Tom Perrotta’s The Leftovers explores what would happen if a Biblical rapture occurred in modern-day society, focusing on various characters’ reactions after their loved ones disappear seemingly without any explanation. And while the book is strange in its own right, it’s nothing completely out of the ordinary. It follows a handful of characters as they attempt to cope with their grief, and it explores how groups of people deal with the inexplicable.
HBO’s interpretation of The Leftovers is a different beast entirely. It takes Perrotta’s premise and opens the series with the same rapture-like event, but then it turns the original content on its head. It does keep certain elements of Perrotta’s novel, like the Guilty Remnant cult that forms after the Departure, but it takes most of what it keeps to new levels. And frankly, while Perrotta’s story is an interesting one, HBO’s adaptation is just as good—if not, even better—in spite of all the changes made.
The Leftovers television series takes Perrotta’s eccentric characters and turns the knob all the way up, making many of them so outlandish that it’s difficult to tear your eyes away from the screen. This is especially true of Justin Theroux’s Kevin Garvey, the focal point of the show, who can barely tell the difference between illusion and reality.
The adaptation also takes the various storylines further than the book does, namely because the series is three seasons long. The Guilty Remnant plays a much larger role in the show, with its influence continuing well into the final season. And Nora’s storyline, which is similar to its book counterpart in many ways, carries her story farther forward—expanding upon her search for answers, even if it’s unclear whether she ever finds them.