Although HBO is famous for shows such as "Game of Thrones" and "True Blood" that overflow with sex scenes and bloodshed, the network's latest series, "The Leftovers," is centered on more religious themes.
The premiere episode introduced viewers to a world recovering from a rapture-like event. The Washington Post reported, "Unlike many other shows, which hold out ambiguity and flexibility as the highest marks of ethical sophistication," the show brings "conventional morality back to cable."
"When two percent of the world's population disappears without explanation, the world struggles to come to terms with what happened," HBO's Web site explains. Set three years after the disappearance, "The Leftovers" tells "the story of the people who didn't make the cut."
Based on the novel of the same name by Tom Perrotta, the series does not directly link the disappearance of millions of people to the rapture — the belief held by some Christians that righteous people will disappear from the sinful earth on a day of judgment. However, "the disappearance is mostly attributed to some kind of religious event, and the show deals with how life might be afterward for those left behind — with all the grief, guilt and confusion that something like that would entail," Time reported.
The Washington Post highlighted the show's ability to make viewers live in the mystery and pain of the sudden departure. "In 'The Leftovers,' there is nothing to distract the survivors, or us, from the absence of those 140 million gone. There are no battles to fight, palace intrigues to circumvent or serial killers to grapple with. There is only life, but with holes in it, hours once spent with other people that now need to be filled."
It's "a profoundly moral show, one in which doing right is valuable, but where the path to goodness if full of great pain and confusion," the Post's Alyssa Rosenberg explained.
Christianity Today reported that, while the show doesn't rely on religious narratives, it "touches very deeply at the heart of far more religious questions." The article refers to the disappearance as "merely a plot placeholder. It's a sort of science-fiction choice that stands in for something more real, something that haunts us nearly every day: how do we cope when bad things happen for no reason?"
For readers unfamiliar with the Christian rapture, Time offered an overview of the elements of the concept that can be traced to biblical passages.
"The word 'rapture' isn't used in the Holy Bible, but the idea of Judgment Day appears in all the canonical gospels.…The idea that the godly would be 'raptured,' or literally sucked into the air to meet Christ, was reportedly popularized by …John Nelson Darby in the 1830s after a Scottish teenager had visions of Christ's return," Time's Dan Stewart wrote.
Part of the mystery of the disappearance in "The Leftovers" is the apparent sinfulness of some of the missing people. "Babies, lawyers, drunks, thieves, surgeons, murderers, grandmothers, bartenders, celebrities and even the pope are gone," The New York Times reported.
Although nine more episodes remain of the new series, reviewers are generally optimistic about where "The Leftovers" is headed. The season premiere of "The Leftovers" is available for free on Yahoo Screen.
However, as Christianity Today noted, potential viewers should be aware of mature content, including brief male and female nudity, teenagers using drugs and profanity.