What is there left to say about HBO’s fantastic, now-concluded show The Leftovers? Maybe nothing. But that didn’t stop us from trying.
Jason Schreier and I are in San Francisco to talk with game developers at the Game Developers Conference, but we still made time to meet up with IGN editors Andrew Goldfarb and Marty Sliva and geek out over a TV show that we all love.
Listen here (warning: this episode has full spoilers):
You can download an MP3 here. Below is a lightly edited transcript from early on in our conversation, where we talked (with spoilers!) about why we like this show so much:
Andrew Goldfarb: I secretly love sad things. (I not-so-secretly love sad things.) I think it’s a show mostly about grief and about loss. I was watching at a time where that hit me pretty hard. Especially leading into season two and season three, when on top of that theme, it got weird? It was hitting everything for me. It did everything I want from a show.
Jason Schreier: So weird.
Andrew: It’s so bizarre. When it really gets off the rails, like, late season two when it really starts getting fucking weird, is when I was like, this is one of my favorite shows ever.
Kirk Hamilton: I was reading some season finale recaps before we did this, and somebody described it, I think it was in The New Yorker, Emily Nussbaum, said a friend of hers described season one as a bummer, and season two as a bummer party.
Jason: And then season three is a bummer party acid trip.
Kirk: Yeah, when the drugs kick in.
Jason: Marty, what about you?
Marty Sliva: I am a huge fan of things that just put their characters through the ringer. And the fact that the premise is so harrowing, and the fact that the show concentrates on the Garveys, who lost no one, I think is one of the smartest angles to the show. You realize at the end of that episode, you’re concentrating on a family that for all intents and purposes, they dodged a bullet here, and yet they’re more fucked up than anyone else on the show. That, combined with like Andrew was saying, when it starts delving into magical realism, the opening of season two and three, and “International Assassin” and “The Most [Powerful] Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother).”
Jason: Oh my god, such a good episode title.
Marty: Seriously! Those episodes, to me, it just takes the harrowing nature of what happened to these characters and just completely fucking throws it at the wall. We were saying on the way up, it reminds me of the best shades of Lost or even The Sopranos in that way.
Jason: Kirk, why did it resonate with you?
Kirk: I like the fact that this show is really well made. That’s not the main reason it resonated with me, but I think it’s an incredibly well-made show. Rewatching those episodes with you [Jason] over the weekend [reminded me], it does a lot of audio-visual stuff that’s just on a level that’s better than almost any other show. I discovered Mimi Leder, who I was not aware of—she’s the all-star director of this show. She directed 10 episodes, all the best episodes are directed by her. I think they got a cast that’s totally out of control, Carrie Coon is ridiculous, and everyone’s so up for it. I’ve seen Justin Theroux in other stuff, but I didn’t know he was this up for it. Every actor is so raw, and just watching that kind of humanity is cool.
But I think the thing I really love about this show is the way that it embraces ambiguity. We’re in this weird era, [Jason] you and I talked about this when we did our Westworld podcasts, where everything’s a puzzle, everything’s crowdsourced on reddit, people are always cracking codes and coming up with theories. This show deliberately confounds that in a way that’s a lot truer to the nature of life, and spirituality, and faith, and grief, and all of these things it’s exploring.
Those are all things that live in some weird, ambiguous space. The way that [The Leftovers] creates this world with a piece missing, it’s crazy. I don’t know how you do that, how you have a tone that consistent across that many different other tones—this show gets funny, and it gets tragic, and it gets surreal, and tense—they do a lot of tones, but throughout it there’s this sense that there’s something missing. Every scene, you’re like, this world isn’t quite our world. It’s basically our world, but it isn’t quite. Because it’s missing two percent. Not just the people, but everything.
Jason and I will be in SF all week recording special podcasts with game developers about how they do what they do. You can find Splitscreen on Apple Podcasts and Google Play. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.