How will fans of The Leftovers feel when they finish the HBO drama’s final episode Sunday night?
“I don’t know, man,” says showrunner Damon Lindelof, whose last series finale was rather divisive (that would be ABC’s Lost). “I’m probably quite literally the least qualified person to answer that.”
But don’t take that reply as a lack of confidence. When plotting the current third-and-final season, Lindelof convened the show’s writers for two weeks straight to simply figure out The Leftover’s last scene. “There was a lot of spirited conversation, a lot of emotion at the table,” he recalls. “It was my feeling that we would not stop until all the writers agreed we had the right ending and the most authentic ending. We put blinders on, and then we did not deviate.”
Eventually, he says, they cracked it. Yet Lindelof remains uncertain about whether fans will agree because, after all, there’s no way to possibly know how an audience will respond. “I find it to be immensely satisfying and true to the show,” he says. “But it’s possible that the audience will have an entirely different reaction to it.”
According to the critics this season, Lindelof has been doing everything right so far. This is his provocative and challenging drama’s best-reviewed year despite gambling on another major location change as the action shifted from Texas to Australia. We’ve seen the possibly immortal Kevin (Justin Theroux) wrestle his messiah status, a mounting series of omens suggesting an imminent great flood is going wipe out humanity (or not), the possible suicide of Laurie Garvey (Amy Brenneman), and, most intriguingly, Nora (Carrie Coon) being offered the opportunity to use a machine that may or may not teleport her to the location of her vanished kids.
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So what happens in the grand finale?
Lindelof says there will be a bit more information about Laurie, the show won’t leave viewers hanging about her fate. “I’ll say that what happens to Laurie after she goes in the water was the thing that we talked about the most in the writer’s room this entire season, and it had the deepest emotional effect on us when we made the decisions that we made,” he said. “I will say that what the finale owes is a resolution to what Laurie did and why. The story isn’t over yet. I’m not saying she lived or she died, but that’s not going to be a question mark looming over the future of The Leftovers.”
And as for Kevin?
“We were less interested in the question of ‘centuries from now is Kevin Garvey basically viewed as a prophet?’ and more interested in ‘are these characters going to be okay?’ But I believe we designed a finale that answers both fairly satisfyingly,” Lindelof says. “I feel like if people are on board for the first seven episodes, the eighth episode is the culmination of all those ideas. It’s not some crazy outside-the-box idea. And I think that like those seven episodes, there’s big emotion, humor, some unexpected storytelling, but ultimately, it should feel inevitable. I hope they dig it. But I’ve been wrong before.”