When 140 million people suddenly disappear from the planet in a Rapture-like event, those left behind must figure out how to go on without their loved ones. Unfortunately, The Leftovers won't venture to answer the why too quickly — if at all — making Damon Lindelof's new HBO drama seem almost as mythos-heavy as his last, the sometimes frustratingly intricate Lost.
Starring Justin Theroux, Liv Tyler, Christopher Eccleston and Amy Brenneman, The Leftovers picks up three years after the big departure and follows the lives of those struggling to get by. With the time jump, Lindelof hopes viewers will focus on the human interest of the aftermath rather than the machinations of the departure.
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"Hopefully what you're going to care about when you watch the show more and more is how are these characters are basically dealing with this situation in terms of living in this world and interacting with each other and less about what happened and where everybody went and why," Lindelof told reporters at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour on Thursday.
Lindelof stressed that shows like Lost or one of its successors, FlashForward, were built around characters desperately searching for the answers to a mysterious island or event, so they had to base stories on getting to those answers. However, "these characters are not actively searching for what happened with the departure," Lindelof said. "They are actively searching for what they're supposed to do with their lives."
With Lost as his last TV project, Lindelof recognizes the dangers of not providing answers, knowing that not everyone will want to tune in. "It's not necessarily for everybody," he said. "I think it has broad appeal, but I myself have born witness to a wide range of response. I do think that the show is a grower, not a shower. Not to compare it to an erect penis, but in a lot of ways the metaphor is apt. By the time you see the first three or four episodes, you get a better sense of what the show is going to be."
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"I know there were a lot of people who were frustrated with the way [Lost] ended, there were other people who were not frustrated with how the show ended, and there were a lot of people who gave up before the show ended. I think the same will be true of The Leftovers and there's no way I can guarantee otherwise."
But that's not to say they'll never answer the big mystery behind the departure. "Everybody in this world is asking, 'Am I ever going to get an answer to where these people went? Am I ever going to get relief?' If I tell the audience that, 'Yes, the answer is coming,' then I've given you a piece of information that the characters don't have and therefore you won't be able to identify with the people," Lindelof said. "The anxiety of their experience is a result of whether or not they're going to get an answer is anxiety that I want the audience to be experiencing. I understand I'm putting my head in a hive of bees."
Lindelof does promise that the series will deviate from Tom Perrotta's book that the show is based on. "I don't want to say whether we're going to do that ending or not on the show, but I can say the ending in the book is not the ending of the series," Lindelof said. "We'll be moving past the ending in the book fairly quickly in terms of the life of the series."
The Leftovers will debut this summer on HBO. Will you be watching?