COLLIDER – Once you get past the fact that one of the best shows of the year is on Facebook — yes Facebook! — you’ll know that Sorry for Your Loss is indeed worth it. The series follows Leigh Shaw (Elizabeth Olsen), whose husband Matt (Mamoudou Athie) died suddenly three months before we meet her. The first season chronicles the following two months over ten half-hour episodes, as Leigh is still coming to terms with her life without Matt. But from the onset, Sorry for Your Loss is at heart a family drama that includes Leigh’s adopted sister Jules (Kelly Marie Tran), a recovering alcoholic, and their mother Amy (Janet McTeer), who owns a fitness studio where both her daughters work. The series also tracks Leigh’s complicated relationship with Matt’s brother Danny (Jovan Adepo), the only person who really understands the depth of her loss, and her friendships that have suffered in the wake of such a devastating event. It’s a beautiful series that never gets too dark, and yet it doesn’t shy away from frank and difficult discussions about relationships, depression, and grappling with death.
So go watch it! Or finish it. For now, spoilers below.
Towards the end of the final episode of the season, Amy tells Jules and Leigh how Leigh used to ask why the characters in fairy tales always went to the woods, where the bad things were. As Amy explains, it’s because you have to go to the woods — that is, the source of fear — to find out who you truly are and where you are heading. It’s an important moment for the Shaw family as each of the women comes to terms with something dark and hidden in their own lives. Jules seems on the brink of relapsing, until Sabrina brings up her unresolved issues about her adoption as a potential flashpoint for her addiction. For Amy, it’s about reconsidering her relationship with ex-husband Richard, who is making overtures after over two decades of separation.
But of course the deepest well of fear lies within Leigh, who has found out Matt’s secret — his comic book was going to be published. And she wants it to be, for herself, despite Danny’s protestations that it might not be what Matt wanted. The show gave viewers the opportunity to see things from both perspectives as well during those final days of Matt’s life. He got the good news but didn’t share it. And then, suddenly, he died, which Danny still believes was intentional. But for Leigh, answering that question is not the point anymore. Whether Matt killed himself or it was an accident, it doesn’t define who he was to them. That’s been a long road for Leigh, who wondered if she really made Matt happy (Danny assures her she did), and worried that she didn’t know him well enough to see the signs of him possibly being suicidal. She tells Danny, after they see the psychic (a line the show toed very well), that whether it was an accident or mental illness, it wasn’t the Matt they knew and loved who chose to go off that cliff.
It was the penultimate episode in Palm Springs, though, that really seemed to set the stage for the series moving forward, as Leigh went on a romantic getaway by herself to the hotel Matt had secretly booked for them. There she met a sweet man, Tripp, who she sleeps with. But she’s clearly not ready for it to be anything more, and daydreams about what it would have been like to have gone with Matt. Leigh let down a physical barrier, not an emotional one, and yet it was still an act of moving forward. As “Jackie O” in her group therapy confirms, there’s no event in their lives now that isn’t going to carry the memory of their lost loved one, and yet, you still have to move on.
In that way, Sorry for Your Loss’ first season has been one long meditation on that idea. It’s been about Leigh finding her way forward, not existing just to feel grief every moment of her day, because she can’t (and no one can) survive that. She pushed her own boundaries with her impromptu birthday party, and struggled to keep it together at her friend’s wedding. But in other ways she’s been extremely hesitant to move forward, searching constantly in Matt’s past (through his phone, through conversations with his mother and Danny about his childhood) to find where things went wrong. That’s completely natural, and one of the things that has made this series so excellent — it feels real. The conversations and the struggles are all familiar, even though Leigh does live in a particularly cushy world otherwise (we see her go to work a few times at the start of the series, but increasingly, the show just became about her beautifully floating from one event to another. To its credit, though, we do see Jules and Amy at the studio quite a bit!)
That thread of moving forward and moving on is something that was also central to Jules and Amy’s stories, which wrapped up nicely or (if the series returns, and it should) set up new explorations for Season 2. Danny’s trajectory this season has been less certain, though. While Sorry for Your Loss has done a beautiful job of keeping Matt central to the storyline (so much that he is a genuine character on the show, not just a ghost), it still doesn’t feel like we know Danny all that well, what he likes or who he is outside of Matt. His relationship with Leigh has been an important one, but him leaving a message on Matt’s phone about how he’s falling in love with Leigh (when he knows, presumably, is listening to the messages — and by the way, is Leigh still paying for Matt’s cell phone plan?) felt a little bit like a misfire. The earlier scene of Leigh thinking back specifically about him touching her face felt more in line with the show’s excellent nuance, but Danny’s declaration needed a lot more unpacking. But, perhaps that’s what Season 2 is for.
Matt’s comic being published (hopefully) feels like the moment that starts a new chapter for Leigh, with her seeing his work live on beyond him. It’s a reflection of what she knows — that he still lives on within her. And for the first time, she had a memory of Matt that made her laugh, remembering a dumb joke he told her when they first met. Though she is still flooded with difficult memories that make her tear up, rightfully, in that moment it seemed possible for her to remember Matt with happiness. And that’s important. It’s what leads her to her woods, essentially, as she hiked the trail where Matt died, going to the overlook where he slipped or leapt. She can’t know, but those tears and her smile shows that that’s ok. Matt has gone, but she’s alive. Now it’s time to find out what that means.