A beautiful ending
"That's how I found you, Nora. I refused to believe you were gone." - Kevin, "The Leftovers"
So it was a love story after all. That's all I could think, while wiping away a few tears, as "The Leftovers" concluded its three-season run on Sunday night. It was a profound, beautiful, and profoundly moving conclusion that a series that's quickly grown to be one of my all-time favorites. That's something I could never have imagined writing after the first season of the show in 2014.
Damon Lindelof is a profoundly talented writer and creator. He was one of the driving forces behind "L.O.S.T.," a show that dared to tell a big story and ask the bigger questions. But he wasn't totally interested in answering those questions, which is why the final two seasons struggled with critics and audiences. And that fan reaction proved to be a bit much for Lindelof to take.
With "The Leftovers," he wanted to tackle a rich narrative and characters without the burden of those big explanations. This was never going to be a series that wrapped things up neatly. In fact, the opening credits song that frequently played in the second and third seasons, including during last night's finale, had a refrain that echoed, "let the mystery be." That was as much a winking nod to the audience as it was a catchy beat.
But this was a different kind of open-ended series, designed that way thanks to the book from Tom Perrotta, which served as the source material. It was an incredibly moving and powerful book to read, and the first season of the series, while covering the big events, never quite reached that depth.
In fact, it was a first season that I wasn't sure if I liked. But one thing always drew me in, the relationship between Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) and Nora Durst (Carrie Coon). The show correctly positioned itself to play on that strength (both the characters and the actors in the roles).
Season two, which felt worlds apart, was incredible. As was season three. In fact, with this season, I think just about every one of the eight episodes got me at some point, none moreso than the finale. It was a perfect and beautiful ending, and not one I would have predicted.
Did it answer all the big questions? No, and it was never going to. In fact, if you were watching the show for the answer to the central mystery of where the people went and what was happening, you were likely disappointed. But if you could, as the song so elegantly put it, "let the mystery be," you were likely moved by the finale.
For me this show was never about its big mystery or theology, which I'm quite sure wouldn't be the same as mine. It was about these people and the journey to find hope and fulfillment in a world gone mad. Much of it was about grief, and how grief can manifest itself long after the events. That was true of Kevin and Nora, and true of the rest of those in this world.
What I didn't expect was a happy ending. The premier of season three hinted at the ending, but in a way that was misleading. Instead, what we got was Kevin and Nora finding their way back to each other. Finding, in each other, that hope and fulfillment that had long eluded them both. And it was beautiful.