(mods, I know there's a S3 post, but hopefully you can let this stand as this is more a "check out S2 before S3 releases" post)
I wasn't familiar with Chris Hartwell before this, but he does a great job of concisely going through the season and highlighting important character and thematic motifs. If you have a bit more time though and you're willing to watch the best of S1, watch the recap up until he finishes E7, then watch episodes 8, 9 and 10. Those three episodes tie up all the loose ends and are what completely flipped my opinion on the season.
So why should you care about watching Season 2, especially since the show moved past the written material and into unknown territory? Here are some quotes from fellow OKP'ers:
"If you're not watching this season... You are messing up big time. Another amazing episode. Crazy or confused. The show did a good job of making a case for both sides. Great television." - 13Rose
"I'm really liking the varying focus and the new mysteries... I did not think this show could keep momentum going, but man have I been wrong." - phenompyrus
"...the show has become psychologically "deeper" than the book. Especially now that they've gone beyond anything that was written." - mrhood75
"Yo Regina King and Carrie Coon deserve Emmys on just this episode alone. Top notch acting, writing and directing." - bwood
"Season 2 ranks up there with my favorite seasons of any show. Just powerful with acting with emotion, story, and imagery". - Ownzdacourt ________________________________________
The praise for Season 2 (both critically and here on OKP) was a surprise for some, because there was skepticism Damon Lindelof could shake his reputation for resolving intriguing questions with shitty answers. He hasn't lost his touch for crafting compelling character studies but now he's turned his weakness into a strength: writing endings that *make sense*.
For me, I find The Leftovers particularly noteworthy in a sea of amazing TV options because of its honest exploration of the human spirit. Lindelof and Perotta (author of the source material) have been able to craft a narrative that treads a very thin line between the spiritual and the supernatural... how do people deal with unexplainable loss? When one day everything is fine then the next it's not? While these characters will never know *why* The Departure happened, they must come to grips with picking up the pieces that are left. And this exploration into both the depths and the heights of humanity is what led me to write this post.
As a hyper-logical Catholic that believes in a spiritual "power" but also in evolution and The Big Bang, I find it fascinating when this show deftly portrays scenes that can resonate with both the atheist and the spiritual. I'm almost never affected emotionally by anything I see on screen but The Leftovers has me finding empathy for characters I never knew I was capable of having.
The Leftovers is also deeply researched; the Christian Rapture is the obvious parallel to The Departure but there are multiple references to other faiths, without debasing nor glorifying those beliefs... and the show somehow does this with utmost respect for the perspective of the viewer. From religious scholar Reza Aslan, who consults on the show and is coming out with his own CNN show called 'Believer':
“For storytellers like Damon Lindelof, who have figured out a creative way to talk about these universal sentiments without necessarily getting too bogged down in specific religious ideas, I think that the reward is going to be astonishing,” Aslan says. “I mean, that’s the reason why ‘Leftovers’ fans are so passionate about it. I have atheist friends who love that show. I have friends who are fundamentalists, evangelical, Bible-believing Christians, and ‘The Leftovers’ is their favorite show. It’s precisely created a new set of metaphors, a new way of talking about faith that allows people to be drawn to it, regardless of how they themselves experience faith.” ________________________________________
And despite really weak ratings, due to big critical and fan praise HBO agreed to have one more season for Lindelof to finish the series:
“The real blessing was knowing that the show was going to end, and having an entire year to process that emotionally — and also to execute it so that it felt more like it was a celebration of the show, as opposed to watching something wither away and die,” says Lindelof. “As opposed to bittersweet, it’s sweet-bitter.” ________________________________________
So, yeah. If you have time to kill after The Walking Dead and before Game of Thrones, try checking out S2 of The Leftovers before HBO releases S3 on April 16th. If you don't have time for the full series, skip episodes 1-7, watch the recap up to that point (~14:30 mark) then watch episodes 8-10. There is POWERFUL storytelling in these three episodes, and they segue really well into the start of S2.
But, if you'd rather jump straight into S2, then watch the recap and go for it. I still maintain that S2 is one of my favorite seasons of any show of any genre ever. If I didn't, then I wouldn't be staying late at work for no discernible reason but to write a 500 word essay to post to people I've never met before but have an interest in convincing them to watch a television show that never explains the core premise. Cheers!