knowing that he's just pulling a con.
    • The Dog Killer was initially teased as being a figment of Kevin's imagination. Although he's later established to be a real person (known to the people of Mapleton as "Dean"), no one has managed to find any identifying information on him. He says that he thinks of himself as a "guardian angel." Season 3 reveals that he's a mundane, paranoid psychopath, and he gets gunned down while trying to murder Kevin for laughing at his delusions.
    • "The Garveys at Their Best" shows several strange events happening in the days prior to the Great Departure. A random woman drives up to Garvey on the day of the Departure and asks if he's ready, only to say she had the wrong person. Patti is shown to have had premonitions of "something terrible" happening, and sensed that "something wrong inside" Laurie. Kevin spots a deer with a shining light on it's head; this is later revealed to be the reflective side of a party balloon that says "It's a Girl!" It's revealed that Laurie is pregnant, but the child disappears in the departure in utero.
    • In the second season, the town of Jarden, Texas, had no Departures. Something divine, or just a statistical anomaly? For what it's worth, the town has wasted no time earning sweet tourism bucks off it, even being declared a national park.
    • Is the hotel that Kevin finds himself in really some sort of afterlife, or is it just a near-death hallucination? While a hallucination would be the simpler answer, there are a number of hints that it might be real, such as the fact that Kevin finds Virgil in the hotel despite being unconscious when Virgil shoots himself (doing it explicitly so he could guide Kevin there as well).
    • Kevin's repeated instances of coming back from the dead. Is he special or just lucky?
    • Matt meets an Australian man on a ferry who claims to be God. In spite of watching the man murder someone and apprehending him, Matt starts to believe the man's claims... until he stops believing him, and the man is killed by a lion at the end of the episode.
  • Meaningful Background Event: In the first scene of the pilot, our attention is focused on the woman losing her child and the boy calling out for his father. This is the great Departure. In the background, a car screeches to a halt and a moment later a second one plows into it. It isn't until two episodes later we learn that Matt Jamison and his wife, Mary, are in the first car. Further, Mary is injured so badly that three years later she is catatonic.
  • Mercy Kill: In "The Garveys at Their Best", Garvey shoots a deer that was still alive after being run down by a car.
  • Missing Mom: Garvey's wife joined the Guilty Remnant for whatever reason, giving their activities a personal edge for him.
  • Mood Dissonance: Called out in the pilot over the term "Heroes Day" for memorializing the departed.
    Councillor: I still don't think they were heroes. My brother-in-law disappeared, and he was a dipshit.
    (later)
    Matt Jamison: It wasn't the Rapture! They were no better than us! I have proof! Free of charge! (waves papers) She beat her children! She beat her children! Does that sound like a good person to you?
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers often play up certain shots which have a supernatural air to them, only for the actual scenes to end up far more mundane.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Because Matt stopped to help a member of the GR who is hit with a rock, he ended up losing his church to the very GR
  • No Name Given: The Dog Killer goes unnamed for many episodes and is implied to be a supernatural being for a while but it's eventually established that he's just a crazy man named Dean.
  • Not So Stoic: In the first season, members of the Guilty Remnant occasionally break their code of silence under extreme duress:
    • Gladys pleads for mercy as she's stoned, even though Patti claims that she was "okay with" being killed.
    • It takes a few false starts before Meg fully commits to remaining silent.
    • Even Laurie breaks her iron silence when Jill gets trapped in the burning GR headquarters. She whimpers while being dragged out of the house, then screams "Jill!" at her husband to get him to rescue her.
  • Numerological Motif: Season three focuses on 7 and multiples thereof, mainly a prediction that the seventh anniversary of the Departure will see something like it happen again.
  • Offscreen Villain Dark Matter: The Guilty Remnant devotes all its resources to their goal of reminding people of the Great Departure, yet are somehow able to bankroll their nationwide operations with little to no trouble, which includes buying up property whenever they can. In particular, they're able to afford a truckload of corpse dolls made up to look like Mapleton's Departed residents. Each one of these things has a $40,000 price tag, and Mapleton has 100 Departed. Even if one charitably assumes the truck only has the two dozen or so shown, that's still nearly half a million dollars they blew on a stunt.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Nora to the partying convention-goers. They refer to her by her temporary name badge "Guest" and she never sets them straight.
  • Only the Knowledgable May Pass: In "No Room At The Inn," when Matt beseeches a fellow devout Christian for money in the camp outside Miracle (to bribe a coyote to smuggle him back in), she quizzes him on his scripture:
    Woman: What's your favorite book? Of the Bible.
    Matt: Job.
    Woman: What's his wife's name?
    Matt: She isn't named. And she speaks only once. "Does thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God and die."
  • Out of Focus: Tom and Jill are barely present in Season 3.
  • Perma-Stubble: Throughout the first season, Kevin maintains a week's worth of stubble at all times, even though he's a cop. It's a Beard of Sorrow rather than a fashion statement, since his family life has left him a real mess.
  • Platonic Prostitution: Nora hires prostitutes to shoot her while she's wearing a bullet-proof vest.
  • Police Are Useless:
    • In the season 1 finale, the Guilty Remnant causes a riot throughout Mapleton by placing mannequins of the Departed in their loved ones' homes and the entire town is laid to waste, as no law enforcement comes to its aid because they're all sick of dealing with Departure cults. The shit hits the fan in similar fashion in the season 2 finale, but this time the Jarden police are simply hopelessly ill-equipped to deal with the calamity.
    • Early in season 2, Kevin confesses his role in Patti's death. The police tell him they simply don't care whether or not it happened as he described for the same reason as above.
    • In the season 2 finale the Guilty Remnant lead a raid into the fortified town of Jarden. The non-members rampage through the city into the night, while the GR establish a base in the town's museum. There seems to be little resistance and no government crackdown in response. That is until the season 3 premiere (see There Is No Kill Like Overkill).
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • The nurse doesn't out-and-out tell Matt he's been Asleep for Days, and is instead being vague because the plot demands it for Rule of Drama.
    • Season 2 notably averts the trope, with Kevin and Nora sitting down to air out all their darkest secrets to each other, which helps them cope, at least in the short term.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: Laurie knows enough about Judas to compare herself to him, but didn't know he killed himself.
  • Precision F-Strike: Even by the show's standards, Meg's outburst to Matt in "Cairo" is notable. As is Jill replying to Michael asking her not to swear in the church they're in at the time ("A Most Powerful Adversary") by cursing even louder ("Fuck! FUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!")... and then commenting on the lack of lightning bolts.
  • Professional Killer: Kevin plays the part in "International Assassin."
  • Quirky Town: The town of Jarden, Texas, is the only place where there were no departures. As such, the people there tolerate a bunch of weird behavior (such as the guy who regularly slaughters goats in front of people) because they believe this weirdness protected them.
  • Rage Breaking Point: In a Call-Back all the way to the pilot, Garvey mentioned that people are ready to explode. The Guilty Remnant pull a stunt in the finale that finally pushes them over the edge, resulting in a full-blown riot against the GR.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Matt leaving the casino alone with a large bag of cash. He's quickly accosted by a thug who watched him leave.
    • In season 2, the Guilty Remnant staged a MASSIVE invasion of the town of Jarden, Texas. This led to serious civil unrest as droves of unsanctioned civilians came in with them and proceeded to loot and commit general anarchy. In response to this domestic terrorism, ATFEC launches a drone strike on the visitor's center where the GR is holed up, wiping them all out in an instant.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Nora's method of dealing with the grief and guilt over losing her entire family to the Sudden Departure is to hire prostitutes to shoot her in the chest. Granted, she's wearing a bulletproof vest and lands on a mattress, but it's implied that most, if not all, of the hookers refuse to come back for a second go-round.
  • Red Herring: In the Distant Finale, Nora goes into the device that is supposed to send her to where the Departed went. She's next seen many years later in Australia, where Kevin locates her and claims that they've spoken to each other once. All of this teases the idea that Nora has been sent to an alternate dimension where her relationship with Kevin is different. Later, it's revealed that no, they're in the same dimension and Kevin is just trying to "start over." Nora does, however,' claim to have returned from an alternate dimension.
  • Replaced the Theme Tune:
    • Season two has completely different opening sequence and song from season one.
    • Episodes 2 through 7 of Season three have a piece of music relevant to the episode playing over season two's intro sequence, including, in a twist on this trope, the original theme music.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Why did the Departures happen? Where did the people go? The series finale has Nora claim that she visited an alternate dimension of the Earth where only the Departed people are still there. Whether this is true or just a story she tells herself is left ambiguous.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Christine abandons Tommy and her newborn daughter when she learns that she is not Wayne's only 'Special' girl.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: A subplot in "B.J. and the A.C." has Garvey trying to find a stolen baby Jesus from a nativity scene. He is initially told to just buy a replacement and scruff it up a bit, but since his daughter called that cheating (and is responsible for stealing it), he instead intimidates her friends into returning it. When he tries to put it back, Matt Jamison has beat him to the punch, replacing the cheap toy store doll with a superior version he had lying around. Garvey just chucks the doll out his window on the way home.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: The Frost twins, often used to provide some comic relief, are absent from the last few episodes of the first season. Aimee, too, after a fight with Jill.
  • Silent Credits: With "The Garveys at Their Best," which ends with the Departure - the final shot is Laurie's stunned reaction to seeing that her unborn child, which she'd just seen via ultrasound, has vanished. To maintain the mood, even the Warner Bros. Television logo is silent, with the only sound accompanying the "TV switching off" Home Box Office logo at the very end.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Just about everybody is potty-mouthed (Patti to Kevin Garvey in "Cairo": "Am I still a 'fat, heartless cunt'?"), but the mayor in particular seems unable to utter a sentence without an f-bomb.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Meg, who kills herself in the novel.
    • She dies in the first episode of Season 3 though, subverting this trope.
  • Stay with Me Until I Die: Wayne asks this of Garvey, even getting him to humor a last request where he grants a wish. Though Wayne suspects that he's a fraud rather than a Messiah, if Garvey's wish comes true, at least that will be real.
  • Stacy's Mom: Aimee seems to have a bit of a crush on Mr. Garvey. During an argument, Jill openly accuses her of sleeping with him.
  • Stepford Smiler:
    • "The Garveys at Their Best" reveals that Mapleton was full of them before the Departure.
      • Kevin seems to have a perfect life, but he's dissatisfied and his marriage has no communication. He takes jogs to smoke cigarettes and brood. Laurie, meanwhile, is hiding her pregnancy from her husband and considering an abortion.
      • Matt is a charismatic and casual figure in public, but he's plagued by health concerns that he cannot share with his wife. Laurie comments that they are very good at covering up their worries.
    • In season two, the Murphys are introduced as a wholesome and loving family. It soon becomes clear that they have serious and unacknowledged dysfunction.
  • Straw Nihilist: The Guilty Remnant. Their Establishing Character Moment is to stand near a prayer vigil for the Departed with boards that read together "STOP WASTING YOUR BREATH!" and they only get nastier from there.
  • Survivor Guilt: Naturally, slews of people who lost loved ones are wracked with this. Most notably, Nora has never gotten over how her last words to her children before they vanished were in anger. It's also what drives the Guilty Remnant.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: At the conference Nora goes to, her name badge is taken by someone else, apparently without having to offer so much as an ID to get it. The thief is then able to break a bar mirror, somehow avoid getting immediately caught so the real Nora is blamed, and then join the conference posing as Nora without security ever noticing. Hotel security is also thoroughly unhelpful, kicking Nora out immediately even though she clearly outlines how someone stole her badge and could easily impersonate her. They do eventually check her story and realize their mistake, and make up for it by comping all her hotel expenses.
  • Taking You with Me: When Susan deliberately drives into oncoming traffic in "Off Ramp," she has her husband and son with her at the time.
  • There Are No Therapists: Seriously, you'd think the profession would be experiencing a major boom in the wake of the Departure. Instead, the only instance of this trope being averted is Garvey being forced to visit the police therapist after he shot all those dogs in the pilot, and the mayor actively encourages him to just tell the therapist what he wants to hear. For an added bit of irony, "The Garveys at Their Best" shows that Laurie was a therapist before joining the Guilty Remnant, and Patti was one of her clients. "Heal thyself," indeed.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: After the Guilty Remnant's stunt in season 2, the government apparently decides they're done with this nonsense and straight up orders a drone strike on the visitor's center they are holed up in.
  • Time Skip: The series frequently skips ahead in time, from months to years.
    • "B.J. and the A.C." has Christine barely a month along in her pregnancy, only for her to give birth in "Solace for Tired Feet", three episodes later. The season finale is set on Memorial Day, about seven months after the pilot.
    • Season 3 picks up almost in the same week as the last episode of season 2... then after the drone strike on the visitor's center jumps ahead three years.
    • The series has a Distant Finale.
  • Title Drop: Several season two episodes have the episode title mentioned in them, like "A Most Powerful Adversary" and "I Live Here Now."
  • Theme Music Withholding: Every episode of Season 3 has a different song playing over the credits, until the finale uses the show's de facto theme song, Iris DeMent's "Let The Mystery Be".
  • This Is the Part Where...: Episode 2 of the first season, Kevin says it to Dennis
  • Took a Level in Badass: Meg in season two. She's just fresh meat for the GR in season one, but by season two has become a confident, manipulative schemer and a power player in the GR hierarchy.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass:
    • "B.J. and the A.C." has the Guilty Remnant move up from public harassment to breaking and entering homes and stealing family photographs. This is the first time we see them do something overtly illegal. This is part of a larger operation to make dolls of the Departed individuals in the photographs and set them up in the homes of their families, which causes the entire town to completely lose it and take out all their frustration on the GR.
    • Meg in season two. She goes from a meek and unsure woman looking for answers to a zealous GR member whose methods are extreme even by GR standards.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Jarden, Texas, is a town that had zero departures. It presents itself as a holy community to become a pilgrimage destination and get fat on tourism money. In reality, it's just as dysfunctional as any other town. Perhaps more so.
  • Trailers Always Lie: So as to not spoil the cliffhanger of "A Most Powerful Adversary", or give away the episode's Mind Screw events, trailers for "International Assassin" used clips that mostly consisted of footage from the episodes after it.
  • Trauma Swing: When Matt Jamison goes to unbury the money meant for him in the Garveys' garden, he finds Laurie sitting on the swing set.
  • Turn the Other Cheek: Matt Jamison does this constantly, barring that one instance he beat the crap out of a mugger for trying to take the money he needed to save his church. The Guilty Remnant subscribes to the same philosophy, believing that violence is a sign of weakness, even though they aren't above other morally dubious actions.
  • Vagueness Is Coming:
    • The elder Garvey is not exactly descriptive when explaining what is going on to Kevin. Neither is Patti in the next episode. "The Garveys at Their Best" shows that Patti had this trait prior to the Great Departure as well.
    • Season Three kicks off 2 weeks before the 7th anniversary of the Great Departure. Matt Jamison, his congregation, and many others believe something monumental is going to happen this time around, but no one knows or says what it will be. As it turns out, nothing happens whatsoever, aside from a brief storm.
  • Viewers Are Goldfish: In the first season finale, as the GR sets out to execute their latest stunt, there are several quick flashbacks showing the various set-up phases (picture theft, corpse dolls, clothes), the latter two being only two episodes ago.
  • Viking Funeral: Jill's friends try to egg her into giving the stolen baby Jesus doll one of these. She ultimately can't go through with it, and her friends end up giving the doll to Garvey so he won't arrest them.
  • The Voiceless: The Guilty Remnant forswear speaking and communicate only through writing, though higher-ranking members are apparently allowed to speak whenever they feel it appropriate.
  • Wham Episode: "The Garveys At Their Best" is a Whole Episode Flashback taking place in the last days before the Departure. After 8 episodes spent with these characters, we suddenly see what their lives were like just before the Departure, and it changes or explains a lot about who they are now and why.
  • Wham Line:
    • At the end of "Ten Thirteen," the answer to the question posed:
    Tom: Who are you?
    Evie: (doesn't speak but writes "It doesn't matter" on a notepad, conveying to him (and the viewers) that she and the other (not-so-)"departed" girls are members of The Guilty Remnant)
    • From "Lens":
    Erika to Nora: Your children. You said you lost them. Did they depart, or did they die?
  • Wham Shot: The end of "A Most Powerful Adversary". As Kevin lies dying on the floor, Virgil empties the syringe of adrenaline he promised to rescucitate Kevin with and then blows his own brains out.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: An ongoing problem for Kevin. In "Solace for Tired Feet", Garvey waits in his living room by the radio listening for news of his father, who has escaped from the psych ward. He nods off, has a strange dream with Dean and a dog in a mailbox, then wakes up in bed to find he managed to catch and leash a wild dog in his back yard, apparently with the intent to domesticate it. He also got bit for his trouble, which Aimee helped him bandage. Though he tries to deny it, Aimee figures out pretty quickly that he doesn't remember any of it. What's more concerning is the fact that he was sober at the time, so he ends up blaming it on the pills he was taking. It happens again in "Cairo", with the implication that it's happened several times before, only this time he kidnapped Patti and took her to another city.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Mapleton, New York is fictional, but we learn it's within a few hours drive of Cairo, New York, which does exist.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: "The Garveys at Their Best" is set in the days before the Great Departure, ending at the moment it happened.
  • Wild Teen Party: Jill attends a wild teen party in the pilot featuring pounding club music, flashing colored lights, drinking, drugs, casual sex and even self-mutilation.
  • Ultimate Job Security: Chief Garvey is clearly not emotionally stable at times. He's always seen with a week's worth of stubble, sometimes appears drunk in public, and is frequently bungling police actions. He's also quite young for a police chief with such a large and experienced staff. However, it's never suggested that his job security is at risk. It probably helps that he lives in a small town, his father was the previous chief, and he's tight with the mayor.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Facing the possibility that his church will be sold, Jamison is apparently given signs from God that allow him to win enough money gambling to keep it. As he's on his way to pay the bank, he sees a member of the Guilty Remnant get hit with a very large rock. He tries to call 911, but the guys that threw the first rock come back and hit him with another. He wakes up in the hospital and seems to still have enough time to reach the bank before closing. Only when he reaches the bank does he realize that he's actually three days overdue, and, just to rub salt in the wound, it's the Guilty Remnant that bought his church. He gets to keep his huge surplus of cash though, so his money troubles are over for the time being.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Series/TheLeftovers