Damon Lindelof Talks ‘Leftovers’ Season 2 Finale, Show’s Future: ‘We Want There to Be More’

'The Leftovers' Season 2 Finale, Season
Courtesy HBO

Spoiler warning: Do not read on unless you’ve seen “I Live Here Now,” the season 2 finale of “The Leftovers.”

The final installment of “The Leftovers” season two was all about awakenings: Mary (Janel Moloney), Matt’s wife, finally woke up from her comatose state. The town of Jarden — and the enclave of seekers just outside its gates — realized that the Guilty Remnant had been hanging around for some time, planning a secretive and scary operation. The Guilty Remnant leader, Meg (Liv Tyler), unleashed hell on Jarden, giving lie to the idea that the small Texas town had been spared the fallout of the Departure; perhaps in her mind, she was rousing its citizens to reality. And once again, Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) woke up in that purgatorial hotel, where he had to do some abjectly emotional karaoke before being allowed to awaken and return to the land of the living. (It’s amusing, in a weird way, that Kevin’s not really all that mad at John Murphy for shooting him. As neighborly feedback goes, Kevin seems to think it was tough but fair.)

As for John (Kevin Carroll), he’s become the new Kevin: John struggles to comprehend what feels like the loss of his entire family. Everything he thought he knew was wrong. His teenage daughter, now under the sway of Meg, seems to hate him and their entire town; he and his wife are further apart than ever emotionally; and his son, Michael, is as lost and confused as any of the Garveys. The town itself is trashed as well, and his attempts to keep it safe and protected from the rest of America have clearly failed. 

As for Kevin, the reception he got from his family and friends once he returned home indicates that there is hope, even in this challenging version of our world. If his shaky rendition of “Homeward Bound” or Erika’s frantic pleading on the bridge didn’t make you a little teary, the look on his face when he finally saw everyone waiting for him might have done the trick. Life is hard, but Kevin has woken up to all that he has to be grateful for.

Given the full-circle nature of that final scene, it’s reasonable to ask whether that means the story of “The Leftovers” is over. HBO has not yet made a decision on whether to bring back the show, but, like critic Alan Sepinwall, I very much hope the drama, like Kevin, finds itself renewed. And in an interview, co-creator Damon Lindelof admits that he certainly hopes this is not the end.

Here, he addresses some of the pressing questions fans might have as this year’s widely acclaimed season came to a close. (By the way, Lindelof addressed other aspects of “The Leftovers” and TV in general in Part 1 and Part 2 of this interview with Variety.)

What do you think fans will want to know when the season finale ends? What questions will they have?

If I were watching “The Leftovers” as a fan, the question that I would most want to know in the wake of the finale is this: Is there going to be more “Leftovers”? Aside from whether or not HBO’s going to pick up the show for more episodes, [the audience question will be,] “Did you design this episode so that it would be the end? Am I looking at this as a potential end of the series?”

I’ll be honest with you, I do not like it when showrunners say, “Well, we didn’t know what the future of the show was going to be, so we kind of designed it so it could be the end if there wasn’t anymore.” This is me saying there are forces greater than me, market forces, that are going to determine what the fate of “The Leftovers” is. We executed the end of the season as we always planned. We knew exactly how the season was going to end, and that’s exactly what we did. And I would like there to be more “Leftovers.” So it certainly isn’t a cliffhanger. I think that our best episodes very rarely are. We usually try to end the episodes with some degree of completeness.

My hope is that the finale feels like [a wrap-up] for the entire season. We executed exactly the plan that we wanted to execute. There is a feeling of completeness and circularity, but also as storytellers and writers, we want there to be more “Leftovers.”

Moving the show to Jarden and adding the new characters changed up the show in a lot of great ways. Do you foresee it moving again next season and having a different setting because that injection of new elements was so successful?

There’s a part of me that’s like, “Well, it worked once. Let’s do it again! Let’s go to Australia.” There’s another part of me that’s basically like, “You can’t do the same trick twice.” A magician never does the same trick again, because you’ll be much less amazed, and because when you know the outcome of the trick, you watch to see how they did it.

But most importantly, we now have a bona fide emotional investment in a lot of characters. I mean, season two of “The Wire” was told from the point of view of the dock guys, and when that season ended, several of them end up dead, but regardless, I was like, “All right, I’ve had enough of these guys.” I don’t feel that way about the Murphys. I feel like there’s more story to be told in Jarden. I wouldn’t say we’ve only just scratched the surface, but I really loved working in Austin. I really loved the new characters, and I feel like there’s a way to [stay there but] do the same thing that we did in the second season in terms of subverting expectations somewhat and introducing a new story — because that’s really the key. What would be the thing that happens in the third season that begins the arc of the third season? I think that there is still fuel there. That’s my instinct.

The way that we generated this season of television is, all the writers got together for an entire month, and all we did was basically design the season. Then we pitched it to HBO and they were like, “Yeah, that sounds good.” We need to do that again before we know what the season [is going to be].

If the show comes back, how many times will you kill Kevin in Season 3? No, but seriously, is that revival-from-death a card you can’t play too many more times, for Kevin or for any other characters?

Not to be cutesy (God, I hate cutesy), but there’s an argument to be made that we haven’t killed Kevin at all yet. I mean… he’s alive, isn’t he?  That said, were there to be a third season, we’ll be attempting to break the record set by “South Park” re: repeatedly killing a character. Watch your back, Kenny!

Do you think the show might really journey to Australia, which has come up a few times in the show and which you mentioned in our conversation? I’m just wondering if you’re leaning toward broadening the show out from Jarden somewhat while still having a lot of the story and a bunch of major characters based there.

This is a very insightful question. I hear Australia is awesome.

Can we assume that if there is a third season, Mary will remain awake for it?

Don’t really want to talk about a season three creative plan until there is a season three, but I think it would be incredibly cruel to both the audience and Janel Moloney to put Mary back to sleep.  In fact, I think she’ll just stop sleeping all together so that she can binge watch all the excellent TV shows she missed while she was unconscious. Fun fact: [In the world of the show,] Matthew Weiner departed on October 14, which resulted in “Mad Men’s” abrupt conclusion after its third season. So sad.

Do the violent actions of the Guilty Remnant in the finale provide any kind of social commentary on where this country is at right now given all the mass murders always in the headlines?

It was impossible to write the Meg episode without being aware of current events… but “The Leftovers” has never been a “ripped from the headlines” show and while we’re deeply affected by the senseless and confusing violence both here and abroad, the story we’re telling is more interested in how our characters’ psychological and spiritual confusion often leads to very bad choices. 

You’ve talked about the emotional regions you and the writers want to explore with this show. Will that array of ideas and themes — grief, love, pain, family, loss, connection, spirituality and religion — remain quite similar in a third season, or are there some other ideas or emotions you want to dig into?

I think the array of emotions you listed will continue to be the ones we’re most interested in. At this point, we’re more interested into digging deeper into the containers of ice cream we’ve already opened than in opening new ones. That’s one of the more s—y metaphors I’ve ever attempted, but I am really craving ice cream right now. 

For more on “The Leftovers,” check out the latest edition of the Talking TV podcast, which is here and on iTunes.

What did you think of “The Leftovers” season two finale? Share your thoughts and predictions for a potential season three below.

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  1. Umm, I’m pretty sure it’s over. Kevin is dead, right? He took a bullet a point blank range in the chest. He’s not coming back from that. I don’t think the karaoke performance brought him back to the land of the living. It freed him from purgatory. It looks like he ends up in hell as the town is ravaged, but he makes amends with his killer and sees all his loved ones (back at the house) before moving on.

    I did love the show – especially the first season. Six Feet Under is my favorite show of all time and I didn’t think a show could be any more dark and use grief as a central character/emotion the same way. Leftovers is even darker and sadder.

  2. Season 2 was the best TV I have ever watched. Still have questions. HBO should be ashamed if they allow those questions to go unanswered.

  3. Steph Hughes says:

    As a viewer in the UK, The Leftovers was one of the strangest yet most compelling, riveting TV series I have watched. And I’ve seen some crackers! It would be fab if there were to be a third series from HBO

  4. Iris says:

    I NEED & DEMAND A SEASON3!!! I was left hanging like last season…….thinking well Shoot….. What’s next & where do they go from here. This season confirmed my Fandom w/the plot & scripts even more than last… Please please HBO bring back a 3 & Keep all the same ppl from 2 b/c it was Better than 1 in my opinion

  5. kgudsnuk says:

    Matthew Weiner departed? Oh no!!!

    Okay, HBO, if you’re reading this, please renew The Leftovers. And also fix the bugs with your HBO Now app.

    Leftovers is such a good show. It actually gives me a feeling similar to the one Mad Men would give me– tons of existential dread, and just an incredible amount of investment in these somewhat ordinary people’s lives.

    I also have to note that the music in the show is on point. Homeward Bound, Let Your Love Flow, and Where Is My Mind all immediately put me in Leftovers headspace when I hear them now (especially impressive given how iconically Where Is My Mind was used in Fight Club).

    I loved watching Kevin’s mental breakdown unfold (haha… I mean it was good TV!) and Justin Theroux really does an amazing job in the role. I’m also really drawn to Matt’s character. You so rarely see such a complex exploration of faith in entertainment nowadays. Religion is usually either portrayed as idiotic or the obvious Only Good Choice. The Leftovers did something really engaging and, frankly, more realistic.

    Renew The Leftovers!! :D

  6. Wililam Haney says:

    If HBO does not pick it up, could another network? Granted commercial breaks come into play. Would one of the big four networks be interested?

  7. Colby says:

    So, just watched the finale. The show made clear that the guy in the hotel that told Kevin he had to sing to make it back to this plane was the same guy on the bridge he gave him the choice of “the jump” or “the cross” before Kevin pushed Patti into the well.

    Then, at the hotel bar in the season finale, a lady at the karaoke sings “just call me angel, of the morning, angel” and just then the man turns and smiles at Kevin.

    That man was Satan.

    Fearing that Jesus was about to fulfill his destiny to save mankind by getting nailed to the cross, the devil told Jesus to jump from the cliff, because angels would prevent him from hitting the bottom.

    Lucifer is often called “the morning angel”.

    Fun, eerie stuff. Great season.

  8. John C says:

    I thought the Leftovers season finally was well done. I really enjoyed Season 2 much more than the first season.
    I hope they will produce a season 3.

  9. Mel Emmett says:

    There are some shows that stir emotions and grip the viewer into the story. This show had me waiting for each episode and made me feel the emotions of the characters. Even with Patty finally going I felt extreme sorrow for her and what she went through. I love this show and hope that we see more of the characters we have grown to know. A big well done for a show that has a story that means so much to so many.

  10. Joe says:

    I gotta say, the finale satiated me and if it’s the end, I can dig it. I’m one of those people (maybe, according to the internet, the only one) who really preferred season 1 to season 2. Part of that is the tone was more to my liking (perpetually bleakness really works for me) but also because it had the aesthetic trappings of a true alternative reality: I felt like I was watching B-reel of some great 60 Minutes segment of the actual Departure. If season 2’s premise was: let’s take that alternative reality and juxtapose it with a part of the world that’s still very rooted in ‘our’ reality (i.e. a world without the departure), it failed to make….ok, honestly as I was writing this sentence and thinking of whether or not the departure in the outside world was accurately depicted in this season, I totally forgot about Episode 3 when Susan kills her family and I changed my mind, the season was amazing. I’m just sort of upset they didn’t explore the government conspiracy to kill all the cults, but that’s OK. Great season. Serious about figuring that out in the middle of my post. Super good.

  11. Alyce says:

    There simply must be a Leftovers season 3
    It’s too important a show. It’s stunning and gripping and relevant and not too many shows can say that. HBO. Get a clue. Renew!

  12. Jake M. says:

    This show freakin rocks, it’s not our fault others don’t watch it. They can depart for all I care. Please let there be a Season 3.

  13. JW Scott says:

    F…..g Awesome! I don’t watch much TV but this season was just incredible. I couldn’t wait for it to come on each week. Wow Plz come back with a season 3 HBO!!!

  14. norton says:

    I’m looking forward to a third season, the show has captivated me with its consistently unanswered questions.
    As an artist I am emotionally invested in the series because My work has been informed by the kidnapping & disappearance my 4 year old son in 1990. As a result I draw with shadows and voids. I grasp the questions and feelings of the characters.

  15. Sandy says:

    Awesome!

  16. I think its great that Lindelof answered so many questions. Ultimately I think the answers we sought have been sated but that they definitely have a sense that they are unexplored – this exploration would be predicated on the third season and the infamous “Market.” The show was definitely about questions and at the end of the day, I don’t mind leaving them open for me to answer in my own life. Thank you Variety for this unique opportunity and for your coverage.

  17. If HBO does not renew this show it will be another Treme screw-up. That was (in my opinion) the first time HBO lost its way, and it also lost a great many fans. It was a gutless move.

    Shutting The Leftovers down after two seasons would be much worse. The episodes are like short stories. The S02 finale was like a short movie.

    But it could happen.

    They justified cutting Treme short by saying that the ‘ratings’ were not great. If you want to be guided by ratings, open a network channel.

  18. Alaia says:

    I hope this show comes back for more! I enjoyed both seasons, but season two was really fantastic.

  19. Karoline Hedegaard says:

    One of the best series I’ve ever seen! It really connects with the audience in a very unique way with all its emotions and questions about life. I dive deep and cry in every episode. The characters, the story, the music and effects all in one is just so beautiful. I want more!

  20. Marsha says:

    Just started watching the series last week. I hadn’t heard any promotion about it. Just thought I’d try it.This show is extraordinary and one of the best shows I have ever seen on tv, period. I am glued to the show when it’s on. Wonderful finale! I hope there are more viewers coming to the table so season 3 can commence!

  21. cdg says:

    Wonderfully unique series, so glad I stuck it out during Season 1. Definitely a love it or hate it type of show. I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t have at least 2 good seasons left in it. I hope HBO renews it

  22. Linda Stadler says:

    I enjoyed this article until the writer used the word “woken”. There is no such word.

  23. Diane Carr says:

    It has been a very frustrating show, as was ‘Lost’. I continued to watch, but, a story shouldn’t be this difficult to grasp. Sorry, my existential days of thought are over. To be, or not to be. I answered my own question: not to be watching anymore.

  24. Barbara says:

    Love the show please don’t leave us hanging we need a season three.

  25. Tania says:

    I hope they bring it back. Season 2 was so much stronger than season 1. I think there is more to be told.

  26. Makes me sad to think they might not renew this but then keep other shows that either barely have any story or are completely unoriginal. I’ll just keep watching lost for now :/

  27. Chris Short says:

    This show needs to be brought back! This season was so creative and full of emotion. Hopefully, we get to see multiple Emmy Awards passed out for this amazing piece of work. Bravo!

  28. Linda rogers says:

    What a great show! Thank U, HBO.

  29. Jenny says:

    Dunno if I could get excited about another season of this show. So much time wasted on the annoying Patti. I’d be worried some other pointless character would be revivified and popping up every five minutes. Meh.

  30. John P Jones says:

    Probably not going to get renewed. The only thing redeeming about it was the dog ran off and I wanted to follow suit. That very last scene was good and they should leave it at that. If I was HBO and decided to renew it I would just do the whole season three following the dog around getting into adventures.

  31. Holy Wayne says:

    Season 3, please. This show has LOTS of juice left, potentially.

  32. crcoord says:

    you can tell this clown wrote “Lost”, too many questions, not enough answers, i love the characters (especially Kevin and Nora), but it’s a very frustrating show to watch at times!

  33. Donna says:

    I loved it and want more! This is one of my favorite shows! Please bring a seas

  34. Conshimfee says:

    Mimi Leder- take a bow. Bravo! Season Two was exquisite.

  35. Kevin Harvey says:

    It’s what makes HBO better than the rest. I hope they see that! It’s the kind of show build viewers and reputation over time… More leftovers please!

  36. Sterling Silver says:

    Have thoroughly enjoyed Season 2 of THE LEFTOVERS. I hope HBO has the foresight and renews the show for a third season. There’s so much more story to be told.

  37. SPIKE says:

    Boy, Damon, you must have a good publicity agent.

  38. Me says:

    There’s got to be a Season 3 of this awesome show! It is, hands down, the best show on TV. HBO would be making a mistake if they canceled it. A huge mistake.

  39. Lisa Wilson says:

    Damon Lindelof knows what he’s doing this time around; not that he didn’t with LOST, but I love the integrity demonstrated at his discussing some of the things he learned with LOST and seeing how that experience has led to production of a show that is so well put together. I loved being a part of the Facebook group The Leftovers Chat and still being blown away by it, even with all the speculation. I would love to see The Leftovers brought back for several more seasons. There’s still so much story left to tell, or so it seems!

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