This post contains spoilers about the ending of The Leftovers.
The series finale of The Leftovers, which aired Sunday night on HBO offered the same mind-bending, format-breaking, emotionally resonant delights the show has excelled at throughout its run. It made a huge time jump, offered a typically open-ended answer to what exactly happened to the people lost in the rapture-like Great Departure, and tied up the epic romantic arc of Nora Durst (Carrie Coon) and Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux). Sophie Gilbert and Spencer Kornhaber discussed the finale in detail here, but we also sat down with the show’s co-creator Damon Lindelof to flesh out his journey on the show, his thoughts on religion and messiah complexes, and how his work on TV shows like Lost and films like Prometheus informed his writing. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
David Sims: Opening the season with Nora, old Nora, did you start with that image? Is that where the idea for the season began? Or did that come later as you were breaking the story?
Damon Lindelof: Well, coming out of Season 2, we didn’t know if there was going to be a Season 3. But there was one idea that I felt we owed coming out of Season 2, which was, “What is the consequence for Kevin dying and coming back to life? You can’t just do it and have there be no consequence. I thought there should be an emotional consequence for this guy, then Season 2 ended and people said, “I’m actually okay with it ending here.” Which is good to know for the future in terms of what I think we owe and what we actually owe. But, when we got a third season, the Book of Kevin was looming large. I already knew that I was passionate about this idea of doing the reluctant messiah story. But the other thing that I felt was so unresolved at the end of the second season was, just because Nora is smiling and saying “you’re home,” this woman’s journey … she’s not okay yet. We have to bring these two characters through one final ring of hell and end their suffering.