Here’s how The Leftovers' season 2 overhaul turned it from a good series into one of the best shows in recent memory. The Leftovers is based on the novel of the same name by Tom Perotta and was adapted for the small screen by Perotta and Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof. The series begins in the New York town of Mapleton three years after the so-called Departure – a rapture-like event in which 2% of the world’s population suddenly and inexplicably disappeared at the same time.
Though The Leftovers had a supernatural, spiritual starting point in the Sudden Departure, the first season was more about how people cope in the aftermath of a random, inexplicable tragedy. Using Mapleton as a microcosm, The Leftovers season 1 explored issues of loss, grief, faith and how people attempt to return to some kind of normalcy in the wake of life-changing tragedy. In all fairness, it was a great season – emotional, beautifully acted and thought-provoking. But, as many critics pointed out, the first season was somber and laden with heavy questions about the existence of god and existentialism. In short, it made for quite depressing viewing.
While the first season of The Leftovers covered the entirety of Perrotta’s novel, the show’s second and third season were completely original material. Departing from Perrotta’s source material gave him and Lindelof more freedom, which they totally ran with. Not only did The Leftovers season 2 move the action to a new setting – a small Texas town totally unaffected by the Departure – it also introduced a host of new characters. Similarly, season 3 of The Leftovers featured another relocation, this time to Melbourne, Australia.
Those weren’t the only big changes, either. The central theme of The Leftovers – that is, how people react to the Departure rather than what caused it – was still there, but the show got wilder and weirder and a lot more like Lost. Unlike Lost, however, The Leftovers didn’t attempt to provide any concrete answers to its central mystery.
As its characters began to roll with rather than resist the reality-quaking apocalyptic themes at play, The Leftovers wasn’t afraid to delve into the fantastical. Hence, viewers were treated to elements like Justin Theroux’s reluctant messiah Kevin Garvey, the weird and wonderful episode that was “International Assassin” set in a purgatorial hotel, and a Tasmanian lion-worshipping sex cult. It sounds insane, and The Leftovers season 2 was more than a bit loopy but the show’s evolution from somber drama to a weird and wonderful ride transformed it into a show really worth watching.