Posted on Tuesday, January 19th, 2016 by Jack Giroux
Midway through season one of HBO’s The Leftovers, the show found its footing, going on to deliver heartbreaking, romantic, strangely comedic, and honest stories about family. The show continued to improve, and by the time season two premiered, the show was on its way to delivering an ambitious, dense, and more surreal chapter in its three-part story.
Based on Tom Perrotta‘s book, The Leftovers allowed co-creator and showrunner Damon Lindelof to start almost from scratch in season two. When season one ended, that was the end of Perrotta’s book. This past season some of the key characters picked up and moved to Jarden, Texas, where they learned not even paradise is perfect.
After the jump, read part one of our Damon Lindelof interview. (Spoilers for Season 2 of The Leftovers ahead.)
It felt like everyone had a lot of confidence going into season two. This season took a lot of gambles.
I don’t know it was as much as it was confidence as it was feeling like we had nothing to lose. And also, I think that, for me, television writing has always been the more you try to control it yourself and force the show to be something, the less effective it is. But when you start listening to the show, it will tell you what it wants to be. It’s very clear what’s working and what’s not working. The show will reject an idea like a body will reject a bloody type that doesn’t match. And so, I think that we all got better at that this year.
I think there was a degree of specificity in the second season in terms of the storytelling, where in Season 1 it was like: “These are people living their lives.” Where, in Season 2 it was: “These are people living their lives,” but we were also hanging the idea of Jarden and the girls’ disappearance. And even though we didn’t dedicate a lot of screen time in terms of the investigation of the missing girls, I did feel like that was like the spine of the season in a way that the first season didn’t have that. If you can find that spine in a season of television, where a lot of the great shows, even the shows that are less plot-driven, like Mad Men, are basically like, “Oh, McCann is going to take over Sterling Cooper,” and that becomes the paradigm that creates a lot of the conflict of the series. If you can find that thing, you are in good shape, and we did. That’s why I like the anthology shows like Fargo or True Detective. They have to have that because they are anthology shows. It’s hard for a continuing show to find it.
From what you’ve read or heard, do you feel like this past season people embraced the show more for what it is?
Sure. I mean inherent in your question is not as many people watched the show in the second season, which is interesting considering I do think that the response to the second season of the show was more positive or less divisive, however you want to say it. Empirically, the show was more embraced in its second season, and I think that there were a number of reasons for that. But the idea that people made it all the way to the end of Season 1 and then they were like, “I’m done with The Leftovers. I don’t want to watch anymore,” is a bit of a head scratcher, because I think if you make it to Episode 10, you are sort of like, “Oh, I’m curious to see where these people go next.” And maybe people are waiting to binge and it’s still a longer story.
But I have my zeitgeist very carefully curated for me in terms of, like, I just avoid Google searching that stuff. I’m off social media, because my habit is I’ll just find the most negative thing and just fixate on it. And the negative thing is always out there. And so, I have writers and producers on the show who are really tapped into this stuff. If something nice is written about the show, they will send it to me and I’ll click the link. And then I’ll use every iota of my being not to go into the comments section to find the negativity because I feel like I need to have that balance.
So yeah, in general it definitely does feel like the response to the second season has been more favorable.
It seems like people have stopped caring about the idea of what happened to everyone and just accepted that’s not really what the show is about.
Wouldn’t you say the answer to that question isn’t important?
I think there are philosophical and emotional answers to the question that you are asking, which is why do people like it more? But I just think we just did a better job this year, all of us, the writers. It wasn’t that the show was shittily written last year, or shittily acted, or shittily directed. It was just like everything wasn’t clicking yet. We spent the first five episodes, inclusive of the pilot, just kinda trying to figure out what the tone of the show was going to be and how to tell stories. And then we kinda tripped over the third episode of the show, which was just told really from sheerly Matt’s point of view. And that was the first time that we were all like, “This is working. But we can’t do this every week, can we? Let’s go back to Kevin. We’ve got to follow Jill around and see what Laurie is up to.”
Every time we narrowed the storytelling focus, the show just felt like it was working much better. And I think we were able to do a lot more of that in Season 2. When you get to the end of the season, it still feels like, “Oh, I wish there was more Nora. I wish there was more Jill. I wish there was more Matt.” But I also feel like that’s a position you want to put the audience in. You always want them to want more.