Elizabeth Olsen plays a young widow in this thoughtful and loving series about navigating grief.
In Watch This, Vox critic at large Emily VanDerWerff tells you what she’s watching on TV — and why you should watch it, too. Read the archives here. This week: Sorry for Your Loss, which airs on Facebook Watch.
Every article about the TV show Sorry for Your Loss must cover the following bullet points, as though they are recorded in the Constitution:
- It’s a brilliantly devastating little drama, full of light and love
- Its amazing cast is anchored by the sweet and soulful Elizabeth Olsen
- It airs on Facebook Watch, so good luck finding it [insert boilerplate about how Facebook is destroying the planet]
All of the above, so far as it goes, is true. Sorry for Your Loss is a terrific show — one of TV’s best — but the fact that it’s sequestered within a section of Facebook that seems almost intentionally difficult to find means that extremely few people have seen it. I watched the entire second season via screener and I could not possibly imagine how anyone would organically stumble upon the show on Facebook, short of just Googling it.
And that’s why I’m writing about Sorry for Your Loss and linking to it here — I really want people to watch it. What the show does is in short supply on TV right now, and if it doesn’t get a third season (season two just ended on Tuesday, November 19), I might have to finally get mad at Mark Zuckerberg.
So what does it do that’s so unique and interesting? I’m glad you asked.
Sorry for Your Loss somehow turns the debilitating process of grief into a TV show
When I first learned the premise of Sorry for Your Loss — a young widow named Leigh (Olsen) tries to live in the wake of her husband’s death — I had the same thought that many others probably did: How in the world is that enough for a TV show? A movie, sure. A novel, absolutely. A stage play, I’m writing it right now! But a TV show? One that will air week after week after week? It can’t possibly work.
I was wrong. What makes Sorry for Your Loss so good is that it understands grief isn’t a neat arc with a beginning and an end. It’s a process of atomization. An incident happens and your whole body feels like it’s engulfed in the flames of a nuclear blast. But with every passing day, it dissipates a little more and a little more. You’re able to do more, to get out of bed, to resume your life. But you always live with the residue of what happened. Your body is now radioactive, no matter how much the most immediately deadly elements dull with time. You learn how to live with grief; you don’t learn how to defeat it.
Season one, which aired in 2018, took place within a short window following the death of Leigh’s husband Matt (who’s played by Mamoudou Athie in frequent flashbacks). Leigh has no idea why her husband died, and she spends much of the first season in search of an explanation for why he fell off a cliff on a hiking trail he should have been able to handle. Sorry for Your Loss never confirms whether it was an unfortunate accident or a death by suicide because it’s impossible for Leigh to ever know what was going through Matt’s mind in those last moments. Uncertainty becomes the ghost that haunts her.
In season two, the show became a little more open and free-wheeling than it was before, because Leigh is slowly clawing her way back toward a new normal. In particular, it teases out a possible love affair between Leigh and Matt’s brother, Danny (Jovan Adepo), one that is probably ill-advised but that both Leigh and Danny might need in order to feel human again. Add in richer roles for (the great) Kelly Marie Tran as Leigh’s sister and (the impeccable) Janet McTeer as Leigh’s mother, and you have a series that is sensitively attuned to a group of people who all experience Matt’s death in their own ways, without any of them having a claim to what might be the “correct” way to grieve.
Does that sound like a bummer? It can be. But Sorry for Your Loss is also frequently warm and funny, because its characters really do like each other and like spending time together. And its half-hour episodes keep the series from ever becoming too much. (In general, the half-hour drama — shows like Sorry for Your Loss, Amazon’s Homecoming, Disney+’s The Mandalorian, and AppleTV+’s upcoming Servant — is one of the best formats to have emerged on streaming television in the last couple of years.)
I love TV shows that tell stories about people just struggling to live their lives on their own terms. The further we get into the Peak TV era, the less room TV seems to have for them. Thank goodness for shows like Sorry for Your Loss, which treat the stories of real lives as the stuff of fantasy epics and dare to suggest that what happens in our lives is important, no matter how mundane.
Both seasons of Sorry for Your Loss are streaming on Facebook Watch.
Author: Emily Todd VanDerWerff