Outside of Michael Bay, I’d say Damon Lindelof is one of the guys fans most love to pile on. Just look at that resume: along with Carlton Cuse, he gave us a Lost ending that drove many fans into fits of rage. He was one of the writers who took Khan Noonien Singh down a very different path in Star Trek Into Darkness. He was also one of the screenwriters behind Ridley Scott’s divisive Prometheus, and on a flick where almost all the problems can be traced back to the script, that’s not a good thing. These days he’s returned to television with a project that tackled many of the same existential questions as Lost, but without the pressure of being one of the most-watched shows on television. On HBO’s The Leftovers, the questions are the point, and Lindelof says it’s refreshing to not have to promise the viewers any answers.
That’s already likely got the Lindelof haters, and likely some Leftovers fans, frothing at the mouth. To be fair, however, unlike Lost, the story of The Leftovers is all about the questions that can never be answered this side of the grave. Lindelof told TVLine:
It’s very liberating to finally be working on a show that promises no answers. The Leftovers — and ultimately, it’s why I love Tom’s book so much — is about living in a world of ambiguous mystery, which we all live in. We don’t know what happens when we die. Some people decide, ‘This is what my life is supposed to be, this is what happens when I die. I believe in God, or I don’t believe in God.’ But nobody knows for sure. This show really embraces that idea. On Lost, we owed you answers, and you could treat us accordingly. But The Leftovers — we make no guarantees. If you’re looking for answers, The Americans is an excellent show. [Laughs] I would recommend you watch it.
I have to concede, he has a point. One of the biggest reasons Lost pissed people off is because the promises coming from the producers and writers changed almost constantly. They had a grand plan for the storyline. Oh wait, no they didn’t. Everything in the show would have a scientific explanation. Oh wait, no it wouldn’t. I don’t think half as many people would have been infuriated by the way Lost wrapped things up if we hadn’t been sold a steady stream of bullshit from the guys in charge over the course of the show’s run.
Maybe The Leftovers is a better fit for Lindelof precisely for that reason. Time and again — in Lost, in Prometheus, and now and The Leftovers — Lindelof keeps going back to the same huge questions of life and death and afterlife, god or no god or maybe we’re our own gods. They’re the sort of questions our species has been arguing about for centuries, so I suppose it’s only fitting that a show dedicated them announces up front that most mysteries will simply be left mysteries.
For those of you who haven’t seen The Leftovers, or read Tom Perrotta’s novel that inspired it, the show imagines a world where a portion of humanity has simply vanished, and what life is like for those left behind. (Except, unlike the Left Behind books, you might want to read The Leftovers.) They used up much of the book’s story arc on season 1, so season 2 will have to forge its own path. Lindelof is working with Perotta to shape out the future of the show now.
We’re just a couple days into talking about Season 2. And obviously, a lot of ideas were starting to fly around as we were working on the first season, but we didn’t know if there was going to be a second season, if there should be a second season or if anyone would want to see a second season. So, right now, it’s a lot of fun to talk about the world at large. The first season was very focused on this one place, but the idea of the show lends itself to a larger, more macro view. Even though it’s ultimately a character-centric story, we’re talking about exploring the premise of the show a little bit more this year.
As long as it keeps Lindelof away from Prometheus 2, I wish The Leftovers a long and happy run.
The Leftovers will return to HBO in 2015.