After Sunday night’s finale of the first season of HBO’s The Leftovers, I felt pity for those that were unable to stick with the series, unable to see the beauty hidden within its complexities and its myriad unanswered questions. Because they missed out on a poignant, if tragically real, story of human nature. On coping. On enlightenment and understanding that despite all the bleakness in the world, there’s an innate beauty in being human. It’s just that sometimes we forget it. Sometimes it has to be relearned.
On the season finale, they finally learned.
When faced with the realities of the past — those living reminders were not nearly enough — the people of Mapleton fell immediately into chaos. The Guilty Remnant, messengers of the unwanted truth, ended up the main targets of violence, bloodshed, and utter destruction for everyone in town. Because all people want to do is shoot the messenger when the realities of the message are too hard to bare. You see the GR were nothing more than that all along: within all their chaos and lack of control and/or message, they were doing but one thing: reminding everyone that we did this. This Departure? It is on us. Because it happened because of us. Maybe even for us — who knows, right? But either way, it is done, and we cannot forget it or place blame on some unknowable thing. We have to know that this one? It’s our doing.
We humans are not so simple as to be delineated merely good or evil (despite many folks’ desire to do so), but rather those that do, and those that do not. The Departure, it seems to me at least, is — regardless of the who, what, and how of it all — the relieving of a burden felt by many in that moment. And it resulted in those of perpetual misery to be given relief. Nora Durst felt burdened by her family; Laurie by the child she was carrying; Kevin by the woman he slept with — maybe even the denial of his mental illness; and so on and so forth. So they were all taken away, or destroyed, or lifted from this earth — who knows, really? I doubt we ever will — as, perhaps, a gift to those left behind. But as the old, old saying goes: you must be careful what you wish for; sometimes it actually comes true. And then what? Well, you have to deal with the consequences of your new reality, warts and all. That’s what.
Because like has been proven time and time again, on this show and in life: not everything can be delineated as simply good or simply bad: there are actions, or lack of action. Nothing more.
Which is exactly what the GR was trying to fight: the willful ignorance of the masses to carry on without really looking at what happened. And why it happened. And to whom it happened. The GR only wanted people to remember what they were thinking, feeling, doing. That there was a responsibility: we were all complicit in this because you know those wants and dreams? Suddenly, they became reality, with very real consequences. Reverend Matt may have told Kevin on the way back from Cairo that it wasn’t his fault: but it was everyone’s fault. Because suddenly, our wants and feelings became reality without warning.
In losing two percent of the world’s population, humans didn’t just lose their burden, they lost their sense of self, their sense of life’s meaning and purpose. They lost sight of, well, everything. But that lost sight was likely there long before: we humans have an amazing capacity for taking lots about our miraculous lives for granted. So really, it seems only fair that by lifting the “burdens” from these people, they were only burdened further — because their burdens were ultimately people. Taken for granted, lost thanks to our society, our world, all of humanity’s lack of appreciation: a loss of gratitude and gratefulness.
And so the world lost its innocence: because the world thought so simply in terms of black and white.
Which is exactly why this episode was more hopeful than anything. Amid all the death — even Holy Wayne in his final moments, though selfish was his need — people still wanted to help: they showed it throughout the episode. A return to kindness: the Grace Church do-weller with Tommy; Reverend Matt with Kevin Jr.; heck, even Kevin Jr. and Holy Wayne helped each other in the end; and very likely Nora Durst with the would-be prodigal baby. Finally, thoughtfulness and human compassion — an embracing of our cruel and wonderful world and ways — has saved them all. Or, in the very least, the Garvey’s.
Because there is nothing to repair, as Nora mentioned in her letter — we’re beyond it. This is just who we are. This is our reality. And we are beautifully, frightfully, and disastrously human — regardless of how or why one might think or believe we are or came to be. The point is not to run from it, or hide behind it, but rather embrace it and see what beauty you might find in the process. A new life, perhaps? A bit of gratitude, if nothing else?
The feral dog can be trained after all. Who says you can’t teach an old dog even older tricks anew?
What’d you think of the finale? Let us know in the comments.