The first season of The Leftovers followed Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) and Nora Durst (Carrie Coon), two parents devastated by “The Departure” — a worldwide event wherein 2% of the world’s population vanished without a trace — except in Jarden, a small Texas town with zero departures. Season 2 finds Kevin and Nora headed to Jarden in the hopes of starting fresh and building a family anew.
While at the Television Critics Association press tour cast members Theroux, Coon and Regina King joined series co-creators Damon Lindelof and Tom Perotta (who also wrote the novel one which the series was based) to tease the changes in Season 2, including the new setting, if there’s a shift in tone now that they’ve left Mapleton behind, how Kevin and Nora will cope with the sudden change, why the Guilty Remnant plays a smaller role this season, and more. Check out highlights from what they said below.
Expect a bit of a tonal shift in Season 2, but this is still The Leftovers. Lindelof joked, “We wanted to tape Season 2 before a live studio audience and then opted for the laugh track,” before explaining the necessarily dire tone of Season 1, “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.”
- Lindelof explained that Season 2 is driven by a change in the characters’ desires, specifically that the characters “wanting to feel better and wanting to gravitate towards ways to feel better. I think, particularly this family, wouldn’t want to stay in the place that they were, either geographically or emotionally.”
- Hence the displacement from Mapleton, N.Y. to Jarden, Texas a.k.a. Miracle National Park where Nora Durst and The Garveys relocate in the hopes of starting a newer, happier life.
- However, Jarden makes a practice of isolating itself and might have a more sinister quality under the idyllic surface. Perotta explained, “This town called Miracle tries to geographically separate itself and create the sense of psychological and geographical isolation to proclaim their specialness. Now, that will create certain kinds of vulnerability, certain kinds of arrogance, and a very unstable situation that we’re trying to explore.”
- That isolation on increases the tension between the town’s inhabitants. “Because Miracle has such a small population and it sort of literally just has fences around it in a way that keeps that population unto itself. They’ve created this kind of bizarre ant farm where the world is actually smaller and slightly more intense in a lot of ways,” said Theroux.
The new location brings in a whole new set of characters, including the Murphys, led by Regina King as the Matriarch Erika. King described her character, “I am a mother, a doctor who works at the clinic in our little town, and I’m married. My husband was the man that was kicking through doors, and my son is the one that was making eyes with Jill…She’s light, she’s bright –- when I say bright – she’s bright as in smart, and bright as in just full of life.” But it’s not all sunshine for Mrs. Murphy. “There are some things you get to learn about what’s behind that smile,” said King.
- Season 2 will see big changes for Kevin Garvey now that he is no longer defined by his role as Chief of Police. Perotta explained, “Kevin Garvey was so defined by his pretty thankless role of being the chief of police in the town that was falling apart, and now he’s got a chance to reinvent himself, but he’s also got some residual burdens that he’s got to carry. And I think we can look at all of our familiar characters and say they have new opportunities and they have old burdens.” Theroux added, “He is not going to be able to take his badge with him. He’s not going to be able to take his responsibilities to the people with him…I think he ends up eventually just coming completely up against himself, and a woman who he doesn’t even really know that well. You know, think back on it — it’s a very spontaneous kind of decision that they make together.”
- Likewise, Nora will have the chance to redefine in a town where her family tragedy Isn‘t public knowledge. “These people — they’re so defined by their surroundings. And so for someone who suffered this immense tragedy of having lost her husband and children in this very kind of ambiguous way, what would it be like for her to go to a place where nobody knew that about her?” Said Lindelof.
Kevin and Nora will also have to face the reality of the spontaneous romantic decision they made to move away together. Said Lindelof, “They’re not a married couple in the traditional sense. They’ve kind of come crashing into one another. So the decisions that they’re making are instinctive and impulsive and romantic, and this season is a lot about sort of exploring the upside and the downside of making decisions that way.”
- Author Tom Perrotta summarized the second season as a family reunion of sorts. “Season 1 was about how a family fell apart. And Season 2 is about how a family tries to come back together.”
- Will there be another departure in Season 2? Lindelof was understandably tight-lipped, but it does sound like someone else will go missing, opening up those wounds afresh. “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.”
- The characters still live in constant fear of another departure. Lindelof explained, “[In California] there’s a sense of, at any moment, there could be an earthquake. And when we experience an earthquake, there’s a moment of immediate sort of anxiety followed by relief…But then after the earthquake, there’s a sense of, ‘Was that the prelude to the big one? Is it going to happen again? Oh, my God, that just reminded me that there could be an earthquake at any moment.’ The idea of reminding the world that this could happen again at any moment is something that we’re very interested in doing as storytellers.”
Anne Dowd is back as a series regular, which is a bit suprising considering her character’s grisly end. However, don’t expect her to linger over Kevin like “shakespearean Ghost”. She’s still a threat. “I think that what we’re doing, hopefully, in the second season with her is fairly unique. We don’t want to use her as a Shakespearean ghost; that is to say, like, she’s just someone who is there to kind of comment on the action…suffice to say she’s a huge problem that needs to be solved.
- The Guilty Remnant play a smaller role in Season 2 because the town of Jarden was incubated from the tragic loss of the departure. Perotta explained, “The sense of unrest, a lot of the really the really dark religious unrest that we explored about the Guilty Remnant isn’t happening there…the Guilty Remnant are not as central. They do appear at various times, and I think have a real residual power from last year, but we’re looking at a different sort of religious expression in the wake of the Departure in this place.”
- “The dramatic conflict of Season 2 is that Season 1 is trying to get in,” said Lindelof. “There’s this bridge that basically separates the National Park from the outside world, and…it’s very difficult to basically get into this National Park because, as you might imagine, it’s a much-sought-after tourist destination. Whether you think it’s kitschy and you want to take selfies there or whether you want to make a
religious pilgrimage, people are grafting a lot of meaning onto this place, and we think that what’s interesting is what is it about this place that makes it unique. Is it a statistical anomaly or is there something special about it?”
- Perotta is still contributing to the writers’ room and considers continuing the story past the end of the book an “experiment in storytelling”. “I’m there in the writers’ room, and we’ve written two of the scripts together so far this year. It’s actually a pretty exciting thing for me to just see where this story goes…And you have to surrender control.I mean, sometimes I feel like I’m a passenger in the car, and sometimes I get to drive,but we’re going to new places.”
The Leftovers returns to HBO in October.