Most television shows have an underlying theme driving the plot forward. As fans watch the series, they will try to discern what it is. Producers as clever as Damon Lindelof know how to trick an audience into expecting a theme to prevail, only to overthrow their anticipation. That is what viewers experienced during The Leftovers.
The Leftovers is centralized by this event known as the Great Departure. Millions of people suddenly disappeared. The rest of the world went crazy as it tried to figure out what happened to them.
Throughout the first season, there were several episodes with deeply religious implications. Characters were hounded by the question of where their loved ones went. There were a few not-so-subtle debates between reporters. Some would represent the secular perspective as they suggested that the Great Departure was arbitrary. Others represented the religious perspective as they said it was God’s will. Interestingly, the answer to this question was what drove the plot forward.
Kevin As The Messiah
Kevin Garvey was the main character in the show. He experienced some pretty incredible things, such as rising from the dead and going to purgatory. This drove other characters to believe that he was a messiah-like figure. One of the characters even began writing Scripture about Garvey. Their beliefs eventually led them to Australia on what they believed to be a divinely inspired mission.
David Burton Changed Everything
The writers let this characters tell this story of Kevin as the messiah. But in the latter episodes of the season, one of the characters encountered man who claimed to be God. His name was David Burton. Perhaps the most compelling evidence of his testimony was his resurrection from the dead. As part of his claim to divinity, Burton also believed that he could not die. That was pretty persuasive until he was eaten alive by a lion.
This compromised the characters’ belief that Kevin Garvey was the messiah. They were hanging the entire case on his resurrections. But David Burton also rose from the dead. The message of the Leftovers seems to be that crazy things just happen in the world. It does not necessitate divine intervention. Therefore, the Great Departure was an arbitrary event. A few of the characters realized this in the end.
That is probably why the finale took place decades later, essentially leaving the story of Kevin’s role as the messiah unfinished. It had no conclusion because Kevin was not the messiah. Arbitrary events just happened. There is no meaning in the Leftovers world.