For five years, fans of HBO's Game Of Thrones have lived in terror of the moment when their beloved show would finally catch up to the source material by author George R.R. Martin, who has only published five of the planned seven novels in his A Song Of Ice And Fire series. The dreaded event horizon was officially reached this past year, and the show will be forging ahead into territory uncharted by Martin starting in Season 6. Elsewhere on the same network, The Leftovers author Tom Perrotta had no such worries. He knew when famed showrunner Damon Lindelof (Lost) approached him about adapting his slim 300-some-page novel to television that his source material had a finite lifespan. And, sure enough, The Leftovers Season 2 is poised to blast right past the novel's final page. Perrotta knew early on that his source material would be quickly surpassed by the show. "Damon and I were pretty clear about that when HBO picked up the pilot and we had a meeting and talked about what the season was about," he tells Bustle in an interview.
But, Perrotta wasn't afraid of moving past his original ending. "The concept was always kind of a global one. There's this feeling that there's a big world out there and the Sudden Departure affected all of it, and probably affected all of it in very different ways. So, we're just looking for new facets of the world that we can explore," he says.
Those new facets are represented in Season 2 by the Murphy family: Firefighter father John, doctor mother Erika, and teenage children Michael and Evie. The Murphys are residents of Jarden, Texas, the new focal point of the show as the plot shifts away from upstate New York. Post-Departure, Jarden is famed worldwide for being the only town on the planet where absolutely nobody disappeared on Oct. 14, 2011, and has since been consecrated as Miracle National Park. So, how did he and Lindelof land on Texas specifically? "It didn't have to be Texas," Perrotta says. "We did look at a couple of other locations, but I think Texas was always in Damon's mind as the place that he wanted to go. Part of it may have to do with a feeling of wanting to go from East Coast suburbs to kind of a more iconic America."
Asked if the choice of location was part of a conscious decision to include more diversity on the show (which notoriously only had three non-white actors in its massive ensemble cast last season), he answers:
I think so, yeah. The novel really was about a microcosm: The Sudden Departure for this one family in this one town. And, I think we told that story last year and we're really happy with the way we told it. But, there was a sense of, let's look at the Sudden Departure in a bigger American context. It wasn't just this one white family in this one East Coast town. Let's look at a black family and their experience. So yeah, it was definitely a conscious decision, but one that makes sense in terms of our larger agenda.
The sure-footedness of the storytelling in Season 2, even off the beaten path of established source material, belies the fact that a Leftovers sequel was never part of Perrotta's original plan... at least in book form. But, the opportunity to expand on his own novel was "part of the adventure of doing a TV series," he says. The author has previously seen two of his novels adapted to film — 1999's Election and 2006's Little Children, the latter of which he co-wrote with director Todd Field — but television was a brand new experience for him.
"The problem with adapting a novel for feature film is that you have to just ruthlessly eliminate characters and subplots and a lot of good stuff that you can't even deal with because you have to fit your main story into a two-hour slot," he admits. "So, I knew that we were going to be adding [to the TV show] rather than subtracting; I just wasn't sure exactly what form that was going to take."
Now that Perrotta fans are essentially getting the author's first-ever sequel, some will likely wonder if a prequel could ever be a possibility. AMC is currently having massive success with their spinoff series Fear The Walking Dead, which chronicles the early days of the zombie outbreak that the original series glossed over. Will we ever see a Leftovers spinoff that takes place in the days immediately following the Sudden Departure? "I feel like a lot of shows and movies and books have dealt with the chaos that happens right after some event," Perrotta says.
What I was really interested in with The Leftovers was this moment when the world starts to heal but it's different than it was before. So I skipped over all that. Sometimes we revisit it in flashbacks on the show like we did in Episode 9 last year ['The Garveys At Their Best,' which takes place in the days leading up to the Departure], and we move around in time over the course of the season this year. So, I don't know that there will ever be a Leftovers spinoff, but I do think we are interested in some of our characters and how they got from Point A to Point B.
Both Perrotta and Lindelof have been clear from day one that there will never be an answer for what caused the Sudden Departure — but that hasn't stopped some viewers from demanding answers. Perhaps feeling wary of Lindelof after the answers in Lost's final season (or lack thereof) proved underwhelming to some, the masses have been hesitant to embrace a series constructed around a central mystery it has no intention of solving. But, Perrotta insists that The Leftovers isn't about answering questions — in fact, the show itself is all about the struggle of living in a world with no answers.
"The Departure for me is the irreducible mystery of existence. It's a metaphor for that, the things we can never know, which for me is part of the human condition," he tells Bustle. "Which is why I think some people get so frustrated, they want stories to give them a kind of reassurance that the world is knowable and that they're not sort of at the mercy of forces they don't understand. But, The Leftovers just isn't gonna give them that kind of comfort."
Season 2 of The Leftovers premieres on HBO this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. ET, so we'll all be grappling with the irreducible mystery of existence again in no time.
Images: Van Redin (2), Ryan Green/HBO