The central conceit of The Leftovers will always be a mystery: if it wasn’t, the show would be a failure. Because The Leftovers is a show about coming to terms with being alive. Which really, you only really do when something inexplicable happens. But in its second season—culminating with the finale episode, “I Live Here Now”—The Leftovers put front and center what it was all about. What it is, in some ways, all about: dealing with the big, weirdo mystery of life and whether it even means anything. It’s the circle of life! Only instead of a song, it’s a Damon Lindelof show.
The 10 episodes we got this year expanded the series in its ever-sprawling, mysterious-yet-artistic way. Season one of the series was divisive (we dug it), but ultimately dealt with the reactionary, emotional weight of an event as confounding as the Departure. Season two took on the more philosophical questions: what do you do once you come to terms with being left alive? How do you deal with the fact that there’s so much we don’t understand? What can be explained? What’s coincidental, spiritual, or just dumb luck? What’s real and what isn’t? What must we construct internally to navigate that? (Man sentience can be heady stuff.)
We saw people coming to terms with being alive in different ways. Some turned to religion, others chaos and disorder (which: damn, Meg). And we saw it from a whole host of perspectives: from those who lost all (Nora) to those who lost none (Erica). Even those who did nothing but have hope found peace in the end. Matt let it be—letting his religion guide him to the conclusion that there must be a reason, for everything, and left it up to his own maddening and yet-poetic belief. In the end, he and his wife were rewarded with a miracle child and Mary’s awakening. A chance for life after so much dark.
And then there was Kevin, who could never really cope at all. He didn’t accept his existence, so he had to die and fight his demons (with Patti in that weird hotel) and be reborn. He had to reveal the truth (to Nora, to John), stop blocking shit out, and fight for his life and what he wanted—even in the face of such a fateful (literally) retaliation from John. But in true Biblical fashion, it was John who helped Kevin get resurrected (literally!) in the end, mostly because metaphors and beautiful imagery. (Still made for great television, though.)
Ultimately, everyone’s affected by life and death, even in that untouched Jarden, Texas (of Eden) ♬ It’s a Miracle! ♬ (Irony intended.) And oh, what a double-edged Miracle good ol’ Miracle was for the characters this season. Everyone on this show suffered greatly, their stories complicated and neither all-good or all-bad—even Preacher Matt; even those who lost no one suffered both physically or mentally when put on display. Jarden was turned into spectacle, and lofted upon their community was an entire world’s worth of hope and expectation. Even being in proximity of it, people hoped for the chance of enlightenment and understanding. So when Evangaline Murphy and her friends “departed” (only not), Jarden had a spectacle of their own to project their own confusion upon. Why now? Why here? Could it be something in the history—akin to the scene that opened the season? And on and on it goes.
The season two finale brought us to a real place of satisfying conclusion (some might even say series finale-esque), filled with acceptance of their lot in their very mysterious lives. Surrounded by his ex-wife, step-son, daughter, girlfriend, and adopted baby daughter, his brother-in-law and formally vegetative sister-in-law, Kevin, brimming with tears, accepts this as his home and family, relieved. There are no more visions of Patti, no more blacked-out memories, no more missing girls. Just a few answers, but mostly not. As it should be, as it is for all of us.
The Leftovers could often leave you scratching your head, confounded by what exactly Lindelof was getting at with certain idiosyncrasies in its storified happenstance. But if there wasn’t mystery and confusion in a world such as this, it would essentially be a failure of ego: because how could one presume to know the answers or reasons for everything? That’s what the point of the show is, rooted in reality rather than a posited explanation. There’s no denying how deftly the series heightened and mirrored the existential crisis of being alive through the Departure. Sometimes one, mysterious event is all it takes (often: that’s all it takes). This just happens to be global rather than personal. The struggle isn’t the mystery, it’s the scale of it happening all at once. We may not understand why or how certain things happen—we may not understand if anything happens after death—but we’re here and it’s happening. And that’s simply going to have to be enough, because we’re in it. We live here now.
What did you think of the season finale of The Leftovers? Let us know in the comments below.
Image Credit: HBO
Alicia Lutes is the Managing Editor of The Nerdist. Find her on permanently on the precipice of an existential crisis on Twitter (@alicialutes).