The Leftovers review: An obituary of one of the greatest shows in the history of TV

The Leftovers finale review: One of the greatest television shows in the history of the medium died last week. And now, it is time to pay our respects.
Sometimes, the largest, most cosmic stories are best told simply.
Sometimes, the largest, most cosmic stories are best told simply.
Updated on Jun 11, 2017 02:12 PM IST
Copy Link
Hindustan Times | ByRohan Naahar, New Delhi

The Leftovers
Cast - Justin Theroux, Cary Coon, Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston
Rating - 4.5/5

The Leftovers died last week, surrounded by friends – loyal, even after all these years – in peace, and on its own terms.

But the serenity it found in death often eluded it in life.

It began as a show about the Departure, an event in which roughly 2% of the world’s population suddenly disappeared off the face of the Earth, leaving the rest behind to grieve. But towards the end of its life – a life that became as biblical as the story it was telling – it evolved into a show that stood resolutely over the others, still as proudly ambitious as it had been all those years ago, always defiant, right up to its last breath.

But in its youth, it was misunderstood. The first season, which stuck closely to the source novel written by Tom Perrotta, was impatiently deemed too moody, too philosophical… Too introspective to survive in this ruthless world.

Its creator, Damon Lindelof, had a reputation. There was concern over what sort of life it would lead. There was concern over the sort of life Lindelof would give it. Would it, like his previous show, the magnificent Lost, fail to find answers to the questions it asked? Would it be accepted, as it went from innocently pondering about the afterlife, to standing on top of a mound, appearing almost deranged, telling a story about God, the Apocalypse, and Second Coming of Christ, as future followers gathered around to listen…

The concerns were justified. The road is always rough for shows like The Leftovers, and it lost many friends along the way. It was simply too strange. It couldn’t be contained into safe, familiar boxes. It couldn’t be labelled with terms and phrases with which we could understand it better. It was challenging – perhaps too challenging to exist. But it never compromised. It never deviated from the path it had chosen to walk, unsure of what it would find at the end of its Yellow Brick Road.

Surrounded by Hellfire and Damnation, it entered the second chapter of its life. It was then that it shed all ties to Perrotta’s novel, and moved the story across the country, to a small town in Texas, called Miracle, for it was a town that had lost no one in the Departure.

Its characters, still heartbroken, still grieving, put on a brave face and pretended that carrying on with life was the only option they had. After struggling to find a purpose in its youth, The Leftovers, now more experienced, more confident, and more experimental, had finally arrived. But its happiness would be short-lived.

Immediately after the end of season 2, enjoying the best reviews of its life, it was told that it would soon die. It had only one more season to live. Undefeated, it took the blow as an opportunity to do what no other show had done before. In season 3, its final season, The Leftovers defied decades of TV history, logic, and perhaps also the worried concern of its fans, and became one of the greatest shows in history.

It treated every episode as if it were the last, every character as if they were the lead, and every moment as if it were the moment by which it would always be remembered. There would be no forgetting The Leftovers. There would be no ignoring it. Even those who weren’t watching it knew someone who was.

In the end, The Leftovers’ entire run lasted only 28 episodes – usually the length of just one season of network television. But in those 28 episodes, it achieved greatness. Unlike most network shows – shows that are forgotten almost instantly, despite lasting five times longer – it leaves behind a legacy.

There hasn’t been a show like it, and it is unlikely there ever will. Damon Lindelof has created two masterpieces. Its stars – Justin Theroux, Cary Coon, Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston – can now retire in peace.

The Leftovers will be just as difficult in death as it was in life. It is survived by us, its cult of followers, who will spread word of the miracles it performed. We will write gospels, compose songs, even tweet - for it is better to be revered by few than to be tolerated by many.

May it rest in peace.

Watch the trailer for HBO’s The Leftovers here

Follow @htshowbiz for more
The author tweets @RohanNaahar

Close Story
Story Saved
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Saturday, May 28, 2022