We have only plotted the show one season at a time. And when we got to the end of the second season, it felt like we were much closer to the ending than we were to the beginning. And it never wanted to be a show that went on for many, many, many seasons. And three started to feel like it was a magic number.
As for the series endgame, Lindelof says the he knows what the final scene looks like:
Well, we started with the very end. We eventually said, what do we want the last scene of the series to be, who’s in that scene and what’s happening in that scene, what do we want that scene to evoke emotionally? And then, on a storytelling level, what happens, what feels like finality in a show that has never been about resolving mystery and delivering conclusive endings, now that the show is actually going to end? And how do we want the audience to be feeling when it’s all over? So, those conversations started in a very abstract way and as they developed became much more coherent and sort of formed themselves into “OK, we know what that last scene is, now, how are we going to get there?”
So, we just planted a very firm flag in the ground of what the destination was going to be and I think that’s really well for us. Season 2, we had no map, but we drew it up before we got in our cars. So, Season 3, the show is ending and that’s infusing it with a certain degree of energy that’s different, perhaps, than the previous seasons.
Speaking to IndieWire, Lindelof suggests The Leftovers will have closure:
I think that when we were working on Seasons 1 and 2, there was always sort of an understanding: Everything doesn’t need to be tied up in a neat little bow. We don’t have to rush this. We just need to move the characters toward some level of internal peace, if that’s the ultimate goal for them. And I think that, arguably, both seasons have very happy endings, although there was a tremendous amount of suffering to arrive at them. So I think the idea of the third season isn’t, “Oh, we need to turn up the knob now and it needs to twice the suffering and twice the level of the happy ending.”
But I also think that as we’re writing the third season — and, hopefully, as the audience is experiencing the third season — there is a degree of impending finality. There’s an idea of, “Well, the show is going to end in eight episodes,” and I do think the idea that where we leave the characters is where they’re going to be left in perpetuity.