The highest praise I can give Sorry for Your Loss is that it made me watch TV on Facebook, something I had avoided doing and still don’t like. But the show was just that good—raw, emotional, intense, beautiful—that it became a weekly necessity. The series follows Leigh Shaw (Elizabeth Olsen) as she navigates life after her husband Matt (Mamoudou Athie) suddenly passes away, an event that completely shatters her life. We first met her several months after she left her job, moved back in with her mother Amy (Janet McTeer) and sister Jules (Kelly Marie Tran), and started picking up some work at Amy’s fitness studio. But mostly Leigh is adrift, and the only person who seems to somewhat understand her pain is Matt’s brother Danny (Jovan Adepo), someone Leigh never previously got along with.
One of the great triumphs of Sorry for Your Loss is that Matt is a part of this story and not just a ghost haunting Leigh. We get to know Matt through dreams and flashbacks as all of the main characters try to process the sorrow of losing him. At its core, Sorry for Your Loss is a meditation on grief that gives Leigh space to not be ok, and to hate it “when people use the word ‘condolences.’” “I also hate it when people ask if I was close to my brother,” Danny tells her. “Like they need to modulate how sad they should be for me.”
But Sorry for Your Loss is also a family drama, particularly when it comes to the three Shaw women now living under the same roof. Matt’s death was also a catalyst for Jules to get sober, and she and Amy are frustrated when they try to express their own sadness at losing Matt which Leigh often treats like a competition (that no one, of course, can be as sad as she is). The dialogue among these women is particularly real and grounded, with shades of arguments that feel uncomfortably familiar. The same is true in many of the past interactions we’re shown between Matt and Leigh, positive or negative, and it illustrates the care that playwright and series creator Kit Steinkellner takes in crafting authentic dynamics.
In Season Two, those dynamics are at the forefront of the first three episodes available for review. Almost a year has passed since Matt died, and even though the Season One finale left Leigh in a place where it seemed like she was ready to start living life on her own terms again, she remains mostly in limbo. It’s also Christmas, which exacerbates everything. It’s her first holiday season without Matt, but there are other dramas happening with her mother (who is sleeping with her ex-husband, Leigh’s dad, despite him being remarried with a daughter), and between Leigh and Jules. Jules, for once, is the one with her life seemingly together (which Leigh somewhat sabotages with a mean comment before an important event), but also the one who feels the most isolated from the family. All three women are spiraling, and struggling to define themselves in a world that has suddenly been so changed.
Season One also teased a relationship that could develop between Leigh and Danny, but the show wisely gives that space to start. The two are estranged, with Danny on his own journey to find himself and define his life in the wake of Matt’s death, even though Leigh keeps texting him and wants to see him. The two may come back together, but the distance feels right until they can get themselves sorted out.
The 10 half-hour episodes were previously released in small weekly bundles, and the same is more or less true this time (it will kick off with three and release two more each subsequent week). It’s an interesting strategy, but one that does fit the mini-bingeing the show almost requires. Sorry for Your Loss remains visually sumptuous, full of warm, cozy spaces, soft colors and fabrics (and lots of new age-y wellness aesthetics), all of which draw you in to the very intimate world. As the story leans in more to being a family drama in Season Two, it does lose some of the specific emotional intensity tied to Matt’s death and Leigh’s processing of it (especially after we learned, in the first season, that Matt was depressed and might have jumped rather than fallen while hiking; the portrayal of that struggle by Athie was incredible). But the complicated dynamics and exceptional cast keep this a compelling portrait of a family learning to accept one another and strive to understand themselves better.
Perhaps it’s that Season Two doesn’t feel quite as emotionally overwhelming as the first, which is a fair reflection of Leigh’s place in her own life (and not a negative mark against the show at all). As she starts to move forward, tentatively, so does the show. There are fits and starts in both cases, but Sorry for Your Loss continues to be an authentic and moving series. And yes, it is definitely worth watching TV on Facebook for (which is, by the way, totally free).
Sorry for Your Loss Season Two premieres Tuesday, October 1st on Facebook Watch.
Allison Keene is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For more television talk, pop culture chat and general japery, you can follow her @keeneTV