I warned you it was going to be different!
The Leftovers launched its second season Sunday with a new setting, an overhauled ensemble and a fresh Departure-related mystery. By the time the credits rolled on the hour-plus premiere, I had a million questions. I narrowed that number down to nine and promptly brought them to executive producer and co-creator Damon Lindelof. The resulting Q&A is below.
TVLINE | It takes a giant set of cojones to wait until 45 minutes into the premiere to re-introduce your main characters…
[Laughs] I make no bones of the fact that I am a huge lover of television. And one of the things I feel like I’m entitled to do is take ideas that others have had before me and do my own spin on them. One of my favorite television shows of all time is The Wire. In the the second-season premiere, they did this thing at the docks, which was sort of like, “Wait, who are these people?!” I found it so riveting, because it was breaking the fundamental storytelling rules. Also, one of my favorite Charles Dickens’ books is A Tale of Two Cities. And clearly in Lost we tried a version of it with the tail section in Season 2, although we did not start the premiere with the tail section. So I’ve had some experience with shifting POVs.
I thought If we want to introduce the audience to this new town, isn’t it more interesting to introduce them to the people who have been living there for a while? And what if Episode 2 was [about] the Garveys moving into this place? And then let the audience ask, “Why are you doing it this way?” And we have to be able to answer that question on a thematic and emotional level. And if we can’t it’s just a storytelling gimmick. Starting this way was very exciting to us. And although I appreciate your compliment, it didn’t feel ballsy. It felt necessary. Only when I started to tell people — and they had the same reaction as you, like, “Whoa, you do realize that some people are going to hate that?” — did I start to get a little scared. [Laughs]
TVLINE | It’s a nice payoff at that 45-minute mark when we see Kevin and Nora’s car pull up in the background of that scene…
Oh, cool. I was most scared about what Justin [Theroux] and Carrie [Coon]’s feelings of the premiere were going to be. And when they both liked it, I thought, “OK, maybe we’ll be alright.”
TVLINE | Let’s talk about the opening sequence and that extremely graphic childbirth scene — thanks, by the way, for showing me that babies can be born that way…
[Laughs] It’s an important public service. We all needed to know.
TVLINE | Was that your way of establishing that Miracle is a magical place right out of the gate?
To talk about what our intention was with that sequence robs it of what we were trying to do. I don’t want to take away from the audience what meaning they derive from it. And that’s not me being cutesy. It’s more a matter of saying, “This show is all about affixing meaning to stuff.” From the perspective of the woman in the sequence, she sees an eagle fly over and she follows it. And that has meaning to her. And that earthquake has meaning to her. But to us, in a post-scientific realm, we’re basically like, “That was a bird and that was an earthquake. They have no meaning.” So is the earthquake a metaphor for the [Sudden] Departure at large? Is the cave a metaphor for what happens when you lose your family? That is not a question that I want to be answering [publicly]. I want the audience to be having that debate. I also understand that I’m inviting a fair amount of, “Oh, f—ing Lindelof. Again.”
TVLINE | So Episode 2 will be the flashback episode that takes us inside Kevin and Nora’s journey to Miracle?
Yes. The first episode told the story from the point of view of this new family. The second episode is purely through the point of view of the Garveys, and it will start prior to the moment where we see them arrive in Miracle. The audience deserves some of the math that led them there.
TVLINE | Has the theme of the show changed?
The theme has changed a little bit. The show is not about being depressed. The show is not about grief. The show is not about loss. It’s about escaping all of those things. So it’s, “How do I stop grieving? How do I get over loss?” In the first season, the characters were caught up in this cycle. They didn’t know what to do to feel better. Now I think they’re all much more specifically drawn towards, “What can I do to put this behind me? How can I love again? How can I trust again? Where do I go from here?”
TVLINE | How on earth did you arrive at Perfect Strangers‘ Mark Linn-Baker for the side gag in which he faked his Departure?
We have a Perfect Strangers gag running back to the first season of the show. In Episode 2, Scott Glenn, who plays Kevin’s dad, watches reruns of Perfect Strangers in the mental institution and he mentions that the the entire cast departed on the 14th, and, isn’t that strange? So we thought it would be cool if, in fact, Mark Linn-Baker did not depart and just faked it. Mark and I exchanged some emails and he was totally gung-ho about it. In a show that thematically deals with the idea of not just the mythological departure but also people leaving their families, the idea that Mark Linn-Baker [faked his departure] because his castmates disappeared and maybe he felt embarrassed about being left out or he saw it as an opportunity to drop off the face of the planet felt like a cool story to tell.
TVLINE | Is it possible that a Departee with ties to one of our characters also faked their exit? Was this foreshadowing?
I wouldn’t say foreshadowing as much as introducing that possibility.
TVLINE | And the girls’ disappearance in the closing minutes sets up another possibility.
Yes. Now there’s a third possibility, and that’s that there was a secondary departure. Maybe these girls went to the same place that everybody else went. And this season is really about exploring all three possibilities.