The Beautiful, Devastating Leftovers

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The Walking Dead sucks so much. It’s not that it’s a bad zombie show, it’s that it completely misses the point of what it should be. The idea to me of every apocalypse type show isn’t the big event that made it all happen, but how this event affects the people on a personal level and how it messes up every single relationship and sense of normalcy. Sure, zombies are fun and the threat of them is scary, but what really matters is the universal idea of being without your sister, your father, your dog, whatever, who cares, what caused it, forget zombies, how are you dealing with this very real issue of this massive change to every facet of your life?

Enter the goddamn “Leftovers,” the most depressing show ever that I thought, “well, goddamn, I never thought a TV show would entirely get ME, and it kind of sucks when said show is one of the most depressing of all time and what that says about me, but here we are.” See, The Leftovers is a show about 2% of the population disappearing and instead of really focusing on exactly WHY that happened, it’s more concerned with HOLY SHIT, how am I supposed to deal with so-and-so randomly being eliminated from my life. It’s a show that really doesn’t care beyond some brief broad strokes how they got to this point and what could be the mysterious thing that caused everything to happen, but instead the here and now of these people dealing with this very real fallout.

I have upper echelon shows that I always refer to as my favourites, with the idea that nothing currently could touch them and certainly not right away. The Sopranos, The Wire, The Shield, Mad Men and The Simpsons are my big five perfect shows and I thought it would take awhile for something to sit in that company, but what The Leftovers has accomplished so audaciously building in quality season over season and with the absolute masterclass of a finale, it has shot right up there. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been moved and effected by a show like this. Not that there hasn’t been a good bunch of shows since then that I enjoyed, but it weirdly makes me feel alive that there is new art and television still able to be created that makes me feel so much (and it especially a show like this that puts FEEL in all caps) and evokes such emotion out of me like this one.

They only had three seasons and 28 episodes in total, but it was such assured and focused appointment TV that everything was struck with meaning and no note was left wasted. This is a show that literally got better season to season, and sure there’s only three seasons, but I’m remised to think of a show off the top of my head that did it quit like this. Its first season was more concerned traditionally with what you’d think about the show, where it was trying to find out more of the mysteries of what was behind this all, season 2 was delving deeper into these people and their progression beyond what happened and season 3 was about resolution and finding a way to move past things if you can and how it shaped your future life beyond just being defined by this event.

I could go on and on and on, but mainly I wanted to write this because of how perfect the finale was. The Leftovers was in a spot where it could’ve went ANYWHERE for the finale, it could’ve went all supernatural and really honed in on what caused everything, it could’ve just went weirdo insane, but what it ended up doing so beautifully was telling a small love story that played like a foreign film or something. Because at the heart, crux and end of it all, The Leftovers is a love story about Kevin and Norah. The whole hour plus episode was a literal masterclass of acting, emoting and reacting from Carrie Coon and Justin Theroux. I can’t even quantify how good both of them are and I’m going to be pulling my hair out when they don’t get any awards love. What made the finale so good on top of all that is you got the whole base love story/reconciliation angle that shaded in one side of things, and then you got Norah giving the mystery-interested people their answer of her going to the other side where the people on this world disappeared to and delivering the simple yet perfect yet devastating realization that they had their own “Leftovers” event but instead of 2% of their population disappearing they had 98% of theirs disappear to the other side. Norah realized she had no place in that world and came back to her original world. Now watching Carrie Coon deliver her monologue with such conviction it seems so true, and I believe her. But, there are others who believe she made up the whole thing to Kevin and that she did absolutely none of that. I don’t know if there’s an answer and I think it was precisely meant that way for you to interpret the meaning how you will. That’s where the finale works on another level, leaving that dangling thread for people to argue with years later, but nothing too extreme or over the top that it leaves people dissatisfied or missing a piece, just a lynchpin in how two different types of people approach one idea, can there be two truths?

This is basically 1,000 or so words of gushing, but damn am I so happy to do it when it feels like forever since I’ve felt this strongly for a show. I guess in a weird sort of way it’s kind of ironic that this soul-crushingly depressing show has reinvigorated some spirit inside of me, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The Leftovers was a raw nerve of a show and one that wasn’t afraid to get to the rotten core of everyone and reveal said rottenness, but maybe also sparring a few seeds for some future revitalization. It never sacrificed the “real” just because maybe that would make for a more palatable TV show, it bared everything out front and dared you to stick around, because things might suck a lot in the moment, but there’s always that glimmer in the future, another person or an idea that keeps you moving and keeps you alive.