Why You Should Give the Leftovers a Chance

Photo Courtesy of HBO.

When seeing HBO’s big bold letters and the accompanying sizzling sound, most people think about Game of Thrones or The Wire. Despite strong critical acclaim, The Leftovers is unknown to many or forgotten by some amid a rainfall of newborn series. Created by Lost’s Damon Lindelof and The Leftovers’ author, Tom Perrotta, the show takes place in the small town of Mapleton, NY, after a worldwide cataclysm devastated the global population. Known as “The Sudden Departure,” 2% of the global population simply vanish, leaving behind loved ones as the broken pieces of bygone puzzles. The Leftovers sadly obtained neither the success or the love it deserved through its smart writing, impactful performances and moving reflection on loss – here’s why you should give this criminally underrated show a chance.

2% of the global population simply vanish, leaving behind loved ones as the broken pieces of bygone puzzles

The Leftovers centres on Kevin Garvey, Mapleton’s sheriff, who, like many, was directly affected by the global departure. However, the show also follows a large gallery of fully fleshed-out characters, who were all touched differently by the cataclysm and try to grasp loss in their own specific ways. Their storylines intersect and diverge as they attempt to put themselves back together in a moving spectacle of human drama. This is where the show is at its finest – the scenario, like its characters, quickly abandons the pointless search for explanations about the origins of the departure and focuses on how the remnants cope with the situation. While the whereabouts of the departed are eventually revealed, The Leftovers is worth watching for its deep reflection on loss, grief and pain.

The weighty themes of the show might explain its low ratings. Despite some lighter moments, The Leftovers is an impactful and moving drama about broken people learning to let go and move on with their lives. If you are looking for the latest sitcom or a brainless and action-packed series, move along, because The Leftovers is an emotional and melancholic dive into the human psyche and how one may react in such circumstances. The show is both touching and impactful largely thanks to the excellent acting – in particular Carrie Coon’s portrayal of a mother who lost her entire family from the departure, one of the most touching and poignant performances of the small screen’s history. Her evolution throughout the series as a victim of a situation whose odds are one in 125,000 is both relatable and extremely well-told. The Leftovers has, however, sadly been continuously snubbed at award ceremonies, receiving only one Emmy nod throughout its three seasons, further restraining it from gaining mass success.

If you are looking for the latest sitcom or a brainless and action-packed series, move along, because The Leftovers is an emotional and melancholic dive into the human psyche and how one may react in such circumstances.

One of the show’s strongest points is its gritty and credible depiction of the fallout of the cataclysm – some people have forgotten and found peace, while others continue looking back. For many, The Sudden Departure was a godly punishment for all the wrongs humanity had ever done. The Leftovers’ meditation on religion is embodied by one of the characters, a priest whose wife was rendered catatonic in a car accident on the day of the cataclysm and has turned to God for answers ever since. Religious beliefs are a substantial aspect of The Leftovers – for example, the city of Miracle, the only place where no departures occurred, becomes both a spiritual sanctuary and a tourist destination. The Departure also caused the creation of cults: The Guilty Remnants are self-proclaimed “Living Reminders” of the cataclysm, restraining the remnants from forgetting what happened. The smart storytelling contributes in making The Leftovers’ world a fascinating rendition of a broken and devastated global population and solely justifies going through its three seasons.

Despite its serious themes, The Leftovers is far from being a boring, utterly tearful or falsely intellectual reflection on the human psyche in times of crisis. The show still manages to hold viewers on the edge of their seats during more intense scenes and emotionally impactful moments. Furthermore, the credible world does not imply extreme realism – The Leftovers does not hesitate to continue in the path of its central cataclysm and turn to the supernatural. Over the course of its three seasons, the series gradually falls into more bizarre dimensions, like its characters, as the world they evolve in slowly collapses. This fall into madness could have felt out of place, but the graceful storytelling saves the day, allowing for a fascinating journey through pain and relief. While the specific events won’t be spoiled here, be aware that The Leftovers is one of the most singular and unique shows you could dedicate your weeknights to – it’s a well-balanced mix between mystery and psychological drama, that will stay on your mind long after the series finale.

However, The Leftovers does have its faults. While some episodes are impactful tours-de-force, the show has its lengthy moments, especially during its last season. The series was meant to continue but ended prematurely due to low viewership. Lindelof was therefore forced to cramp what was supposed to be the finale in a set of eight episodes. Even though The Leftovers’ ending does provide some sort of closure, knowing that it could have been so much more only brings further frustration and deception. Some might appreciate the series finale, but it unfortunately does not live up to the quality of the rest of the show.

Despite its lengthy bits and an underwhelming finale, The Leftovers could be considered one of the best shows that nobody’s watching. Its meditation on loss, religion and pain is both subtle and moving, delivering one of the most impactful drama series in recent years. While not offering groundbreaking novelty, the show is still unique enough to feel refreshing, mainly thanks to its singular balance between gritty realism and supernatural dimensions. If you’re looking for quality TV, The Leftovers’ plot, supported by poignant performances and smart reflections, might be exactly what you need.

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