It’s a Miracle: HBO renews ‘The Leftovers’ for third and final season

There may be no miracles in Miracle, according to certain characters on HBO’s “The Leftovers,” but there’s now been a miracle about “The Leftovers,” which HBO just renewed for a third season despite a precipitous ratings drop between seasons 1 and 2.

There’s a catch, albeit one that “Leftovers” co-creator Damon Lindelof specifically asked for: the third season will be the final one.

Lindelof has been candid about how tough the show is to make, saying that he “was really depressed” making the first season. The reason renewal took so long last time was because Lindelof wasn’t sure he wanted to do more episodes after that experience.

But Lindelof, Tom Perrotta, and everyone else involved took “The Leftovers” to the next level this season (here are my reviews of all the episodes), and before the season finale aired earlier this week, he told me that he not only wanted to continue, but that, given the ratings drop, “I’m fighting for the life of the show.”

Both the first and second seasons concluded in ways that could have easily been series-enders, particularly the second one, and if Lindelof feels the series shouldn’t be pushed past three seasons, he’s earned that trust by now with this show. He and the writing staff already had some nascent ideas for a third season, and the buzz this year (including a top 10 finish in the HitFix TV Critics’ Poll) was much stronger than for the first, even with the loss of viewers. (Heck, some fans even dressed up as the Guilty Remnant and smoked outside of HBO headquarters on Monday.) HBO cares about its brand, in this case enough to give a creative team a chance to end a little-watched but highly-praised series on their own terms.

So, “Leftovers” fans, crank up the Bellamy Brothers, pick that pie up off your front stoop, and try to keep this from being your default expression for the next hour:

“The Leftovers” continues because it’s too great not to. We are spared.

UPDATE: I was able to get ahold of Lindelof to ask him a couple of questions about the renewal, first about how difficult it was to persuade HBO to keep the show going.

“I’m in Jersey helping my mom move,” he said. “I was afraid I’d have to sing for my supper when I got back to L.A next week… I didn’t. Mike Lombardo called with the good news and it was a done deal.”

And why is Lindelof – who previously had to push ABC to end “Lost” much earlier than the executives there wanted him and Carlton Cuse to – ready for the third season to be the last? (In the press release announcing renewal, he wrote that the end would be definitive, “And by ‘definitive,” we mean ‘wildly ambiguous but hopefully mega-emotional,” as all things related to this show are destined to be.”)

“It’s a gut instinct,” he said. “I feel like there’s more story, but not MUCH more. And I don’t want to drag it out unnecessarily. Lots of fans and critics understandably had a sense that we could have ended after season two… That was a strong indication we were closer to the end than the beginning.”