Culture Crash 17-23: HBO’s The Leftovers: Storytelling on grief

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture, what’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

In the summer of 2014, HBO put one of its darkest shows ever on the air. The Leftovers, is a serial drama based on Tom Perrotta’s novel of the same name, the show follows the fate of a world where 2% of the world’s population disappeared in a single moment without warning and without explanation.

The novel was written in the aftermath of 9/11 and deals with intense loss. Questions of religion, family, and grief take center stage as characters struggle with where their loved ones went and whether they should move on without them.

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So it’s…heavy. Over three seasons, the show has taken viewers to New York, Texas, Australia, and the afterlife. Twists and turns abound, magical realism makes the occasional appearance, and the writing always leads to a moment of intense introspection.

The show is a constant reminder that our lives can be altered in a single tragic moment. And the intensity has turned off many critics and viewers, but if you can stomach the heartache, the Leftovers is a show with great ambitions, spectacular acting, and a plot worth investing in.

Tonight, the series finale will air. A small but devoted fanbase will run it through the cypher, uncover its meaning, and eventually, find something new to obsess over. But the Leftovers, for all its grief, will live on in HBO’s streaming catalog, ready to devastate and console those willing to give it a chance.

The Leftovers is available to stream on HBOGO and HBONOW.

I’m Evan Rook.

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