Sunday night, HBO’s great drama The Leftovers departs this television plane. I’ve seen the series finale. It’s a perfectly poignant close to the series. It honors the series by focusing on what ultimately lived in its heart, its wonderful array of vivid characters. Director Mimi Leder frames her characters with gorgeous shots, none of which I will spoil for you here. At the end, The Leftovers ends as an array of beautiful visual poetry. Fans of the series will not leave disappointed. This series is the real deal. A classic for the ages in every sense. 28 episodes. Zero Emmy® nominations. Honestly, I find that appalling.
The Television Academy has the power to change that this year.
The Leftovers emerges from its 3-season run as a shining example of modern drama. It rises above the mass of current television because it offers an unsparing focus on its greatest asset, its characters. Yes, it offers mythology to appease some viewers, but that’s not the point. Options exist for those obsessed with the overall mythology of the Sudden Departure, but as in life, no absolutes emerge. As with religion itself, you take from it what you will. I choose to luxuriate in these fantastic characters.
As I look back over the series, fragments of astoundingly powerful moments flood my vision. Season 3 significantly contributes to that palate. Kevin’s (the great Justin Theroux) baptism in the potentially polluted lake. Kevin and Nora (the great Carrie Coon) discussing parenting after she discovers his self-asphyxiation habit. Kevin Sr. (the great Scott Glenn) performing the aboriginal rites. Nora meeting with The Mark Linn-Baker about a mysterious machine that allows connectivity to those who have gone on. Matt (the great Christopher Eccleston) frantically trying to get to Australia on a sex cruise. The lion mauling a murdered after said sex cruise. Laurie’s (the great Amy Brenneman) entire journey in “Certified,” particularly scuba diving. “Kevin’s” identity verification process as he enters Episode 7’s bunker.
These moments run the gamut of our emotions from bittersweet to funny to incredibly sad. Just like life itself. The series emerges as a poignant take on the human experience set against the backdrop of the Sudden Departure. Yet, it manages to avoid the cloying cliches one imagines with such material. The Leftovers is open, honest, and painfully truthful about who we are as human beings and about what we’re all looking for as we navigate the great unknown of life.
This series isn’t about the Great Departure itself. Rather, it explores how the Great Departure set things into motion that were bubbling beneath the surface of its characters. It touches you and elicits real emotion in honest ways. The characters searched for missed connections immediately following the events of the Great Departure. They kept looking for them well after the event. Kevin, in particular, wanted to recreate a family, a piece missing from his soul. Is that really that different than what any of us in the real world experience?
Because of this and so much more, The Leftovers remains the best drama on television today and will be studied for years to come.
Season 3 received universal critical acclaim. It deserved it completely. Even if you’ve never seen a moment of the show, Season 3 welcomes new viewers. Sure, it wouldn’t be as resonant an experience as if you’d watched the entire series, but it’s not impenetrable. All you have to do is open yourself to the possibilities of what great television can do.
It’s up to you, Television Academy, to recognize the greatness that permeates the entire series. Send The Leftovers out with a warm Emmy-filled embrace. Please.
The Leftovers season finale airs Sunday night on HBO at 9pm ET.
Mimi Leder – Direction, “The Book of Nora”
Justin Theroux – Drama Actor
Carrie Coon – Drama Actress
Scott Glenn – Supporting Actor
Amy Brenneman – Supporting Actress
Christopher Eccleston – Supporting Actor