This Sunday last I watched with a heavy heart as my favorite show on TV wrapped up. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it in the previous 174 posts, but The Leftovers had me, heart and soul, all the way through.
I hear that my writing style isn’t for everyone; if that’s the case, the audience for this show might be quite specific, to put it gently. Almost every scene was challenging, either intellectually or emotionally. I’d compare it to Twin Peaks, at least in the amount of mystery and inscrutability that it evoked.
Did it answer all the questions I want answered? Not even close. But the angle of approach that the writers took guaranteed that wrapping it up oh so neatly was never in the cards. Most of the time, this would bother me. I’m going to give them a pass, because it was a show about characters more than plot.
There’s this stupid adage about storytelling, that it’s either plot-driven or character-driven. There is some truth to it, but anyone trying to be authentic doesn’t adhere to one way or another like a frigging robot. Well, some do. Frigging robots.
Let’s get back. The premise was so mysterious, the show almost begged for a really heavy plot. In case you haven’t seen it, the story begins three years after two percent of the world’s population vanished into thin air. The characters are basically just people in a small town, trying to locally deal with this worldwide phenomenon that no one has any real answers for. The loss is obviously devastating, but the lack of answers might be even worse.
It was a beautifully shot and engineered story. Like anything good, it asked a decent amount from the viewer. It wasn’t something to put on in the background. No way.
So where’d they go? Seems like a traditional storyteller would just go after the mystery, chase it down in a straight line. I’d be lying if I didn’t want them to, at times.
But they chose another angle. They use the event to examine what we know, and perhaps more importantly, what we’ll never know. If you’ve ever lived any kind of life, something big and jolting has hit you. One day you’re sure. Next day, surety is just a word. It’s not a comforting thought, but there’s so much bullshit in the world, so many false insulations from the reality of our fragility.
It’s human, basic stuff, but most entertainment leads us away from the tough stuff. Not so, here. Perhaps just playing to our expectations is more palatable and satisfying, but good on The Leftovers for never going for the easy win. How you play the game isn’t everything, but it’s not nothing, either.
See you after.