It seems a corny sentiment when plainly written out. But when you add the work of great actors Carrie Coon and Justin Theroux, who each turned in devastating performances, and director Mimi Leder’s camerawork, the platitude is transformed into a stunningly moving work of art—human emotion distilled into its most truthful form.

Seeing these two deeply damaged souls somehow find each other again amidst the disorder, and pledge to tackle whatever comes next together, felt like perceptive commentary—even if unintentionally—on a year where many of us were struggling to feel hopeful. The Leftovers showed a way to outlive the despair of a chaotic world: reach out into the dark and grab somebody’s hand.

I’m far from the only person who responded this way. TV critics nearly unanimously named The Leftovers the best show of 2017. One of them, Alan Sepinwall, writes elegantly that the series is “2017,” disguised as a prestige HBO drama:

Years from now, if someone were to ask me not what happened in 2017, but what it felt like — not just in the moments of utter confusion and despair, but the ones of unexpected mirth, joy, and sheer disbelief (good or bad) at what we’re seeing — I might just hand them this season.

The Leftovers chooses hope in the end, not only with Kevin and Nora, but with its entire world, which manages to hang together and move on after nobody expects it to.

It’s no surprise that a show so universally admired by critics was ignored by most major award shows. Throughout its three-season run, The Leftovers has only been nominated for a single Emmy. It’s not a show that creates buzz, or demands deep dives on Reddit, or extrapolates modern America into a totalitarian future. Rather, it’s a small, quiet show that makes you feel things and inspires thought—not the ingredients of an awards frenzy.

The disconnect between the glowing critical consensus and award snubs is frustrating for fans of the show, but it doesn’t matter in the end. Those who watched The Leftovers have something far more powerful than the validation of a trophy—a truthful experience. More than that, it left us with a guide on how to move through a world we no longer recognize.

The Leftovers is the very best and most essential artistic artifact of 2017.

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