The Leftovers Season 2

Damon Lindelof on How FNL (and Not Twin Peaks) Inspired The Leftovers' Radical Season 2 Overhaul

Is there anything that Eric Taylor can’t do?

When The Leftovers’ co-creator, Damon Lindelof, was faced with the daunting task of coming up with a second season of the HBO drama — and the first that doesn’t rely on Tom Perrotta’s novel — he drew inspiration from the Friday Night Lights coach’s “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose” motto and went all in.

“Despite the fact that there is a genre premise that is underlying the world of The Leftovers, we really looked at it structurally more like Friday Night Lights, where it’s sort of the continuing condition of these people living their lives,” he tells TVLine. “It’s not like Friday Night Lights’ first-season finale had this big cliffhanger that needed to be resolved. You’re just like, ‘I like these people, and I want to spend more time with them.’”

the_murphys_and_garveys_kevin_carrollkingcarrie_coontheroux_1.jpg.CROP.rtstory-largeIn the case of The Leftovers, the people with whom viewers most wanted to spend more time were unlikely lovers Kevin and Nora. “We knew that their [relationship] wasn’t going to be fully resolved at the end of the first season,” Lindelof says. “It was something that was just beginning… and that maybe [the audience] would want to see more.”

So the couple’s dynamic will be one of the few familiar touchstones that remain in Sunday’s premiere (9/8c), which finds Kevin and Nora living in a completely new setting (goodbye, Mapleton, NY; hello Miracle, TX) and surrounded by (mostly) new faces. Between those seismic shifts, the introduction of a fresh mystery and an overhauled opening title sequence (scroll down to bottom of story to view), the show runs the risk of its fans suggesting that there’s nothing “left” of The Leftovers. But the revamp was necessary, since Season 1 exhausted all of Perrotta’s source material.

“What made it such a satisfying conclusion to Tom’s book — because the novel ends exactly the same way as the first season does, with Nora holding the baby on the doorstep — is also what made it immensely challenging not to say, ‘Shouldn’t we just end it here? Why do we have to make them suffer more?’” shares Lindelof. “And I’ll be honest with you: At the end of the first season, I was a little bit of the mind that maybe that should be it.

“I’m not being a Negative Nellie here,” he adds, “but the audience was not exactly screaming out for a second season of The Leftovers. It’s not like we ended the first season with [Lost’s] Jack and Locke looking down into the hatch and it’s like, ‘You have to now continue the story.’ [We had to ask ourselves,] ‘How do we justify continuing? Is there an idea worth pursuing?’”

leftovers 2To answer those questions, Lindelof huddled with Perrotta, then expanded their brainstorming session to include a handful of new writers. Once they had a direction that they felt strongly about going in, HBO signed off without hesitation. “It’s a slightly less conventional way of doing a television show but one that I think is emotionally much better for me as a storyteller,” Lindelof theorizes, “because it forces me every single season to close the book. If you’re doing the other version of the show, you’re constantly setting up new threads that may or may not pay off. You’re introducing new characters that may or may not work. You feel like you constantly have to expand your universe just to generate story.

“And I’ve been in that situation before,” he continues. “I’ve watched other shows completely and totally collapse under their own weight when they try to do that. Twin Peaks, which is my favorite show of all time, went from the cover of Time magazine to cancelled in 32 episodes.”

Viewers will have to wait until Sunday to decide for themselves whether the changes have given the show a new lease on life or sounded the death knell. But after pre-screening the first two episodes, I can personally attest that The Leftovers remains one of the boldest and most engrossing series on the air. Not only does Season 2 maintain the dark tone and emotional resonance of its predecessor, but its new mystery infuses the narrative with a galvanizing sense of urgency.

But enough about me. What’s leading man Justin Theroux’s review? “Damon wanted to find a vehicle through which he could talk about bigger ideas than the ones we addressed in Season 1, and I think he did that very effectively,” says the actor. “We’re shooting the finale now, and I’ve read everything — and performed 90 percent of it. There were just so many breathtaking scenes. [The show] just got smarter.”

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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10 Comments
  1. DavidJ says:

    Ha, I love Lindelof’s comment that people weren’t exactly screaming for a second season of The Leftovers. Although personally I enjoyed the heck out of the first season and really loved the ambiguity and creepy undertone of the whole thing.

    I’m not sure a second season was really necessary either, but I definitely look forward to seeing it.

  2. I appreciate Damon Lindelof’s love for television. In all of his interviews, you can tell how much he loves television and the work of other writers. He looks to other series and showrunners for tips which is great.

  3. Tom Davis says:

    Who is the female singer in this video? Very good!

    • Kevin Danza says:

      That’s Iris Dement’s great song ‘Let the Mystery Be’. I actually prefer the version 10000 Maniacs performed with David Byrne (of Talking Heads) on their MTV Unplugged appearance. But it really is a fantastic song, and Iris Dement is awesome.

  4. Guy says:

    Looking forward to it. Wish they would’ve kept the opening credits from season 1 though. I don’t know what they were thinking with these new credits. The folk-y song and that ridiculous font.

  5. Miranda says:

    I loved the first season – I thought it was such a bold, compelling new show – but I understand how it put many people off.
    That season 2 takes its cue from FNL, one of the most inspiring dramas of all time, is very encouraging.

    • blah says:

      Unless they are copying FNL’s 2nd season. That was pretty bad.
      The Murder, The almost threesome, the christian DJ. The Sweede.

  6. A says:

    That new theme song is absolutely terrible! I kind of liked how unsettling the old opening credits were. I don’t mind them changing it, but they really should’ve picked a different song. It doesn’t fit with the tone of the show at all.

    • Leo says:

      I really enjoy this show a lot. The mystery and hints of darkness keep me interested, but the new theme song was such a horrible decision i still cannot fathom what they were thinking. Someone was paid money to pitch this song as the new theme song; that is crazy. Even crazier is that other people agreed to it lol! The lady singing is very talented, nothing against her, but that song does not encompass the feel of this show. It sucks to have to listen to it before every episode and that we cannot have a song that accurately represents our show, like Sons, Breaking Bad or True Detective S1. How can i convey these feelings in a way that might actually end up in them changing the song again lol. oh well, ill stop bitching and just watch the show lol.

    • Kevin Danza says:

      I actually love that song (Iris Dement’s ‘Let the Mystery Be’), but i prefer the 10000 Maniacs version on MTV Unplugged (with David Byrne). But i’ve never seen The Leftovers, so i don’t know how well it works or doesn’t work with the tone of the show. Sounds like they were trying to go with something similar to True Detective season 1, but failed to capture the darkness of that Handsome Family song. This strikes me more like the opening to Weeds or something. Anyway, look forward to catching this show sometime soon.