Some shows start out great and eventually grow tiresome (Lost). Others start out slow and wind up becoming amazing (The 100). But never, in all my years of watching television, has a show grabbed my interest from episode one and kept me enthralled for every single episode until the finale – until I saw The Leftovers. After only 28 episodes, The Leftovers aired it’s series finale this week, and each of those 28 episodes are quite possibly the best things to have aired on television in the last 20 years.
The premise of the show is quite simple. On October 14, 2011, two percent of the world’s population suddenly vanished. There was no single factor that made someone disappear – people of every age, gender, race, religion and social stature were among the departed. There is no known explanation as to how and why this happened. The show takes place three years after what has become known as The Departure, and focuses on a few select people in Mapleton, New York and how they are coping with what happened.
Kevin Garvey (Theroux), the chief of police, may be in the midst of a psychotic breakdown. He seems to be living a separate life once he goes to sleep, and the line between what is real and what isn’t is beginning to blur. His daughter Jill (Qualley) was the perfect child, but The Departure has caused her to rebel and his son Tom (Zylka) has wound up in a religious group led by someone who claims he can heal people’s mental pain. Nora Durst (Coon) had her husband and two kids vanish during the event, and she has pretty much gone off the deep end. She is paying prostitutes to shoot her and is one small step away from losing it completely. Only with the equally damaged Kevin can she find comfort. Reverend Matt Jamison (Eccleston), Nora’s brother, is losing his parishioners and has a wife at home who is comatose due to an accident during The Departure. Finally there is Laurie Garvey (Brenneman), Kevin’s ex wife, who has joined a cult called the Guilty Remnant. The second and third seasons changed things up somewhat, but I’ll refrain from spoiling them.
Truthfully, there isn’t a single thing about this show that isn’t pure perfection, but there are a few aspects that stick out above the others. First, there is The Guilty Remnant. This cult of non-speaking, chain smoking people seems, at first, to be a way for it’s broken members to cope with their losses. However, they gradually start to show their incredible nasty and hate-fueled side. Their leader, Patti Levin (Dowd), is likely one of the most despicable characters ever created. She’s the type of character you love to hate and hate to love, and her actions are among the most evil I’ve ever seen.
Secondly, The Leftovers has probably the best acting by an ensemble in television history. How this show never won any awards is beyond my comprehension. Each episode tends to be a showcase for one particular character, and each and every one of the actors brings their A-game every single week. Picking a favorite is no easy task, but if I had to choose I’d say Carrie Coon is the best of the best. In a show filled with such damaged characters, she is definitely the stand out. I had never heard of the actress prior to her being on this show, but she quickly became one of my favorites. She (and everyone else) needs to get a new show worthy of her talent.
Finally, and probably the most important, is the relationship between the main characters. They honest to god feel like a real family, a seriously messed up, dysfunctional family. Every single member of this family has a connection with each other, and watching them play out is among the most enjoyable things about the show. The main relationship, especially in the latter seasons, is the one between Kevin and Nora. They prove time and time again that even when things seem good, they really are not OK. They are the glue that holds everything together, and without them, the show would suffer.
By this point, it’s fairly obvious The Leftovers is among my favorite shows of all time, but I wouldn’t be doing my job without telling you that this show is incredibly depressing. If you’re prone to getting emotional during the sad parts in movies, you may have a hard time getting through a single episode. That being said, the show is also VERY darkly funny. It isn’t a comedy by any means, but some things are just so “out there” you cannot help but laugh. There is a very clever Perfect Strangers gag that runs through the entire series that will amuse fans of the classic sitcom.
I also must point out that the show has, in my opinion, the best opening credits scenes in TV history. The first season set the tone with very deep, depressing visuals and music, but the second season switched things up and put a happy, fun tune over some disturbing photos that had people replaced by shadow filled silhouettes. I’ve embedded them here, spoiler free of course:
It truly saddens me that this show has already come to an end, but I’m glad it went out at the top of it’s game. I know that it had one of the smallest viewership on television, a fact that really is disheartening. Do yourself a favor – if the show appears on Netflix, Hulu or any of the other streaming services, watch it. You could easily binge through it in a week or so, and it could very well be among the best decisions you’ll ever make. I offer my personal guarantee that you will love it.
FINAL REVIEW: A+