Why Australia? HBO’s uniquely apocalyptic drama The Leftovers spent its debut season in upstate New York, then moved the beleaguered Garvey family to a Texas town for season 2, and now in its third-and-final outing, Kevin (Justin Theroux) makes another sudden departure by trekking all the way down to Oz.
“Australia is the end of the world geographically and our show is about the end-of-the-world emotionally,” showrunner Damon Lindelof explains. “And there’s also something about Australian cinema — it’s primal, ancient and spiritual — that felt like it fit The Leftovers, whether it’s Mad Max movies or Walkabout, or Waking Fright or Peter Weir movies.”
Lindelof is closely guarding the secrets of the final episodes, but the showrunner tells us that Kevin initially plans a rather brief visit down under along with certain other characters — as you’d expect from a show about a rapture-like event, not everybody gets to take the trip (“This is not like The Bradys going to Hawaii,” Lindelof says).
But once he arrives, Kevin’s troubled father (Scott Glenn), who may or may not be hearing messages from God, pulls him into a rather unexpected situation. “It’s like The Godfather,” Lindelof says. “Marlon Brando keeps telling his son Michael, ‘I don’t want this business for you,’ but every time the sh– hits the fan, Michael is in the room. So Senior is mixed up in something and pulls Kevin into it.”
Even though there are only eight episodes in the final run, you can still expect installments that drill down on telling a story focusing on a single character. The season’s pacing, Lindelof adds, will also feel like the show is building toward a final act. “Though there are some big crazy ideas in the third-and-final season, we wanted to feel like we were building toward something conclusive,” he says. “I wanted to take full advantage of the fact that when the audience watches the first episode of season 3 that they know it’s the beginning of the end. You don’t want to feel like an epilogue, but a climax.”
Having said that, The Leftovers fans know by now to not expect a list of answers to the drama’s many mysteries. Lindelof’s last series was ABC’s Lost, and before The Leftovers even premiered he was cautioning potential viewers not to watch this existential drama (whose first season was based on Tom Perrotta’s novel) if they wanted traditional cause-and-effect storytelling. Still, the writer-producer also doesn’t want his show’s loyal viewers to be left feeling perturbed. “It’s a very careful storytelling process because you don’t want to frustrate the audience,” Lindelof says. “It’s one thing to say, ‘I’m giving you this box with a present inside and you’re never going to open it’ — who’s going to accept that gift? We’re constantly trying to modulate and fulfill the promises we’ve made. And it’s not enough to say that all we care about is the characters and not the mythology. But I do think with The Leftovers the word ‘mythology’ doesn’t necessarily apply the way it does to Lost or Westworld or Stranger Things or True Detective. Those shows have clearly defined mythologies. We don’t want to frustrate the audience but The Leftovers plays by its own set of rules and will continue to do so.”
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The Leftovers will return in April.