Next season of The Leftovers will see some huge changes: the setting will move from the fictional New York town of Mapleton that was ravaged by a biblical-esque Departure to a small Texas town called Jarden, which was unaffected. But the more things change, the more they stay the same, and Ann Dowd will return as the villainous GR leader Patti in the next season as a series regular.
We knew that Dowd would return at some point, but since her character died a grisly death, we just assumed she would do a couple of guest spots in flashbacks. But apparently, she will return in full force, and not as a "Shakespearean ghost."
"I think that what we're doing, hopefully, in the second season with her is fairly unique," Damon Lindelof told the TCA press tour (via Collider). "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."
This is still completely cryptic, although it does reveal that she is definitely not a flashback, as there's no reason a flashback would be a current problem that needed to be solved. But even though she will be a part of the Garveys' lives in the present, Tom Perrotta insisted that the Guilty Remnant will not play as large a role this season:
"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."
This de-emphasis of the guilt and shame typified by the GR is part of an overall tonal shift. Many complained about The Leftovers's relentlessly dour tone (I wasn't one of them), and now it seems the writers are going to respond to those complaints:
"We wanted to tape Season 2 before a live studio audience and then opted for the laugh track. 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 also stated that the second season is driven by 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."
"Season 1 was about how a family fell apart. And Season 2 is about how a family tries to come back together," said Perotta.
But that doesn't mean that all is right in Whosville, necessarily. There still needs to be some conflict, and this Walking Dead/Alexandria-type reboot will explore the ramifications of a small community's isolation from a post-apocalyptic landscape:
"This town called Miracle tries to geographically separate itself and create the sense of psychological and geographical isolation to proclaim their specialness," said Perotta. "Now, that will create certain kinds of vulnerability, certain kinds of arrogance, and a very unstable situation that we're trying to explore."
"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?"
And even beyond any sinister implications of the move to Jarden, the Departure itself is always hanging over the characters' heads, as there's always the possibility that it will happen again.
"[In California] there's a sense of, at any moment, there could be an earthquake, said Lindelof. "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."
Lindelof also hinted that, regardless of whether a Departure happens again, someone will go missing in the second season, which will once again unearth unresolved feelings about the Rapture:
"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 Leftovers returns for its second season in October on HBO.