The Leftovers Season Two has just ended, and with the sad note that this could potentially be the end of this amazing piece of entertainment I desperately yearn to spread the word of how great this show is. It has been my never ending crusade to try to get anyone and everyone to watch this mind-boggling television program. Trying to explain why The Leftovers is so great is along the lines of trying to explain to a deaf person why the Jeff Buckley's rendition of Hallelujah is so moving, or to a blind person why the sunset is taking your breath away. The Leftovers just came together so beautifully in season two that words don't really do it justice, but I will try. This is my love letter to the The Leftovers, especially its sophomore season, and Damon Lindelof, showrunner and writer of the show. Before we go any further, lets talk about plot. As this is spoiler free, because this article is for those who I desperately want to watch the show but haven't yet, I will be vague. HBO's The Leftovers, as a whole, is about a world wide event that causes two percent of the world's population to suddenly vanish. The first season is set three years after the fact in a small town of Mapleton New York as cults, holy people, and mysteries are popping out of the woodwork. Our second season begins in another small town called Jarden, Texas where something beyond miraculous has happened.
There is a gazillion reason why the The Leftovers, particularly its second season, is so special: the poignant and often playful music, high production design and brilliant cinematography, the seamless editing, the bold stripped down storytelling with intricate interwoven plot lines, and carefully crafted tone. If I had to choose one aspect to talk about - as I don't want to bore a reader who just needs to know this show is utterly fantastic – it is the acting. I can legitimately see every actor in the show being nominated in the next Emmys, if not winning. Carrie Coon, Regina King, Anne Dowd, Kevin Carroll, Christopher Eccleston, Steven Williams. . . (I can't name them all!); but all you need do is watch the show and know exactly what I am talking about. Some of the most nuanced, and off-the-wall brilliant, stunning feats of acting are put on display here.
The best of the lot in my estimation is Justin Theroux playing the lead of our show Kevin Garvey. At first there were doubts, even on my part, on whether this show could be held together by him at the beginning of season one (admittedly the first five-ish episodes, while compelling, are a slight slog before diving into some of the greatest television of last year). At the surface he seems like a stereotypical, gruff, good guy cop who is following events as they're happening. As the series progresses though we begin to see that there is so much more there, or at least we begin to understand, as Justin Theroux is given opportunities to blow our minds with his acting chops. Few actors I personally have ever seen in the history of television have channeled such deep emotions and have been part of a more developed and rewarding character arc (Walter White from Breaking Bad does come to mind). To be vague, but still pinpoint what I am talking about, there is a scene next to a well in season two which precisely shows why he is one of the most undervalued commodities working in entertainment today. His passive aggressive subtlety to his earnest confusion, heart break, and even humor combine so elegantly to leave a performance for the ages. Just a flicker of the eyes suggest to what is going on, before the hammer drops and our hearts are left in shreds. . . or made whole. I guess it is up for you to find out.
The Leftovers, more than any other TV Show I have ever watched, has hit me at the epicenter of my being and left me forever changed. When it cuts deep - into issues of grief, existentialism, spirituality and how to cope with loss - it goes for the kill. Everything is so stunningly executed, that it gets one to wonder why one hasn't seen television like this – at least on this level – ever before. Upon reflection, my best guess is that people don't want to be reminded why it hurts. The world is already is such a dark place. The Leftovers mirrors this, but in doing so it also knows that there is a light and hope in our world. We see glimpses of this as the light sparkles through the window in this ethereal type of beauty, but just as soon as it can come, it departs. That is what our show is about: how these nonsensical moments of sheer joy can just as senselessly be taken from us, and it is up for us to decide how to cope. Some turn to different facets of religion and spirituality; others take the alternate route. Whatever route you take though, these issues will still face you. The Leftovers is a living reminder of that, and is the reason that TV or any narrative in the visual world can transcend into something beyond art to something gut-wrenchingly real.