After this show’s second season finale, I found myself feeling that I had just finished one of the best seasons of TV I’ve ever seen. And upon hearing that that The Leftovers was renewed for a third and final season, I wanted to tell as many people to hop on this show as soon as possible. HBO has done an amazing job producing this show, and it’s worthy of a huge fan base thanks to its character focused story, great acting, and amazing writing. Unfortunately, it just hasn’t gathered the fan base that it truly deserves. So I’m going to give the best reasons that you should put The Leftovers on your watch list.
If you haven’t heard of this show, The Leftovers based on the book by Tom Perrota about a strange occurrence that caused two percent of the world’s population to simply disappear, leaving everyone else trying to figure out what happened as they deal with their grief. It focuses mainly on a cop, his family, and their acquaintances, as they deal with a cult that has taken over the town, their own personal struggles, and the mysterious occurrences that have happened after “The Departure”. Think an HBO version of Left Behind with a lot of bad language, violence, and sex and that should give you a good idea of what it’s like. And even though Left Behind used the rapture concept first, they never really delved into the lasting effect that this would take on a person who lost someone this way. And unlike Left Behind, they never answer what caused the disappearances and leave it up to the audience to decide what happened. Instead, they just focus on how people would handle this and how the world reacts as a whole, which I find much more interesting.
From the beginning, the show was blamed for being depressing and not easily accessible, landing it in the “misery porn” category. So I completely understand when some people say they can’t make it through an episode. But while this show can be depressing, in a world where Game of Thrones (a show that kills every character you love) reigns supreme, I don’t think this show is that hard to watch. But you’re probably wondering why I’m recommending this show if it seems like all people do on this show is walk around grieving and it’s depressing to watch. But where this show shines is in the fantastic drama it builds around the characters, along with the new mysteries that demand to be solved with each new episode. It’s addicting to say the least. A lot of the drama is raised from small things like family problems, to big things like mental illness and dealing with dangerous cults. All the while it seems like supernatural things are occurring around town, causing people to react in strange and unpredictable ways, which all add up to a great climax during the first season finale. And going into the second season, they added interesting twists with where the story goes, by introducing a new town that didn’t experience any disappearances and allowing some great things for the characters to get themselves into by moving there.
The acting in this show is phenomenal. From Justin Theroux’s Kevin Garvey to Carrie Coon’s Nora Durst, they really give it their all. These are incredibly hard roles to pull off due to the material. The actors have to run with their emotions on high in almost every scene, showing just how lost, angry, and confused they would be in these situations. Especially in Theroux’s (American Psycho, Mulholland Drive) case, since most of the season revolves around him and his issues, he has to at both times be tough and vulnerable, being just accessible enough for us to care for him but unpredictable enough to never know what he’ll do next. One of my favorite actors on this show is Carrie Coon (Gone Girl). Playing a woman who lost her entire family during “The Departure” she has to come across as broken and unstable, but still tough enough to make it through her everyday life, eventually finding her own way and making a great addition to the plot as a whole. Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who) is also great as a preacher that is struggling with his faith after being left behind and navigating his character throughout his anger and confusion as well. The supporting cast is also amazing, with every cast member bringing their A game in every episode. These are very complex characters and every actor does an excellent job portraying all the layers that their characters have. Since this is mainly a character study, the show lives or dies on these performances, and they more than deliver. And while the characters can be hard to engage with at first, the more time you spend getting to know them, you start to see the cracks and vulnerability behind their tough exterior, and once you start seeing that, it’s hard to not care for them, despite their many issues.
3. Show Runners
Starting off, there were a lot of worries about whether or not this show would be any good due to the fact that Damon Lindeloff, the man behind much of the frustration surrounding Lost, would pull his old tricks and focus more on the mystery than the answers once again. And even though there are many unanswered questions surrounding the show, he and his other showrunners have done a tremendous job balancing the mystery and answers, keeping the characters interesting and sympathetic, and ultimately keeping the show mesmerizing and unpredictable. Along with great direction from people like Mimi Leder, Keith Gordan, and Peter Berg, who all bring a different, yet interesting style to the show by their camerawork, pacing, and overall feel, it has been great watching these people shine behind the scenes.
4. The Mystery/ Fan Interaction
Much like Lost and True Detective, it’s a lot of fun trying to figure out what will happen next on the show and attempting to figure out the mystery before it happens. And with shows like this, that are tightly wrapped in questions and unpredictability, it’s so much fun to listen to people spit out wild fan theories of where the story will go, what motivations the characters have to explain their actions, or who will die in the next episode. It’s also very rewarding to come up with theories yourself and finding you were right all along. And since the showrunners have come out and said that the main mystery of where the people that disappeared went to will never be answered, it’s even more fuel to add to the fire of what people will come up with. There were a lot of forums and subreddits dedicated to fans trying to figure the show out ahead of time, and well as trying to figure out what the previous episode meant, if they found it confusing. For me, I listened to Bald Move’s coverage of the show on their Leftovers podcast. It was really fun to listen to them explain the shows more confusing moments, as well as sharing fan theories that they thought were worth paying attention to.
5. High Risks/ Great Rewards
One great thing about this show is that it never plays it safe. From starting off the new season in a brand new location, along with starting the first episode with an all new cast, it takes risks that pay off in spades by bringing great new characters to the table and setting up an amazing new plot, including a possible second departure and Kevin Garvey being haunted by an old enemy. It makes for really exciting moments and always kept me on the edge of my seat as I waited for the next twist. The choices made in the first season were pretty risky, like the dour tone or multiple unreliable narrators, but season two pulled out all the stops with this, and my jaw continually dropped at the end of every episode due to its wild turns. The twists that the show-runners came up with, as well as strange places that they took the story, always kept the show feeling unpredictable but never felt like it was flying off the rails at any point.
So hopefully this convinced you to watch The Leftovers and enjoy it as one of the best shows on TV right now. I kept it very vague since anything I would say concerning the plot would spoil most of it for you, so definitely check this show out. Yes, it can be very challenging at times, but the emotional payoffs you get are some of the most rewarding I’ve ever received from any TV show in recent memory. It’s only available through HBO but luckily the first season’s box set was just released, and if you have HBO Go or Now, the first two seasons are ready and available to watch.