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Laurie :awww: She still would have drowned if the great flood happens :lol:

But everybody knows it's not going happen. Remember first episode of this season? :lol:

2 episodes left for the series :bigcry:
 

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Discussion Starter #63
Ep. 7:

Fantastic, tremendous fun. Hilarious, and for me quite possibly the most enjoyable episode of all. :worship:
 
Appropriately perverse that so close to the end we get the most comic installment of the entire series. There's one bit of silliness that is almost a joke too far involving Kevin's, er, "I.D" :lol:, but I think overall it's been inspired injecting generous doses of comedy to contrast with the heaviness. It occurred to me some of you may find this one as annoying as the "lion" episode, but I flat-out loved it. Justin Theroux's submission to the Emmy committee.

"I fucked up with Nora." :crying:
 

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Ep. 7:

Fantastic, tremendous fun. Hilarious, and for me quite possibly the most enjoyable episode of all. :worship:
 
Appropriately perverse that so close to the end we get the most comic installment of the entire series. There's one bit of silliness that is almost a joke too far involving Kevin's, er, "I.D" :lol:, but I think overall it's been inspired injecting generous doses of comedy to contrast with the heaviness. It occurred to me some of you may find this one as annoying as the "lion" episode, but I flat-out loved it. Justin Theroux's submission to the Emmy committee.

"I fucked up with Nora." :crying:
This was incredible. Left so much to think about. I'm speechless. The use of "God only knows" and
 
"It's the end of the world" at the end. And the "we fucked up with Nora" was devastating
:crying:
 

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Discussion Starter #66 (Edited)
This was incredible. Left so much to think about. I'm speechless. The use of "God only knows" and
 
"It's the end of the world" at the end. And the "we fucked up with Nora" was devastating
:crying:
Yes, that's exactly the right word, devastating, the serious moment coming after all the comedy was exactly that, makes me tear up just thinking about it.

Interesting touch that they brought back the first season theme music for the opening credits, which contrasted weirdly with the newer, more cheerful images.
 

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Discussion Starter #68
Good piece by Emily Nussbaum in the New Yorker:

The Apocalypse According to ?The Leftovers? - The New Yorker
The Apocalypse According to “The Leftovers”

The HBO show portrays intimate grief lit by the flare of worldwide cataclysm. It’s about the end of the world, taken personally.


 
In 1966, at an event protesting the Vietnam War, Anne Sexton read, in a quiet voice, “Little Girl, My Stringbean, My Lovely Woman,” a meditation on her daughter’s eleven-year-old body. As Adrienne Rich recalled it, Sexton’s poem stood out from the men’s “diatribes against McNamara, their napalm poems, their ego-poetry.” By evoking, indirectly, war’s victims, the poem reframed the question of what makes art political.

Right now, it’s hard for TV viewers not to see duplicates of civic turmoil everywhere, in satire and melodrama, in sitcoms and superhero fantasies. People joke that “Veep” is a documentary; maybe “The Americans” is, too. But Damon Lindelof’s “The Leftovers,” in its third and final season on HBO, is a different sort of show of the moment: it reflects global anarchy, but soulfully, through an aesthetic side door, as Sexton’s poem did. It’s about a world crisis—the aftermath of the Sudden Departure, in which two per cent of the world’s population disappeared, without explanation—but it’s not a thriller. It’s not a science-fiction show, either, despite supernatural elements; it’s not a puzzle narrative, like “Lost,” Lindelof’s previous show. It’s stranger: a deep dive into something like the social chaos that the Hopi refer to as koyaanisqatsi, a life out of balance. It shows us intimate grief—midlife divorce, a child’s death, mental illness—lit by the flare of worldwide cataclysm. It’s about the apocalypse, taken personally.

The first season, which was adapted from a novel by Tom Perrotta, struck many viewers, not unreasonably, as a huge downer. It was gorgeous and ambitious, but watching could feel like listening to Portishead while on codeine, recovering from surgery. (Which I’ve done; it has its charms.) A switch flipped in the sixth episode, a wrenching, witty gem called “Guest,” which focussed on Nora (played by Carrie Coon), a woman who lost her entire family in the Departure. “Guest” had a dreamlike plot—Nora, who works for the Department of Sudden Departure, realizes that her identity has been stolen—that felt newly confident, imagistic and musical. In the second season, the show levelled up again, injecting dark humor and a rude visual playfulness, much of it the contribution of directors like Mimi Leder. Now, in Season 3, “The Leftovers” has become the everything bagel of television, defying categorization. It’s at once intimate and epic, giddy and gloomy, a radical emotional intoxicant. It’s still a hard sell. You try telling people that a drama about dead children and suicidal ideation is a hilarious must-watch, then get back to me. But, as an online acquaintance put it, it’s gone from a bummer to “a bummer party.”

The final season is set seven years after the Departure. The characters are mostly still living in Jarden, Texas, a spiritual-seeker tourist trap. There’s the suicidal town chief of police, Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux); Nora, now his long-term girlfriend; Kevin’s ex-wife, Laurie (Amy Brenneman), who, with her new husband, John (Kevin Carroll), runs a con game to comfort mourners; and the preacher Matt (Christopher Eccleston), who is writing a new New Testament, with Kevin in the lead role. The Guilty Remnant, a cult that followed around the survivors, has been wiped out by a government drone strike. But there are rumors that a new disaster is on the way: a second Flood. Soon, our characters are off to Australia, on a shambolic road trip, hunting gods and gurus.

A set of bizarre plots center on the characters’ often desperate search for faith. There’s a popular theory, which leaps virally from person to person, that Kevin must die and be resurrected, to prevent the apocalypse. (He’s already died and been resurrected multiple times.) There’s a sinister team of Dutch scientists who offer mourners a chance to join their loved ones, aided by Mark Linn-Baker, playing himself, the one member of the sitcom “Perfect Strangers” not to Depart. One episode features what may be HBO’s only non-gratuitous orgy, on a ferry of kinky cultists who worship a hyper-fertile lion named Frasier.

False prophets clearly fascinate Lindelof; “Lost” ’s best arc, the life story of the wannabe prophet John Locke, was all about whether being conned by your dad set you up to be conned by God. “The Leftovers” is full of grifters, too, among them Kevin’s father, Kevin, Sr., a manipulative narcissist with a prophet’s beard. There’s also a bully who calls himself God, and who hands out business cards like a put-upon celebrity. The slipperiness of perception is everyone’s pitch: when conspiratorial thinking pervades the world, doors open for storytellers, a theme that, in the age of Pizzagate, feels very modern. And yet the show itself never feels like a con. For all its baroque contours, its wild musical score (this year, the selections range from A-ha to “Avinu Malkeinu”), it never feels ironic or gimmicky. Its central motif is feverishly sincere: the key figure of Kevin, who keeps on dying and coming back to life, our own personal Jesus.

In an era of TV tough guys, Kevin is fascinatingly atypical. He’s reactive rather than active, a labile, intensely emotional man who is shredded by his own inability to discern what’s real. Defined by his relationships, he jumps from a divorce into a rebound relationship. His is by far the most objectified body on the show: his abdomen is treated almost as a special effect, and the camera lingers on Theroux’s perplexed eyebrows as though they were a landscape of misery. He’s a fetish figure of sensitivity. In “The Leftovers” ’ penultimate episode, “The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother),” we get not one Kevin but two: a fragile man imagining the burden of power.

The episode, directed by Craig Zobel, is a bookend to “International Assassin,” a standout episode from Season 2, which was also directed by Zobel. Like that one, “The Most Powerful Man” is packed with absurdist humor—and, in a rarity for the show, it addresses politics directly. In “International Assassin,” Kevin, who had taken a lethal dose of poison, woke up in an alternate universe, maybe Heaven, maybe a hallucination, although it resembled a luxury hotel. He entered through a bathtub. Then, step by symbolic step, he came to terms with the angry spirit of Patti, a Guilty Remnant leader, who killed herself in front of him. In this mirror universe, though, Patti was running to be President of the United States—and Kevin had to assassinate her.

“The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother)” repeats these motifs, then torques them. Kevin dies again and becomes an assassin again. He’s seeking closure for a different relationship, after an ugly breakup with Nora. The episode starts in a bathtub. But this time the scene is a real-life memory: Kevin and Nora soaking, flirting, the lovers as twins, at the height of their love. They’re bantering about death, about how they should handle each other’s corpse. Kevin insists that he be stuffed; Nora says that’s fine, as long as she can put a beard on him. “I’m the one who has to have sex with that abomination,” she jokes. It’s a tender reverie that frames what follows: a dream about the end of intimacy, folded into one about the end of the world.

After the leap, Kevin discovers that his afterlife now has an even more absurd twist: this time, he is both an assassin and the President—his goal is to kill himself. As if in some supernatural thriller, Kevin stalks this bearded second self, using his “unique biometrics” (his penis) to unlock the Presidential bunker. Then he commits suicide, in a brazenly literal metaphor, by clawing the nuclear fail-safe key from his twin’s chest, to the upbeat pop of “God Only Knows.” “We give the people what they’re too chickenshit to do themselves,” Patti, who in this reality is Kevin’s Defense Secretary, explains. “What they elected us for. We give them what they want. And they want to die.”

It’s a scene that is “The Leftovers” in a nutshell, erasing the line between personal and global annihilation, presenting war as a kind of cosmic nervous breakdown. The episode climaxes in a dazzling, almost soothing silvery vision of missiles falling over Melbourne—part “Dr. Strangelove,” part “The Last Wave.” But it also includes Kevin confiding to his twin, “We fucked up with Nora,” as if they were having beers together. There’s a sense, here and elsewhere, that the show is a phantasmagoric meditation on the terror inherent in having a family at all, not because you might lose them but because you almost certainly will. As a Louis C.K. routine about marriage put it, best-case scenario, you watch your best friend die and you’re left alone.

Kevin’s dream-death is only one of endless images of suicide on “The Leftovers”: Nora has a prostitute shoot her in the chest, shock therapy after she loses her children; Kevin pulls plastic bags over his head, then tears them off at the last minute; Laurie appears to drown herself, accidentally on purpose. On another show, this obsession might seem grotesque, self-indulgent. But the power of “The Leftovers” is its capacity to embrace taboo impulses without judgment: to show radical faith, extended mourning, or hallucinatory paranoia not as pathological but as human, deserving of a gentle eye. The show is full of tenderness for every character who imagines seizing some control, even if that means writing his or her own ending.

Critics haven’t seen the finale yet, but for once the landing doesn’t seem to matter. “The Leftovers” could end with an hour-long monologue about how critics misread “Lost” and I’d be satisfied. In daily life, hearing someone else’s dream is a burden, but here it’s a gift. Or maybe it’s more that “The Leftovers” itself has felt as absorbing as a dream, the art you flee into during hard times. It’s not real, but you want to stay as long as you can. I’ll be grieving when we wake. ♦
 

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That was brilliant :worship: It was good to see Patti one more time :)

One episode left for the series :sobbing:
 

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Discussion Starter #70
Generally my feeling has been that the 2nd season is the best season, but now I'm not so sure. While the 3rd has lower lows, for me it's also had higher highs, so on balance...I thought the last episode was the best of the entire series, I don't expect the finale to "top" it, and that's fine.
 

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The first and only time I've found a Leftovers episode to be downright dull, from beginning to end. I didn't expect fireworks, didn't expect answers, resolutions, or twists, but I also didn't expect to be bored. Profoundly disappointing.
 

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I loved it. For me, Nora clearly didn't transport back and forth and chickened out of being sent over. That's a made up story she is using to tell herself what she needs to believe to live in this world. For Kevin to buy into it they can live in this world together again, finally.

The conversation between Nora and Matt in the beginning was incredibly powerful. The acting chops on both them really warrant some recognition.

I'm not bothered by not having all the answers. To me the Leftovers isn't about the departure or any of the sci-fi bits at all, really. Those bits are just catalysts for them to create the overall metaphor that is the crux of the show: how people cope with emotional pain and tragedy of all kinds. Nora struggles with losing loved ones, Kevin struggles with love and dependencies, Matt struggles with worshipping of idols and placement of faith, Kevin Sr struggles with having purpose in life and so on. I loved this arc of a season with everyone preparing for the end of the world. No matter what iteration it may be, emotional trauma can feel like the end of the world but in time you deal and you take a course of action for it to get better. Our favorite characters do that via these stories we got each episode, and then finally they overcome and the world is still there and they each get to move on in their life. Just as we all do when coping with loss of any kind at our own pace and in our own ways. I loved it and for me this was a satisfying ending to a brilliant, brilliant show.
 

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I loved the final episode. For me it was a very satisfactory and beautiful ending.
 
I'm happy that they ended back together


I'm missing this show so much but OTOH I can't wait to start watching it again
 

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Loved the finale :yeah: Carrie Coon deserves an Emmy nomination for this episode.

Laurie changed her mind about going through suicide again :haha: Damon Lindelof said Laurie was going to die in that moment, but Amy Brenneman changed his mind about it. Most of the writers really liked Laurie and refused to let her go.
 

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Discussion Starter #76
How 'The Leftovers' Evolved From Good to Canon-Worthy Great - Rolling Stone
Goodbye, 'The Leftovers': How HBO's Show Went From Good to Canon-Worthy Great

By Sean T. Collins
June 5, 2017

It started as self-serious show about grief – and ended its third season as one of TV's greatest 21st-century dramas

The Leftovers began as a portrait of a small New York town tearing itself apart after a national tragedy. It ended with a final season that revolved, in large part, around an international scientific conspiracy involving Cousin Larry from Perfect Strangers. And over the course of getting from bereaved jus' folks to Mark Linn-Baker, Damon Lindelof's mediation on mourning in America became one of the most moving and thrilling television dramas of the young century.

How the hell did that happen?

It's hard to believe now, after the merry mayhem of its third and final season, but The Leftovers was once seen as the most crushingly self-serious show on TV. Consider its opening credits back in Season One: the apocalyptic bombast of the theme music by composer Max Richter, the near-Biblical iconography of infants being torn from their mothers' arms by the universe's wrath. And while the pilot's introduction of this strange world – so much like our own, but with an inexplicable event known as the Sudden Departure ratcheting up its absurdities and inhumanities to new heights – was an engrossing experience, its subsequent episodes occasionally became stilted and often stumbled.

Yet it wasn't so much the grim tone that rankled; a show about grief and loss on a massive scale that wasn't grim would be a huge cop-out. Rather, it was the heavy-handed way in which the survivors' stories were moved forward. Think of the chain of crazy coincidences that helped Rev. Matt Jamison get the money to save his failing church, only to have it bought out from under him by the nihilistic white-clad death cult the Guilty Remnant. Or how Matt's sibling relationship with Nora Durst, whose entire family was wiped from existence on the day of the Departure, was treated as a big reveal – they're brother and sister. Ok. Who cares?

Then something wonderful happened. As the first season went on, the show got weirder, wilder, and – no coincidence here – better. And given the way they operate primarily through symbolism, the Guilty Remnant are a great place to begin looking for answers as to how.

For starters, the GR and their leader Patti Levin (the great Ann Dowd) made for antagonists of a sort we'd never seen before. Like an army of proto-Pepes, their modus operandi was trolling: specifically, a deliberate mockery of everything the survivors clung to, right on down to the memories of their missing loved ones themselves. The group's climactic assault on the town of Mapleton wasn't a murder spree; it was simply using realistic life-sized dolls to recreate the Departed and spook the squares. The cult pulled a similar trick the following year down in Miracle, Texas, when they threatened to bomb the bridge that led to the miraculously Departure-free town and wound up merely throwing open the gates to the hippie hordes camped outside. They violated the norms of every day life in ways that were simultaneously horrifying and darkly hilarious.

Looking over The Leftovers' three seasons, it's hard not to see shades of the Guilty Remnant's chain-smoking, white-wearing mischief in the show's writing staff itself. Simply put, there was no convention of storytelling, external or internal, these folks wouldn't break if it made for more intense viewing. Most famously, Season Two tossed the balance and setting the show had worked so hard to establish aside – relocating from New York to Texas, reloading the cast with a whole new family, pushing many of the original characters aside for episodes at a time. It also replaced the gloomy original opening credits with jaunty country music and brightly lit family photos that showed disappearing people basically merge with the stars, a sign the show was capable of recognizing its excesses and playfully tweaking itself for them.

And the shake-ups didn't stop there. Just when viewers had gotten used to their new surroundings, thanks in large part to tremendous performances by Kevin Carroll and Regina King the show took another enormous risk. It transported its main character, Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), to a whole different reality, where he spent a stunning episode as an "international assassin" fighting to escape from a purgatorial … hotel? Even now it sounds completely crazy, but the shift to this hallucinatory afterlife was both a dazzling display of confidence on the part of the creators and a richly surreal way to explore the themes of death, dislocation and shattered sanity that were always the show's stock in trade.

The third and final season was yet another blow to the status quo. It retained the opening title design but used different theme music every week, from the Perfect Strangers theme song to a kitschy Richard Cheese cover of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" – to, unexpectedly, the original Richter composition. It relocated once again, this time to Australia. It involved nearly everyone in one supernatural or science-fictional quest or another: Rev. Matt and Carroll's "psychic" John Murphy attempting to convince Kevin he's an immortal messiah; Kevin's dad struggling to stop a second Great Flood by singing mystical songs stolen from aboriginal Australians; Nora trying to track down scientists who could send her where her lost children went. Throughout the season, series co-creator Damon Lindelof employed many of the same storytelling tricks he used in Lost – flash-forwards, sideways universes, mysterious locales, godlike weirdos who seem to be everywhere at once – but in a way deliberately designed to defy the quest for definitive answers, not fuel or reward it.

Indeed, the boldest move the show ever made was its final scene, in which an aged Nora and Kevin sit down an unspecified number of years into the future and talk about what happened to them since they last saw each other. Her jump to the alternate universe where her family survived and she departed isn't shown; it's simply described in a lengthy monologue delivered by actor Carrie Coon, whose restrained but devastating performance in the role made her the breakout star of the series. The finale is basically sitting right there at the kitchen table with her, daring you to believe, denying you the chance to see for yourself.

It's a leap of faith few, if any, other shows would dream of asking their viewers to make. But this series has lived and died on moves like that. It trusted us to tune in to a story about people whose lives have been destroyed by grief. It trusted us to stick with it when it turned that grief into a source for some of the strangest, blackest comedy around. It trusted us to endure changes to the setting, the cast, the credits, the tone and the nature of reality itself. It trusted us to come back the following week and do it all again. That's the bargain The Leftovers struck: If you rewarded its trust, it rewarded you in turn. It's now departed the airwaves. It will be missed.
 

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Discussion Starter #77
The Leftovers as "Surreality TV".

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/07/tv-gets-metaphysical/528681/
The Dizzying, Surreal Journey of ‘The Leftovers’

A pioneer among recent surreal shows, HBO’s series brilliantly balanced the ordinary and the bizarre.







Two episodes into the first season of HBO’s The Leftovers, the beleaguered suburban police chief Kevin Garvey faced an existential crisis because of a bagel. He placed its two halves onto the conveyor belt of the office toaster—but no bagel, toasted or untoasted, materialized on the other side. The camera peered out from inside the toaster’s maw as Kevin peered in; the actor Justin Theroux flared his nostrils and arched his jet-black eyebrows into a visage of horror. Kevin violently slammed the machine against the counter. Still no bagel emerged. Where the hell had it gone?

Kevin, the viewer could guess, was considering two rather bonkers answers. One was that he had lost his mind and not his bagel, and would soon join his delusional father in a mental hospital. The other was that the bagel had supernaturally vanished—in the same way that 140 million people, 2 percent of the Earth’s population, had inexplicably disappeared on October 14, 2011. Either way, Kevin was reevaluating his perception of the world—and viewers were doing the same as they struggled to make sense of what they’d seen on-screen.

The scene was typical of The Leftovers’ three-season run, which began in 2014 and ended in June, though it was hardly the strangest situation the show presented. Imagining the aftermath of an event like the Christian rapture, but implemented in an inscrutable way and without confirmation by God, Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta’s series often felt like a blackly comic dare to see how far a handsomely realist television drama could push an aesthetic of disorientation. Dream sequences, freaky coincidences, and disturbing images were as much the driving source of thrills as the plot action was. Essential to viewers’ appreciation of the series was an appetite for philosophical pondering and the Kafkaesque. Critics, it turned out, were hungry for those things—they came to love the show. But the audience remained small, which seemed like a sign that few other TV creators would head down a path this bewildering.

And yet, by the time The Leftovers ended, the series stood out as a pioneer in a new wave of risky, metaphysically minded TV shows. HBO’s Westworld and The Young Pope, USA’s Mr. Robot, Netflix’s The OA, FX’s Legion, and a few other recent prestige dramas all feint and parry with coherence—and take up the challenge posed this way by a Westworld engineer to his artificially intelligent creations: “Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?” Watching these shows means continually wondering whether what you’re being shown is true. In March, James Poniewozik at The New York Times labeled the crop “surreality TV,” calling it “an art form for the days of fake news, gaslighting and contested objectivity.”

The simple act of making breakfast can feel like a test of sanity.This emerging subgenre is, of course, not entirely new. The dream logic and disturbing visual swerves of Twin Peaks (now back on TV in a Showtime revival) and the flashbacks and flash-sideways of Lost (the work that made Lindelof famous) preceded it. So did decades of experimental and existential cinema. And basic business concerns surely play a role in the trend: As the Netflixes of the world join HBO in the race to stock up on original subscription content—one analysis counts more than 450 scripted shows in production across TV last year—building buzz from blown minds can be nearly as valuable as retaining a mass audience.

Yet the philosophical underpinnings of these shows are remarkably similar. In a variety of unusually explicit ways, they each probe how our world can be made anew—or turned askew—by the mind. The nesting-doll narratives of Westworld, for example, appear to happen in a future where robots begin realizing their own consciousness. The self-proclaimed angel of The OA may or may not be inventing her account of alternate dimensions. And the young pope of The Young Pope voyages through his memories and dreams en route to embracing his faith. In every case, the human impulse to wonder about a reality other than this one underlies the formal freakiness. The Young Pope’s creator, Paolo Sorrentino, once offered up a term just as apt as surreality TV: thriller of the soul.

Of this trippy generation of shows, The Leftovers staged the most convincing relationship between the real and the imagined, the banal and the bizarre. Using an appealing cast of small-town characters whose lives were suddenly upended, the show mixed grief memoir and savage comedy with speculation about how a civilization ill at ease with mystery might deal with the truly unfathomable. The results felt like a buffet of surprises, and not merely because the filmmakers were trying to keep the audience off-balance: The characters themselves were off-balance. By avoiding the definitively supernatural (aside from the October catastrophe) while still maintaining a deep sense of the weird, The Leftovers was more than just a riveting example of contemporary surreality TV. The series turned out to be a genuine—and profound—work of modern surrealism. After all, for every one of us in this life, the simple act of making breakfast can feel, on certain days, like a test of sanity.

In the first “Manifesto of Surrealism,” published in 1924, André Breton wrote that “under the pretense of civilization and progress, we have managed to banish from the mind everything that may rightly or wrongly be termed superstition, or fancy.” Influenced by the Dadaists, who reacted to the horror of World War I with artistic anarchy, and by Sigmund Freud’s insistence on the importance of the subconscious, Breton’s surrealism sought more than the deconstruction of our world as we know it. On the agenda was a reenchantment of the world. Paying serious attention to dreams, automatic thoughts, and the strange juxtapositions of modern life, the surrealists mounted a critique of narrow rationality. A pursuit of science-fiction-inflected fantasy wasn’t the point. The goal was to resurrect the sensibility that invented religion. At the animating core of surrealism was a “quest for primitive culture,” as Georges Bataille wrote.

The inhabitants of the world of The Leftovers indeed experienced a mental and spiritual reset at odds with “civilization and progress.” Science couldn’t explain the instantaneous disappearance of millions. A committee investigating the “Sudden Departure” ended up stumped. Answers weren’t forthcoming from the major religions, either: October 14 claimed saints and sinners and atheists alike. The Episcopalian priest Matt Jamison, his congregation waning and his wife rendered vegetative by a Departure-related accident, took to preposterous expressions of faith; at one point he locked himself in a stockade on top of a taco truck. This was not The Leftovers’ only insertion of a medieval image into modern life. A busy diner became the site of impromptu goat sacrifices; mortification of the flesh made a comeback, in the form of teenage party games, public paddling, and (nonerotic) auto-asphyxiation with plastic bags.

The most overtly surrealizing force of the show’s first season was the nihilistic Guilty Remnant cult. Wearing white, smoking incessantly, and observing a vow of silence, its recruits disrupted the fragile social order and unsettled the community subconscious. A brochure they handed out at a bus stop advertised that “Everything That Matters About You Is Inside”; the inside, of course, was blank. “The simplest Surrealist act consists of dashing down into the street, pistol in hand, and firing blindly … into the crowd,” Breton once wrote; the Remnant didn’t go that far, but its acolytes coolly simulated random terror by, say, throwing a fake hand grenade into a school bus full of children. Their targets reacted with violent rage or acquiescence—becoming silent trolls themselves—or, in Kevin Garvey’s case, a dip into madness.

The Leftovers almost never tried to trick viewers into believing what was on-screen was real when it wasn’t.Some amount of madness ended up being a fact of life for all the characters as they coped with a reality that had developed a glitch. Nora Durst, a pugnacious fraud investigator who lost her husband and two children in the Departure, acquired a habit of hiring prostitutes to shoot her while she wore a bulletproof vest. But her eventual new beau, Kevin, an emotionally smoldering cop largely abandoned by his family despite his attempts to maintain a sense of normalcy post-Departure, succumbed to more severe derangement.

His bagel saga did have a rational resolution—eventually he took a power drill and opened up the toaster to find two crispy circles stuck in the back of the machine. Nevertheless, he unraveled. A significant percentage of The Leftovers was spent inside his head as viewers kept him company on some very strange adventures. In the show’s penultimate episode, he found himself in an underground bunker where two Kevins, one bearded and one not, faced off.

In staging this journey into possible insanity, The Leftovers had a lot in common with other recent Jekyll-and-Hyde stories on TV, including Mr. Robot and Legion, both of which have featured moments that later turned out to be more or less psychotic experiences. But unlike those shows, The Leftovers almost never tried to trick the viewer into believing that what was on-screen was real when it wasn’t: Kevin’s every vision was explicitly ambiguous in authenticity, even if other characters, wowed by his repeated survival of deadly experiences, imbued the resurrections with religious meaning. (Lindelof has pointed out that stories of astonishing death-defiance abound in our own world.)

By constantly balancing the uncanny and the genuinely unbelievable, the show heightened a dynamic by now familiar in our time. Perrotta’s novel The Leftovers was, in large part, an allegory for post-9/11 grief, and Lindelof visited post-massacre Newtown, Connecticut, site of Sandy Hook Elementary School, while researching The Leftovers’ bleak first season. Incomprehensible violence and the tragedy that follows, the implication goes, inject a surreal dimension into existence. The conspiracy theories and social upheavals spawned by our own world’s mass departures—and, Lindelof has noted, electoral surprises—suggest that the strangeness of The Leftovers is mostly one of degree, not kind.

Yet how, in the face of the abnormal, might society itself avoid madness? The Leftovers moved from a chilly upstate–New York setting in Season 1 to Texas in Season 2 and then Australia in Season 3. Along the way, the grief-stricken nightmare of its original concept was leavened with whimsy and grandeur as the show probed whether people can, in the words of the second season’s perky theme song, “let the mystery be.” The final episode of the series (spoiler alert for those who may be behind in their viewing) posed the most radically disorienting test yet for audience and characters alike.
The finale opened with the show’s only real flirtation with science fiction: Nora preparing to enter a radioactive contraption that would either kill her or, according to the physicists who invented it, send her to where the Departed had gone. But the authentically surreal stuff came once the show cut to an older Nora, alone in rural Australia, where—to her bafflement—an older Kevin suddenly showed up, acting as though they had never had a life together. Was Kevin just going cuckoo again? Or was this another reality, an alternate universe?

Almost everything about the scenario seemed impossible, until almost everything was revealed to be a plausible result of human behavior. Nora went missing the day she entered the machine, and Kevin then spent a decade looking for her despite being told she was gone for good. When he found her, and learned that she’d been hiding from him for years, he decided to behave like a near-stranger, inviting her on a first date. Before long, Kevin owned up to Nora about faking amnesia, and the urge to deny history—their own and the world’s—didn’t seem so far-fetched. Who wouldn’t want to start over again?

If the desire to revert is primal, so is the desire to have all the answers, a desire Nora proceeded to satisfy with the tale she then shared with Kevin. The radioactive machine did in fact bring her, she told him, to the realm of the Departed. There she saw that her kids and husband—joined by a new mom/wife—were one of the few happy families in a grim alternate dimension: 98 percent of that realm’s population had disappeared on October 14. So she decided not to stay or interfere. The process of getting back took so long, and her story seemed so improbable, that she didn’t seek Kevin out upon her return. In the show’s final moments, he grasped her hand and said he believed her story.

With this jarring but understated finish, The Leftovers exposed the allure and the limits of the human hope for new beginnings. If we do believe Nora’s report of traveling across dimensions, she came back certain that some pain never heals. And what if we don’t trust her account? In fact, The Leftovers’ closing story could be read as an endorsement of faith both blind and unblinkered. Gnawing, irrational, loving faith that she would see her family again led Nora to enter the machine. The same sort of faith led Kevin to spend years tracking her down. The story Nora told can’t be verified, but believing it offers greater solace than the alternative: that she didn’t cross over, and instead simply decided to live out her life in isolation.

The early-20th-century surrealists challenged rationality not to escape from the world we live in but to plumb its full, and often frightening, depths. For many of the surreal offerings on TV lately, knowingness eventually surrenders to mysticism and irrationality. The OA saw jaded 21st-century teens give themselves over to arcane ritual in a moment of crisis; Westworld’s first season climaxed in a terroristic disavowal of work that let humans play God. Both twists certainly offer plenty of grist for anyone looking to analyze our era’s anxieties about faith versus science.

The Leftovers, meanwhile, skirted violent standoffs and stark conversions to close on a note that felt both primitive and postmodern. In the end, these characters calibrated their belief systems to accord not with illusory claims to universal truth, or some transcendent order, but with the everyday pursuit of peace and happiness. This conclusion is more grounded, and less romantic, than the final shot of Kevin and Nora holding hands might suggest. Viewers aren’t fooled that the struggle for security and meaning in the face of the preposterous is over, or ever will be. The Leftovers has shown otherwise, and so has our own world.
 

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Discussion Starter #80 (Edited)
https://www.vox.com/culture/2017/6/5/15730378/the-leftovers-finale-review-best-series-ever
The Leftovers is one of the best TV shows ever made


You can watch all of HBO’s grim but optimistic series right now. Well? What are you waiting for?


When I finished the series finale of The Leftovers, I briefly thought about a career change.

Not just a career change actually. A whole life change. I thought about moving to the middle of nowhere and becoming a farmer or something. I couldn’t imagine a way forward for television, the medium I love so much, after watching that finale. It was so good, so note-perfect, so everything I want in a show. TV was done! Something else would have to fill the gap.

About 30 minutes later, I realized that I probably wasn’t going to become a farmer. But the feeling The Leftovers had evoked in me persisted. I was satisfied, full up on the show’s particular blend of sorrow and joy. I was convinced that if I never see another TV show I felt as passionately about, well, that would be okay, because I’d had The Leftovers.

Inevitably, there will be other TV shows that make me feel this way. I’ve had this feeling several times before, when Mad Men ended and when Deadwood ended and when certain seasons of Community ended, among many others. I’m sure that when The Americans ends in 2018 or when Halt and Catch Fire ends later this summer, I’ll feel much the same, and then I’ll move on.

But we TV critics too rarely pause at the end of a show we loved — no, not just loved but LOVED — to properly convey our passion. The Leftovers, to me, is one of the best TV shows that ever there was, and I think I can tell you why, hopefully without spoiling too much.

The Leftovers is an open door to a lot of stuff we don’t like to talk about

Pop culture functions as a kind of subconscious for what humans care about. That’s why I find it so fascinating to watch it fluctuate and change, to observe how it both is molded by our shifting social codes and actively molds them. Yet you have to be careful in how you talk about this aspect of pop culture, because everybody’s subconscious is a little bit different, and a meaning I ascribe to something may not be a meaning you would ascribe to it at all.

So I always think of that meaning as a little door in the back of the work. You watch the TV show or the movie, or listen to the album, or whatever, and you can talk about the work itself — the plot elements and images and directorial choices that go into making it.

But always, in the back, there’s a door to everything else, all of the cultural forces and psychological implications and deeper meanings you can find if you go digging. Open the door a little bit, and you might take a peek at those things. Throw it open wide, and you reveal just as much about yourself and what you value as you do the work itself.



I wish we’d all been ready. What made The Leftovers special — and what most of my favorite TV shows have in common, come to think of it — is that it forced you to open that door and leave it that way permanently. It was incredibly comfortable letting you struggle with its implications, rather than providing tidy summations. Even when it answered its biggest questions, it did so in a way that suggested the answers might be bullshit, because what matters isn’t the answer, per se, but whether you believe the person who’s offering it to you.

The Leftovers, then, is the first TV show I can think of that actively engages with a world where the uncertainty that is core to simply being alive has caused a lot of us to carve out our own completely separate experiences of reality. The series begins with the sudden disappearance of 2 percent of the world’s population, but its objective isn’t to answer the question of where those people went. Whatever the answer is, regardless of whether it’s simple or mind-bogglingly complex, will pale in comparison to the fact that when millions of people just up and vanished one day, everyone on Earth was reminded that much of existence is basically random, meaningless, and out of our control. What do you do when you’re confronted with that fact?

Well, you start trying to rationalize. You try to put a narrative on what happened. You find an explanation, whether scientific or religious or something else altogether, and you try to fill in the gap between your need for control and your complete and utter powerlessness. Everybody alive can relate to the feeling of wanting to be in charge of our lives, only to realize that the systems that surround us are waiting to idly flick a fingernail and send us ricocheting through the rapids of chance.

The Leftovers’ first season has gained a reputation for being “difficult” to get through, and I’ll admit there are a handful of episodes in its first half that can try the patience of those who are less immediately invested than I am in tales of spiritual seekers realizing that the universe doesn’t care about them in the slightest. But it’s also the season that best underlines why The Leftovers is one of the definitive TV shows of this era, a show about how poorly human beings react when they realize their own agency is a joke.

Once you get to seasons two and three, The Leftovers suggests its own sorts of answers

The common gripe against The Leftovers, especially with regard to its first season, is that it’s too depressing, too grief-stricken. I’ve always struggled with that criticism, because I’ve always found the show, at the very least, mordantly funny, blessed with a darkly humorous streak that made its more despairing portions slide by.

But, sure, I get it. The Leftovers never allowed for easy viewing. Its pleasures, such as they were, were almost about grappling with the unanswerable questions in life — not just “Is there a God?” but “Is there a purpose to any of this?” That’s not light Sunday night fodder for a lot of people.



The spiritual questing was always going to drive some viewers away. HBO And yet as the show progressed deeper into its run, it became, for me, maybe the most optimistic show on television, because it stared into uncertainty, into darkness, and insisted that we would figure out how to make our own light if we found ourselves stranded. The final two images of the series (and I promise these aren’t spoilers) are two characters holding hands and then doves returning to their roost — which if you know your Noah’s Ark is a sign that the end of the world is beginning to end.

The genius of The Leftovers’ third season comes from the way it’s structured as a sequence of cascading series finales. Characters find a way toward closure, then fall away from the story as those who continue to struggle with their powerlessness attempt to forcefully attach meaning to their lives — to the degree that one character starts to kinda maybe think he’s the second coming of Jesus. Maybe a little bit?

The series doesn’t focus on bringing its plot to a conclusion; instead, it concentrates on guiding its characters toward wholeness, if not happiness. They might remain deeply sad, or frustrated, or angry, but they are allowed a moment of kindness or gratitude, a moment that pushes them to extend the same to others. If life is meaningless, if nothing has a purpose, then all we have is what we can give to each other. I can’t think of many messages more optimistic, or necessary, than that.

We are living in a time that feels, to almost all of us, like more of an ending than a beginning. Politics has us at each other’s throats, and the planet is burning itself alive, and it’s difficult to imagine a humanity that exists in 2100 and isn’t somehow a completely different species.

We have made it to the future, and it’s trying to kill us. But it’s also always the future, and life is always trying to kill us. The world is always ending, but it’s also always beginning.
Struggling against the meaningless nature of life is important, but so is remembering that meaning is what we make of it and that we can create meaning for each other. The Leftovers worked so well because it focused not on the flood, but on the Ark, on the people left aboard, watching the skies for a sign of something new. There’s all this water, all around us — but look at us, lucky us, we have a boat.
 
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