5 Reasons Why You Need to Be Watching The Leftovers

Don’t speak — just watch. Chain-smoking optional.

The Leftovers was supposed to be HBO’s big hit of last year, and it didn’t quite happen. And really, it’s only fitting for a show with a built-in existential crisis to take a little while to find its footing. By the end of Season 1, The Leftovers— based on the Tom Perrotta novel and starring Justin Theroux —was the show we wanted it to be since the beginning. And we’re here to tell you that, like a sinner who’s repented, it deserves a second chance.  And we’re telling you this today so that you have time to catch up on Season 1 before Season 2 premieres on Sunday. What are you waiting for, the Rapture?

We could give you a lot more, but here are five reasons you need to start watching The Leftovers, now: 

It objectively has the best premise of any show on television today.

A little over three years ago, 2 percent of the world’s population vanished into thin air, all at the same time. No one knows why. And before you say “the Rapture!,” many of those who departed were not religious at all, and some of them were pretty bad people. Ever since “The Departure,” as they call it, academics and scientists have been obsessively trying to figure out why it happened — and when it could happen again. Based on what we know of Season 2, they may be a bit closer to an answer.

Season 2 is already better than Season 1.

Even those of us who were falling all over ourselves with excitement about The Leftovers before it premiered in 2014 had to admit that the first half of Season 1 was pretty slow, and very frustrating. No one would tell us what the f*ck was happening! But by mid-season, after Carrie Coon’s Nora Durst went from a marginal curiosity to a main player, the pace picked up, and the payoff was totally worth it. And the momentum has extended into Season 2, which brings us new, fascinating characters and shows us sides of last season’s characters that are downright shocking. Showrunner Damon Lindelof (Lost) clearly gets why Season 1 drove some people nuts, and he seems to be acknowledging that frustration in the writing of the second season. But that doesn’t mean he’s just going to make things easy on us. 

The Leftovers plays with the supernatural but it still feels very, very real.

Maybe it’s because such a small segment of the population disappeared, or because the show begins some time after the shock has worn off, but the people in The Leftovers never really feel like they are coming at you from an alternate universe. For the most part, these are ordinary people who have had something pretty extraordinary happen, and they are just trying to get on with their lives, even though they are a little (or in some cases a LOT) more fucked up than they were before. The fact that show is so relatable makes it that much scarier — because who’s to say something like The Departure could never happen IRL? No one, that’s who.

Did we mention that people on The Leftovers are fucked up?

And how entertainingly fucked up they are! One woman hired prostitutes to shoot a gun at her (while wearing a bulletproof vest.) Another one tried to strangle the person who was about to give her the opportunity of a lifetime. A man thinks he can give people eternal salvation by hugging them. One character might be a ghost. And a whole bunch of people are in a cult where everyone is required to chainsmoke, wear all white, and never speak. And I don’t think they even know why!

It’s get a hell of an Easter Egg.

But I’m not going to tell you what it is. You just have to find it for yourself. And explain to me what it means because I don’t understand. Here’s a terrible hint: It has to do with television.

The Leftovers returns for Season 2 on HBO on Sunday, October 4 at 9 p.m. ET.

Photos by Van Redin / HBO