How To Cope With Death: HBO’s The Leftovers

In Ryan Rosenbaum by Ryan Rosenbaum0 Comments

This is the moment where I plead with every last drop of emotion to you that you need to watch HBO’s The Leftovers. Not because it’s a pleasing and entertaining show. Not because it is a nice, light-hearted watch that you can kill 30 minutes while eating lunch too. No. Quite the contrary. The Leftovers is hell to go through. It brings emotions out of you that you (like me) had no clue you even had. This is difficult to explain so if you would so please, read the rest of this article with the iconic score from the show playing in the background. Not only will it help set the mood, but it will give much more weight to the situation. So without further ado, press play.

Enter the world of The Leftovers. We are thrown into a society where our characters live in a so-called “Post-Departure” world. Meaning, on the 14th of October, a global cataclysmic event deemed “The Sudden Departure” abruptly cleared 140 million people from the earth without a trace. But don’t be fooled, this isn’t a generic horror movie post-apocalyptic climate, or a Shaun Of the Dead comedic take on the whole thing. Not at all. The Leftovers world is terrifyingly unforgiving. Just to give you a glimpse, heres a clip from the pilot episode to prove just how unforgiving this world is.

Now, just to be clear, the world of The Leftovers gives us no explanation as to why the Sudden Departure happened. You may be thinking “Oh thats stupid why is this even worth watching.” Well ill tell you why. The Leftovers is much more than a primetime Sunday HBO show. This started way before that, with an ingeniously written novel by the same title. The Leftovers does something with the medium of television that no other show has been able to do; create a personalized experience.

To boil it down, The Leftovers has much to do with how people deal with death. The Sudden Departure (while highly fictional) has a much deeper purpose for placing the global population through a synchronized grief period by means of a mass exodus of biblical proportions. What the show presents to us is a myriad of characters that are all relatable depending on the viewers personal characteristics.

How do YOU cope with death?

What is YOUR grieving process like?

For how long do YOU linger searching for answers?

Or how quickly do YOU look the other way and try to let time heal the wounds?

It is up to you to think deeply about how you would react in this kind of a scenario which traces the path that then reveals which character you have the best connection to. The shows characters are all responding to the Sudden Departure in their own ways. It’s not necessarily safe to say that there is a main protagonist as there are singular episodes devoted to specific characters, but if i were to choose the most central character, it would be Kevin Garvey. Kevin has taken the Taylor Swift coined shake-it-off approach, where he has decided to continue on in his daily life as a cop protecting the town that has been left in shambles ever since the Sudden Departure.

On the complete opposite side from Kevin, there are people in this world who refuse to move on from the sudden departure and either wish to grieve like hell and shut down emotionally, or lash out and self destruct. The Leftovers introduces us to each of these methods of grieving by means of the unique storylines of characters in the show. The easiest antagonist to define is the emotional burden that one feels after experiencing the death of a loved one. The second most distinguishable antagonist would be that of a cult that has formed having felt directly responsible for the sudden departure. They have deemed themselves the Guilty Remnant. These mute, chain smoking, white clothing clad cult followers believe they are living reminders of God’s awesome power.



Now, if you do plan on picking up the Leftovers after reading my 1000 word love letter to it, know this. You may think of Season 1 as an introduction to the world of The Leftovers and the Garvey family. But once you reach Season 2, your entire world will be flipped around. The emotional journey that you take through the psyche of the Garvey family and the surrounding personalities is astounding. By the end of season 1 you are about ready to shed a tear and cry because everything has been solved, and yet you are still so lost. Season 2 can only be compared to the work of Picasso, Da Vinci, and Kendrick Lamar. Now, the third and final season of the show has just recently been announced by HBO.

The writing in this show is absolutely incredible, having been crafted by the genius mind behind Lost, Damon Lindelof. There is no typical progression through the season as each episode is carefully crafted around a specific character living in the post departure world. At one point, we are even exposed to Kevin Garvey banished to purgatory which just so happens to be set in a Hyatt in Dallas.

These are all highly personal questions that this show has you flesh out in your own way. This is the unique way that The Leftovers is able to engage with its viewers. For anyone that has dealt with the sudden death of a loved one, these are questions that have been presented to you, although not as clearly defined. Stick with it. Dig deep inside of yourself. and enjoy yourself in binging through the awesome power of The Leftovers.

You can find Season 1 & 2 of HBOs The Leftovers on HBO GO

Ryan Rosenbaum
Founder In Chief at The Establishing Shot
Won more Oscars than Leo, less than Three Six Mafia. Frequent eater at Big Kahuna burger.
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