If AMC marked the first decade of the 2000s with its products, the second saw HBO win the podium of absolute protagonist. Captivating and always winning productions, from game of Thrones a Westworld, what passes through Real detective, beat the competition to the sound of the works. An enormous amount of ideas and material, of stories and tales that have entered the collective imagination with pride. In the great explosion of the television medium, especially in our country, however, the opposite phenomenon has occurred: large-scale foreign productions, even considered futuristic, have ended up being overshadowed by more sonorous or popular products.
The case analyzed today refers to an HBO flagship project, which in the 2014-2017 triennium has left an indelible mark in the recent history of television series. An original production inspired by a Tom Perrotta novel and shaped by the mind of Damon Lindelof, creator of Lost alongside JJ Abrams and recently hailed for the success of Watchmen. The remains, as the series is called, has achieved the delicate intention of impacting viewers like never before, bringing to light an original story about the meaning of loss and the mysteries of the unpredictable.
The show, which has a total of 28 episodes divided into 3 seasons, chronicles the aftermath of an unprecedented event that occurred on October 14, 2010 known as the Department: Two percent of the world’s population vanishes into thin air in a completely inexplicable way, leaving anyone who has managed to “survive” in awe and lost. Faced with a phenomenon that escapes the limits of reality and puts any rational logic to the test, how would the human being react?
The courage to dare
Strengthened by the experience and legacy left by Lost, Lindelof has focused his attention on investigating the disturbance of the human soul without compromising on viewers. The remains therefore, it is the result of a complex analysis designed to explore the mysteries of the mind and the mechanisms for overcoming (or accepting) loss. The play is not meant to be complete, but profound: To reach the desired level, the show must shape ideas, not give answers. As life does. Faced with characters almost totally devoid of meaning, pseudo-religious cults and events at the limit of what is possible, it is immediately clear that the intention of the work is aim to believe – or rather, decide to believe – what is observed. More specifically, trust what the characters are saying.
For those who try to analyze this work, it would be difficult to mechanically deepen the sequence of scenes and episodes without including a subjective component. Being universally exhaustive becomes impossible or ineffective in the face of the series’ introspective force. Start point Therefore, the structure and refinement of the themes should be looked for, not in the evaluation of their actual development..
Already on its premise, The remains stands out because it aims to dialogue with the viewer from inside: the tale of the sad people desperate for an answer that does not condemn them to feel surplus plays everything on the communicative power and on the original methods that penetrate the observer’s psyche.
Facing the unimaginable
The events of October 14 mark not only the beginning of the series, but also the turning point between the ordinary world known to all and the dystopia that in The remains frames the events. Each individual, whether he likes it or not, is forced to find new mental schemes that allow him to face something so unthinkable. Faced with the daily routine of life, man develops mechanisms dictated by pre-established laws, paths to follow assiduously according to each situation.
But what happens when neither route seems viable? Everyone seeks their own answer, the way to face the unimaginable before falling prey to pain and oblivion. Hence the first question addressed to the viewer: would it be possible to remain rational in a world without answers? Historically, man has always tried to make sense of his own existence: in the face of experiences or the novelty of events, even the most useless or most fallacious answer would suffice to fill the void of uncertainty. Yet precisely in the face of the unknown, the primordial fear that existence is only chance returns to terrify him.
The human being becomes obsessed, tries to act or interpret the signs, to control his own destiny or his world. Although he is convinced that it will never be possible to do it completely, he cannot do without it. And this is precisely the engine that pushes the characters of the series towards the most absurd and disparate paths: a kind of self-preservation instinct that pushes them to cling to the first thing in which they feel safe. Faced with the observation that any rational choice does not provide adequate answers, the only solution is seek refuge elsewhere. Where the possibility of reflection wavers, the need for faith grows stronger.
True to drift
Therefore, it is not surprising that the unfortunate in this sad reality seek refuge in faith, as, moreover, it has always happened and always has happened in the real world. Whether you look towards God, whether you trust your own identity or your own utopia, the search for balance and your idea of normality represent the blood that moves the soul of men and that often leads them adrift. Lindelof fully understands the link between perception and faith, and for this he inserts complete narrative arcs between the different episodes that refer to Christian, Jewish and Norse mythology.
The greatest stories speak of the contrast between faith and fear, between courage and uncertainty. It is about the eternal search for purification, about the need for absolute forgiveness that frees us from sin. The showrunner bases his story on the idea that, for the characters, I stepped out We have found a place in an unattainable paradise, purgatory is an immense hotel in which to seek redemption and hell is destined for earthly life.
Whether you fantasize about a Messiah returning from the dead, with a Virgil guiding the chosen one through the dark labyrinth of doomed souls, or the existence of another world in which to seek new paths, The remains leads the viewer to synthesize the daring sequence of events as a metaphor for change and acceptance of one’s own condition.
As every believer knows, there may be no end or absolute freedom, just as there may be a way to persevere in spite of everything. The absolute truth of the HBO show is about what each one says to himself: a sense of communion and faith even more essential and foundational than the human being, which nevertheless leaves room for something ineffable. In a sense, the deep feeling of Lindelof’s story can be experienced as a religious feeling, with the choice valued as a real leap of faith.
Fragments of existence compared
Almost all the characters in The remains They seem to lose pieces or try to put them back together, constantly facing each other without hope of exclusion. Perhaps no one is really healthy in the world of the series, but the events experienced by the characters leave no room for doubt: each individual desperately tries to reconstruct the fragments of his own existence through introspection.
With the passing of the episodes, there is a clear feeling that physical presence is a relative factor and that each character experiences the fragments of his own being, transcending the concepts of space and time. Some of them are present, but not seen; others are never present, but their absence becomes more cumbersome than anything else.
The program found a way to perfectly represent and synthesize the concept of existential relativism, showing how distant and fragmented personalities can appear despite physical proximity, and vice versa. The remains Thus he narrates two sensations that each spectator may have experienced at least once in his life. On one side there is the expectation of something greater, the hope of a momentous event not directly related to one’s own will but capable of bringing lasting peace; in the other one, the feeling of loss in overcoming the absence.
Waiting never seems to find a happy ending – no matter how hard you try, aspiration seems destined to remain so. Overcoming absence, in the same way, sees loss erecting a wall that blocks the way to salvation. There Department therefore, it is destined to become an essential constant, a symbol that represents the failures of the man who lives halfway between the perception of destiny and the desire for control, the tangible and omnipresent proof of all the dilemmas linked to existence.
The synthesis of being
If there is something that pays The remains a work out of the ordinary, leaving aside at least in part the topics covered, is the shocking ease with which it manages to engage the viewer: it is an active involvement, which forces us to really think and feel while observing the facts. Lindelof’s merits are numerous, but they stem from the courage with which the author allowed his creature to play with the viewer’s sensitivity, encouraging him to search for his own truths in a world made up of different and subjective interpretations of reality.
But that’s not all: faced with a constantly changing world, where everything is the opposite of everything, Lindelof has shown that nihilism is not the final answer.
The perfect existence, the ideal act of living, coincides with the acceptance of the lack of answers: the answer does not concern the message, but the way in which man relates to its meaning.
There may be hope in the world of The remains? Like ours. The reality is that it is not possible to be sure. Before any question, any dilemma, it is the series itself that responds with a clear and obvious message: the only real condition of the human soul lies in the consciousness of being and, therefore, of living. Counting the absence, with its dynamics and interpretations, it therefore represents the best way to understand how fundamental it is to give value to the present.