In The Leftovers, based on the novel by Tom Perrotta and developed by Damon Lindelof (Lost, Prometheus) a mysterious, a event has occurred making 2% of the world’s population disappear. Both the Perrotta and Lindelof have said here and here have said it isn’t about the mystery but about how the characters react and change to it.
That’s well and good but it isn’t the kind of storytelling for me. I need both, character development and answers to the mystery. The whole point of even having a mystery in a story is to eventually answer it. What Lindelof loves doing instead is using the mystery in order to explore his pseudo philosophy about the meaning of life, a mystery that he cannot answer. I already have a story like that, we all do, it’s called life and I am not looking for the ambiguity of life in the stories I consume. The problem I have with his style of writing is either he doesn’t answer the question or the answers he provides are so anti-climactic (Lost & Prometheus) that I am left feeling like I wasted my time. The fear of their time being wasted, in my personal opinion, is why people hate spoilers. When you spoil a story for someone you’ve essentially taken the joy of discovery away from them thus watching, reading, listening to it is now a waste of time. With Lindelof everything I have watched by him makes me feel like I’ve wasted my time because his character development doesn’t connect with me, his protagonist often coming off unlikable, ineffectual and his answers are either not there or disappointing.
Modern mystery and thriller novels have the opposite problem. All the stories has is answers, answers I’ve usually figured out early into the book. Without the character development in their protagonist the journey to the answers I already guessed isn’t very interesting to me.
Plus, what I don’t understand is what does that character development even mean if there is no resolution or a poor one? What makes it matter? That’s not what interests Lindelof as a writer. So I am not interested in his writing and I am not going to waste my time with The Leftovers.