This year’s Emmys nominations brought welcome news, including some much needed diversity and long-overdue acknowledgement for the writing and performances on The Americans. But it also brought some snubs, and The Leftovers is the most baffling of them all.
Although shows like Penny Dreadful, Black Sails, and Jessica Jones were also snubbed in acting and “best drama” categories, all are shows that have not previously been acknowledged and were perhaps considered too “genre” by Emmy voters. It was sad to see them ignored, but not entirely unexpected.
But The Leftovers’ omission is truly a shock. Not only is it a prestige HBO drama — otherwise known as Emmy-bait — it’s by far their best on every level. Lena Heady and Peter Dinklage absolutely deserve nominations for Game of Thrones, but its other nominees include Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington. While neither is a poor actor, they’re not exactly giving chill-inducing groundbreaking performances. They’re the kind of performances that are a dime a dozen on any show. That’s not what the Emmys should be honoring.
The Leftovers offered choice of potential nominees, each of which were among the best on TV this year. Justin Theroux, Carrie Coon, Christopher Eccleston, Kevin Carroll, and Anne Dowd all delivered the kind of performances that should be honored.
But acting aside, Season 2 was the most breathtaking, innovative, exquisitely crafted piece of storytelling this year, bar none. Watching it gives you the same feeling you had when you first saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. A sense of awe that this kind of storytelling is possible and that writing can move you on such a deep level. The Leftovers had a rocky first season in part because it took its existential concept — that 2% of the world’s population has suddenly and inexplicably vanished — too seriously. We saw characters mope and anguish, but because we weren’t invested in them yet, it felt like Heavy Drama for the sake of it.
Season 2 took that critique to heart and introduced some much-needed levity while still maintaining a deliciously philosophical, meaty, thoughtful exploration of the nature of belief, loss, depression, and humanity. No show explores human nature better than The Leftovers.
“Axis Mundi,” “A Matter of Geography,” “Off Ramp,” “No Room at the Inn,” and especially the astonishing “International Assassin” were not television, they were art. Even in the age of peak TV, these hours stood out. Television like this is once in a lifetime. Theoretically, that’s what the Emmys should be acknowledging. Other shows this year were provocative, well written, epic, and entertaining. But nobody did what The Leftovers did.