REVIEW: HBO’s ‘The Leftovers’ Departs with Greatness

If you’re not watching HBO’s The Leftovers, then you’re missing out.

In the age where a show’s capacity to generate a need and desire for fans to theorize about its plot and its themes makes or breaks its success, The Leftovers is THE show to strike up meaningful debate. Set in a reality where 2% of the world’s population has just vanished into thin air for no apparent reason, The Leftovers poses some extremely interesting questions: what if something rapture-like did happen? Following those who left would have made for a much different — and, I’d argue, less interesting — story than focusing on the ones left on Earth, wondering why they weren’t taken but their spouses and children were and leads to even bleaker questions, like: How do you move on from something like that? What if it happens again, and you’re left behind twice? In a world where the impossible has happened, anything short of a miracle can happen, and though the apex event seems unfathomable, the emotional carnage left from it is so very tangible.

We pick up seven years after the Sudden Departure in Jarden, Texas, where Kevin (Justin Theroux), Nora (Carrie Coon), Matt (Christopher Eccleston), Lauri (Amy Brenneman), John (Kevin Carroll), Michael (Jovan Adepo) and Erika (Regina King) have seemingly found ways to cope and move on with the help and love of each other, but things aren’t quite as peachy as they seem. The whole season struggles with the push and pull of our characters seeing exactly what they want — nay, need — to see to survive the helpless feeling of being left behind with no answers. After watching all but the series finale (which was withheld by HBO for screening purposes), a lot of questions remain but a few have been answered, and at the very least, my overall interpretation of the moral of this story has finally come into focus. Season three makes it blindingly clear we’re not to question the weight of religion as a whole but how mankind uses religion to cope and survive — a deafening examination of our current social climate.

Showrunner Damon Lindelof (Lost) has said in the past that we’ll never find out where the vanished people went — an actual Biblical Rapture has already been debunked within the show — so there is more than enough opportunity for the audience to make its own interpretation. Heading into its final season, The Leftovers is still extremely underrated and is undeniably a cornerstone of the thinkpiece-style TV show. It’s a shame it only lasted for three seasons but in a way, it seems it’s sudden departure may be just what it needed to save such a stunningly orchestrated show from itself.

The Leftovers premieres Sunday, April 16 at 9pm ET on HBO. 

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