OVERS AND OUT

The Left­overs cre­ator Da­mon Lin­de­lof on his show’s finest mo­ments

Empire (Australasia) - - Review - WORDS JAMES DYER

FEW TV SHOWS of re­cent years have con­founded ex­pec­ta­tion and sub­verted con­ven­tion as deftly as Da­mon Lin­de­lof’s HBO se­ries, The Left­overs. The show charts the emo­tional, so­cial and spir­i­tual fall­out of ‘The De­par­ture’: a phe­nom­e­non where two per cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion van­ished with­out a trace.

Af­ter be­ing burned by fan re­ac­tion to his Lost fi­nale, Lin­de­lof bid adieu to The Left­overs with a send-off as res­o­nant as it was un­ex­pected. Here, he talks us through some of the best mo­ments from the show’s three-year run.

THE BABY VAN­ISHES

SEA­SON 1, EPISODE 1: PI­LOT

The De­par­ture, which both Lin­de­lof and Tom Per­rotta (co-cre­ator and writer) agreed never to ex­plain, is dealt with to dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect in the first scene. “We asked what would be the most deeply pro­found loss that some­one could suf­fer?” says Lin­de­lof. “The loss of a baby.” And so, in a park­ing lot, a mother turns to dis­cover why her bawl­ing child has sud­denly fallen si­lent, blind ter­ror creep­ing over her face. “It was a way to start the show with a clear and dra­matic rep­re­sen­ta­tion of this event that was at the core of ev­ery­thing.”

8,000 B.C.

SEA­SON 2, EPISODE 1: ‘AXIS MUNDI’

There are sev­eral junc­tures dur­ing The Left­overs’ run where it’s hard not to won­der if Lin­de­lof and Per­rotta are ac­tively trolling their au­di­ence. Nowhere is this more ap­par­ent than the Sea­son 2 pre­miere, which be­gins with a 10-minute de­tour to the Palae­olithic era. “My favourite ideas are when every­body thinks I’m jok­ing, and I’m not,” says Lin­de­lof. “It’s ac­tu­ally a re­cap of Sea­son 2: a baby is born, the mother loses it and then it ends up in the arms of an­other woman — we just play that out as a para­ble.” With Sea­son 2, the show un­shack­led it­self from the con­fines of its source ma­te­rial and this pre­his­toric palate-cleanser formed the per­fect state­ment of in­tent. “We felt free to do what­ever we wanted at that point.”

LIV AND LET DIE

SEA­SON 2, EPISODE 3: ‘OFF RAMP’

“Peo­ple have an idea of what Liv Tyler does as an ac­tor: she’s this rep­re­sen­ta­tion of ethe­real beauty. Would any­one ever think of Liv Tyler as a vil­lain?” There can be lit­tle doubt of that in this par­tic­u­lar scene, where cult leader Meg (Tyler) strad­dles a hand­cuffed Tommy Gar­vey (Chris Zylka) and forces her­self upon him, be­fore dous­ing him in petrol and taunt­ing him with a Zippo lighter. “With non-con­sen­sual sex on tele­vi­sion, you al­most never see it where the gen­ders are swapped, where the woman is the ag­gres­sor. It felt bold and risky, es­pe­cially be­cause it was Liv. It was one of the most dis­turb­ing scenes we ever did on the show.”

PER­FECT STRANGER

SEA­SON 3, EPISODE 2: ‘DON’T BE RIDICU­LOUS’

“We re­alised the show’s band­width for ab­sur­dity was al­most in­fi­nite,” says Lin­de­lof. It’s a sen­ti­ment rarely as well il­lus­trated as when Mark Lin­nBaker, star of ’80s sit­com Per­fect Strangers, ap­pears as him­self to sell Nora (Car­rie Coon) on a ma­chine that can re­unite peo­ple with their dearly De­parted. “She’s a cynic and was never go­ing to be­lieve in it, so we were like, ‘What if the de­liv­ery mech­a­nism for this idea was even more ab­surd than the idea it­self ?’” En­ter Linn-baker: the only Per­fect Strangers reg­u­lar who didn’t De­part. “While it started as a troll, once we started to take it se­ri­ously, some­thing spe­cial hap­pened.”

KING DONG

SEA­SON 3, EPISODE 7: ‘THE MOST POW­ER­FUL MAN IN

THE WORLD’

For a show con­cerned with grief, mad­ness and sur­vivors’ guilt, The Left­overs fea­tures a sur­pris­ing amount of knob gags. Thanks to Justin Th­er­oux’s com­mando jog­ging scene in the pi­lot, Lit­tle Justin made tabloid head­lines. “When­ever he was on a talk show, he would get asked about his pe­nis. I found that hi­lar­i­ous, so we started writ­ing that Kevin has a huge dong.” The well-hung hu­mour comes to a head when Kevin, reimag­ined in an al­ter­nate uni­verse as Pres­i­dent Of The United States, has to con­firm his iden­tity by slap­ping his mem­ber onto a scan­ner. “The cul­mi­na­tion of it all is that scene, where he puts it onto what we lov­ingly re­ferred to as ‘The Dick Shelf’.”

BIG LIT­TLE LIE

SEA­SON 3, EPISODE 8: ‘THE BOOK OF NORA’

Lin­de­lof and Per­rotta pulled one last switch in the fi­nale, un­ex­pect­edly ex­plain­ing ev­ery­thing as an older Nora sits down with an equally griz­zled Kevin, and lays it out over a nice cup of tea. But did she make it up? “Can we just take a mo­ment to ap­pre­ci­ate the irony?” Says Lin­de­lof. “I spent six years of my life on Lost say­ing, ‘We’re gonna give you mys­tery res­o­lu­tion,’ and many peo­ple feel like we didn’t. This time around we spent three years telling peo­ple they were gonna get no mys­tery res­o­lu­tion and this time they do. There’s some­thing in­cred­i­bly mis­chievous and sat­is­fy­ing about that.”

THE LEFT­OVERS SEA­SON 3 IS OUT NOW ON BLU-RAY AND DVD

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