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An Open Letter to Damon Lindelof, Co-Creator of 'The Leftovers'

By Dustin Rowles | The Leftovers | November 9, 2015 |

By Dustin Rowles | The Leftovers | November 9, 2015 |

Dear Damon Lindelof —

Hey man! How’s it going? So, I know that you don’t have a Twitter account anymore, which is a shame, frankly. You were one of few reasons to check Twitter. You notice that the numbers of Twitter users began to stagnate after you left? I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

Anyway, since I can’t reach you there, I’m writing here because I saw you on The Talking Dead a few weeks ago, after all the Glenn Rhee shenanigans went down, and I saw how effusive you were about The Walking Dead, and I know what a huge fan of Game of Thrones you are, too (in spite of the shitty dig George R.R. Martin took at you. What a dick. I mean, at least you wrote an ending; meanwhile, you wrote an entire six seasons of a TV series in the time it’s taken Martin to write his latest novel).

I just wanted to write and say this: I liked Lost. I mean, I really, really liked it, and I even liked the ending. You know why? Because there was no other way to end it that would’ve made sense of the previous six seasons. I mean, Lost wasn’t like Mad Men, where you could end it on an iconic jingle, or Breaking Bad, where you could conclude with a bad-ass action sequence, or even The Wire, where you could run a montage that basically suggested that the more things change, the more they stay the same. It was a mystical show that dealt with a lot of questions about faith, and when you’re dealing with those questions, there’s no way to end it satisfactorily. Lost fans wanted you to provide answers to the meaning of life, and you basically had two choices: Purgatory or an ambiguous Sopranos-like ending that provided no answers. You were fucked either way. Our expectations were too high, and the questions to ethereal. Short of talking to God himself, there’s nothing you could’ve written that would’ve been satisfying to everyone.

But like I said, I really liked Lost. But The Leftovers? It’s better than Lost. It’s better than The Walking Dead. It’s even better than Game of Thrones. GoT and The Walking Dead are great dramas, but they’re not challenging in the way that The Leftovers is. They’re great stories, but they don’t provoke thought. I mean, it’s fun to predict who might die next, and maybe catch an Easter Egg here and there, but those shows don’t break open our minds. The human drama is not as complex: They’re playing a game of life and death. The Leftovers is asking questions about life and death, and what it means to survive in the aftermath of loss. The guilt, and the sadness, and the fear, and the worry. It’s like an entire series stuck in Kubler-Ross’s third stage of grieving: Bargaining.

What do we bargain away in order to move on? What kind of bargains do we make with ourselves in order to be happy? What do we say to convince ourselves it’s not our fault? Or that it is our fault? And how do we live with that? Those are intense, penetrating questions that make us contemplate our own beliefs.

The complexities of that are amazing, and the way you’ve set it up is perfect: To never provide any answers but to explore every possibility and let us draw our own conclusions. Or not. Just “let the mystery be” (great choice of theme song, by the way. In fact, all the music choices have been sublime). This season has been even better, for the way you have smartly set up a mystery within a mystery, which has allowed you to provide some satisfactory answers to the nested mystery without disturbing the greater mystery. It’s smart.

Anyway, I know you were bummed while you were writing the first season of The Leftovers, and I know you are like a lot of writers who suffer from nagging insecurities and self doubt, but I wanted to let you know that you and Perotta are doing a bang-up job this season. Every episode leaves me sad or amused or achy or twisted-up inside, and this most recent one absolutely floored me. That exchange between Regina King and Nora Durst over the DSD questions? That was DeNiro/Pacino in Heat good, the kind of scene you could watch for hours. I wish The Leftovers received more Emmy attention, because Coon and King should be taking home all the gold.

What I’m saying is this: Keep doing what you’re doing. There’s no other show, with the exception of maybe Rectify, that plays on my emotions like The Leftovers does, and even more remarkably is the fact that it’s not a show that has to rely on “shocking deaths” to keep us glued to our screens. On those other shows, death is a plot point at the end of a story arc. On The Leftovers, death is just the beginning of a conversation.

I appreciate you listening.

- Dustin

p.s., Thanks for not pulling an Abrams and ditching us after the pilot.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.