HBO announced a season 3 renewal for The Leftovers which comes with an interesting stipulation: as requested by the producers, it will be the last season.
The series, which is based on a Tom Perrotta novel of the same name, tells the story of life after a rapture-like event, when 2% of the world’s population instantly vanished. Starring Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston, Liv Tyler the series had a strong first season, yet writer/producer Damon Lindelof has been very candid about the struggles involved in making the show. In an interview with HitFix he spoke about being in a depressed place as he wrote the first season, calling it a chicken-and-egg scenario in which his mood bled into the scripts which then fed his personal malaise. The result is that the first season scripts turned out darker than the novel. Director Peter Berg said the pilot, which depicts global chaos, reminded him of the news coverage and emotion on the day of Sandy Hook school shooting.
Season 1 trailer:
Audiences responded though and while The Leftovers never pulled huge ratings it had a loyal audience and drew positive critical reviews. Averaging 770,000 viewers per episode in the first season, it was well below HBO’s leading shows Game of Thrones, True Blood, and True Detective, but still in the middle of the pack of the network’s original programming. (By comparison Girls averaged about 600,000 viewers that same year.)
In a unique move the show wrapped up the plotline of the novel in the first season, and had to forge new creative material in season 2. Though audience numbers dropped, reviews were even stronger for the second season episodes.
Season 2 trailer:
Overall, Lindelof’s cumulative experience in television seems to be weighing into the decision to wrap things up after season 3. Having helmed one of the most divisive TV series in recent history, LOST, he’s been open about the difficulties involved in making prime-time drama, and the emotional toll audiences have on him. He famously quit Twitter because it of the constant carping on the ending of LOST. And he’s declined to do an adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower because he is such a fan of the series and is afraid he’ll screw it up. That kind of honesty and public self-critique is both rare and refreshing in Hollywood and it has to play into his decision to bring The Leftovers to a timely end.
Still, the talented writer promises it won’t be a dull end. In a press release about the renewal he said, “[W]ith our beginning and middle complete, the most exciting thing for us as storytellers would be to bring The Leftovers to a definitive end. And by ‘definitive,’ we mean ‘wildly ambiguous but hopefully mega-emotional,’ as all things related to this show are destined to be.”