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'The Leftovers' season 2 story twist revealed (bonus: less bleak)

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Van Redin/HBO

With the Garvey family headed to Texas, The Leftovers showrunner Damon Lindelof suggests that HBO’s post-Rapture drama will be less bleak than the show’s first New York-set year, plus revealed the season’s big twist that kicks off the story. 

The set-up for the season has the Garveys (led by star Justin Theroux) trekking to a world-famous small town that’s been dubbed Miracle since it didn’t have a single person disappear in the Sudden Departure. But after they arrive, somebody does disappear—but was the person’s disappearance supernatural, or by other means? 

“It has a population of over 9,000, and nobody departed,” Lindelof said. “What would a place like that be? But I think that the second part of the idea is what would happen there if there was a departure? In the normal world, if somebody goes missing, we go, ‘Oh, they’re the victim of foul play,’ like somebody kidnapped them or hurt them, or they just ran away. But in this world, in the world that this concept exists, there is the third possibility.”

A trailer screened for reporters as the Television Critics Association’s semi-annual press tour suggested a less melancholy, and potentially more dramatic season than the first, prompting a critic to ask about the “mood of the show.”

“We wanted to tape season 2 before a live studio audience and then opted for the laugh track,” Lindelof joked. “In all honesty,  certainly reflecting back to Tom [Perrotta’s] book, we always want the show to feel authentic. But the first season of the show we make no apologies for. We wanted to ground the world. And to many, that may have felt bleak and depressing. But to us, it kind of felt honest. But what was really important to us is that the characters on the show didn’t want to feel that way. Not to get all pretentious about it, but the idea of people wanting to feel better and wanting to gravitate towards ways to feel better, particularly this family, wouldn’t want to stay in the place that they were before, either geographically or emotionally. And I think when we started talking about them just sitting around a table and saying like, ‘What if we left this place?,’ the ideas basically started flowing. And I think it opened up the show creatively in really, really interesting ways and, obviously, created the opportunity to introduce some new characters that we’re tremendously excited about.” 

More from the panel: 

— “Season 1 was about how a family fell apart. And season 2 is about how a family tries to come back together,” Perrotta said. 

—Patti Levin (Ann Dowd), the leader of the Guilty Remnant in Mapleton, may not be dead (!), and was shown in the trailer. 

— Season 2 will be slightly more plot driven than the first, but not at the expense of the focus on character. “Season 2 I do feel like we wanted the second season of the show to have a narrative engine,” Lindelof said. “We’re not subbing out plot for character development and emotion, which I think is the life’s blood of the show.” 

Full coverage of TCA.