Below, exec producer Damon Lindelof weighs in on the possibility of a third season, while also sharing some exclusive scoop on the significant role [spoiler] stands to play in it. But first, the former Lost boss tackles a handful of nagging questions about the Season 2 finale, including the Episode 7 plot point concerning my beloved Nora that I just couldn’t wrap my head around.
TVLINE | After everything that you put Kevin through this season, was it important for you to give him — and viewers — a happy ending?
Yes, is the short and simple answer. That ending came specifically from [fellow EP] Tom Perrotta. One of the big ideas of the season was if you leave home, if you change your geography, can you solve whatever problems you were having in the place that you’re leaving? And I think we all know that your problems tend to follow you wherever you go and, ultimately, as potentially hokey as this sounds, the best solution is to look your problems right in the eye and deal with them. But you can’t do it alone. You have to surround yourself with community, and community starts with the family. I like the way that you’re couching it — it’s a happy ending. A reward for Kevin. We just watched this guy suffer so intensely, what does he get in exchange for it? You’ve got to give him something, and I couldn’t think of anything sweeter than him crawling back into his cave and realizing that everybody was OK.
TVLINE | Is John in some ways the new Kevin? The same way that the Sudden Departure sort of shattered Kevin’s life, has Evie’s vanishing and joining the Guilty Remnant ripped off the band-aid of his barely held together family life?
[That] is very accurate. But another way of looking at it is that we introduced the audience to a group of characters seemingly untouched by the effects of the Departure, and now we’re actually watching them go through their Season 1.
TVLINE | With Virgil’s guidance, is it fair to say that anyone on the show could have cheated death twice, as Kevin did?
Oh, boy. The answer to that question probably illuminates or gives away things that the show itself has not yet. All i’ll say is Kevin is the one that Virgil approaches. Virgil doesn’t approach or offer his help to anyone else. He offers it to Kevin. Whatever is guiding Virgil points him to Kevin, and that was very intentional on our part as storytellers.
TVLINE | Did Kevin have this special aura or power before the Sudden Departure? Or did the Sudden Departure bright it out in him?
It’s impossible for me to answer that question because the Kevin that I was introduced to in Tom’s book was really married to the Sudden Departure, so I’ve never really thought about what he would be like had the Departure never happened. But we get a glimpse of [a pre-Depature Kevin] in the ninth episode of the first season. We see his obsession with catching and maybe saving this deer that is running through the neighborhood. It doesn’t have a mystical patina on it, but it has an emotional patina, which is he’s feeling trapped in his life and therefore he identifies with and wants to rescue this animal. But once the Departure happens, then the animal gains a mystical significance to him. You and I have talked about this in our personal interactions, which is when tragedy befalls you and it’s super confusing you’re much more inclined to try to find purpose and meaning in it than to say, “That was just an arbitrary thing that happened.” The arbitrariness robs it of its importance.
TVLINE | The woman who stole Lily from Nora, was she just a regular old nut?
[Laughs] Are you asking are we going to get an episode telling the story of Snake Tattoo Lady, as she was affectionately referred to in the script?
TVLINE | Sure.
I would say that she is a presentation of the kind of people who are down there in the encampment. I don’t want to reduce that character to saying she’s solely a MacGuffin, but, as storytellers, we knew that Nora Durst under no circumstances would ever get anywhere near that bridge and go back into town in the wake of what was happening. It would just be far too dangerous. We needed to create a plot machination that got her on the move. But, more importantly, emotionally, we wanted to make something very clear for the audience, which was that Nora is deeply attached to this baby. This baby is not a prop to her. Lily is a human being, and she cares very much about her and would risk her own life in order to save this child.
TVLINE | Since Kevin saw Mary on the other side the first time he died, how is she still alive? How was she able to find her way out of the hotel?
Answering that question starts to pick apart the very purposeful ambiguity of how the hotel works. All I’ll say is there was a lot of conversation in the writers’ room about whether or not Mary could be in that space. Was it breaking our fundamental rules? We decided it was not. One very interesting question that we asked ourselves: When Mary regained consciousness, would she remember having been in that hotel? It seems the answer to that question is no, or else she probably would’ve talked about it. When she wakes up and she sees Nora there she is not like, “Hey, I was just in a hotel getting a balloon delivery.” She’s like, “Nora, what are you doing here?” So Mary doesn’t seem to have any recollection whatsoever of where she was or what was happening while she was unconscious. I just want that to be clear to viewers. But I don’t want to talk about what rules governed us as storytellers in the space of the hotel.
TVLINE | What was the significance of Kevin’s dog running off like all the dogs in Mapleton did after the Sudden Departure? Nothing otherworldly happened at this time so why did he run?
Oh, who knows why dogs do what they do, Michael? [Laughs] We were trying to draw a purposeful symmetry between the first season finale and the second season finale, and the idea that this dog is like, “I’ll stick around until you wake up, but I want nothing to do with what’s going on in that town.” And then Kevin has a bit of a choice there when the dog runs off across the bridge — he can either follow the dog or he can turn around and head back into town. And we just loved idea that he heads back into town.
TVLINE | I loved this season, but there’s one thing that has really bugged me. The Nora that up and left Kevin when he revealed his Patti-centric mental illness to her seems really inconsistent with the Nora we’ve come to know over the preceding 16 episodes. Help me make sense of her thinking there.
There was a lot of conversation amongst the writers about that decision. And conversation with Carrie, as well. And, ultimately, all I can tell you is it was an irrational decision that was based purely on the emotional space that Nora was in when she made it. I think that in the week-to-week presentation of the show — which is, you watch Episode 6, and Episode 6 ends, and then Episode 7 starts and Nora’s gone — it magnifies the very legitimate issue that you raise. But if you binge the show and you [see everything that happens to Nora] in Episode 6, from being confronted by Dr. Cuarto, then getting the phone call from Laurie Garvey, and then ultimately having this very intense confrontation with Erika which results in her coming to terms with the fact that she doesn’t feel safe… And then the guy that she would probably turn to for comfort basically tells her that he’s seeing someone who’s not there, and she bounces. She does not leave Kevin for good. She doesn’t even leave town. And by the time Kevin calls the following night, she’s basically like, “I want to be with you. I want to come back, but I just needed to get away. I just needed to retreat in the short term.” So it’s not like she has packed all of her clothes and is gone. She just takes Mary and the baby and retreats. That’s the best explanation that I can give to you. It probably doesn’t appease you, but that is my short version of hours and hours and hours of creative thinking.
TVLINE | Looking back, do you wish maybe you had showed us a little bit more of her internal struggle instead of just picking up the following week with her gone?
A fair question. The honest answer is no, because Episode 7 was entirely in service of, “Can we bring Kevin to a point where he drinks poison from a stranger?” And one of the things that needed to exacerbate the desperation behind that decision was that he didn’t know what Nora’s thinking was. And so for the audience to know it, but for Kevin not to know it, would have broken the choice that we made regarding his subjectivity. But I think it’s a fair criticism.
TVLINE | When do you think there will be a decision on a Season 3 renewal?
I don’t have a timetable… HBO loves the show. My hope is that the finale is well received, and that there is a good feeling about the season that extends into the first couple weeks of December. And then we can ride that wave into a pickup. I will say this: If you are a fan of The Leftovers, let should let your voice be heard.
TVLINE | I imagine you probably have some ideas in your head about what a potential third season looks like. Throw me a scoop?
The one thing that I would say to you is that Scott Glenn is a starting pitcher that we have used as a relieving pitcher. I would really like to see some more of Kevin Senior. And not just in the present, but in the past.