We’ll start at the end. The Leftovers 308, the series finale, gives viewers an ending they can cherish. Does it answer every little question that got asked along the way? No. Did you expect it to? If so, that’s on you. Did it answer the major questions viewers have had since the beginning of the show? We believe so. Let’s take a look at the episode and see why we loved it so much.
The final episode of series returns to the Season 2 Theme, imploring viewers to “Let the Mystery Be” once again.
The opening sequence depicts Nora taping her “This is my choice” video for Doctors Eden and Bekker. We wonder if the other video subjects we’d seen previously received as much… coaching as Nora did. Evidently, the Doctors have reconsidered and will now allow Nora to use their machine, previously known as the Departure Microwave.
Matt and Nora spend Nora’s final moments on our Earth joking and participating in what they call “Matt-libs”. Matt has created a Mad-lib inspired obituary for Nora, a fittingly morbid game that suits Nora’s character well. They joke and sweetly reminisce until the doctors notify them the machine is ready for her.
One half of our reviewing team wonders whether or not the scene required full frontal nudity, reminiscent of Cersei Lannister’s walk of shame two seasons ago on HBO’s Game of Thrones. Nora follows the doctors’ directions, but leaves the viewer in doubt when at the last second, she mouths a word starting with “S”. We’ll never know if she was trying to ask them to “stop”. Maybe she said “Super” or “Suck it”. We will let that mystery be.
Australia – The Future
The final moments of the Season 3 opener replays, this time allowing us to see Nora’s face without hiding it. We learn the nun tried to lie about knowing Nora, but she doubts it worked. (After seeing the scene later with the man crawling out of her window, we agree, she lies poorly.)
For a moment, Nora returns to her normal life, back at her house. Then, she gets spooked and packs her bags to bolt. A knock on the door informs her she it too late for all that. Kevin Garvey, graying and looking somewhat mellowed, stands in her doorway. His story, that the last time they’d seen each other was in the hall outside the dance in Mapleton, a loooong time ago, keeps us guessing about what world we’re actually in. Nora doesn’t buy it. Before he leaves, Kevin invites Nora to meet him at a dance that night in town.
Nora races on her bike to a “local” phone booth, which she uses to call her therapist, one very-much-alive Laurie Murphy. Laurie has kept Nora’s existence and location a secret from Kevin and the rest of the world (remember when Nora became Laurie’s client a couple episodes ago?). She gives Nora permission to go to the dance with Kevin before she gets hung up on.
Later That Night
Back at her house, a building containing gigantic, partially-hinged doors, Nora takes a bath. When she attempts to leave the bathroom, her janky door requires her to break it down in order for her to leave the bathroom. So many thoughts could have gone through her mind right then, we can’t pick the best one. Do I want to die alone, trapped in a bathroom? Can I find out what Kevin is up to? Has he gone crazy again, or is this something else? Do I really want to miss the chance to see him again at that dance?
Nora discovers Kevin has a generous definition of the term “dance” which includes formal weddings. She finds him sitting at a table, wearing a few strands of Mardi Gras beads. Kevin keeps up his amnesiac pretense, but fills Nora in with some important, closure-y details. For instance, Matt died and Mary gave the eulogy. Jill married a good guy and they have a daughter. Tommy divorced his wife, but “landed on his feet”. Kevin Sr. is 91 and still kicking. The factoid that hits Nora hardest is when Kevin tells of his undiagnosed heart condition, heart attack, and pacemaker surgery.
The newly married couple breaks up Kevin and Nora’s discussion to offer each other some profanity-laden wedding vows and traditions. We learn what’s up with Nora’s birds: they carry messages people write at weddings, supposedly across the world (but they really just return to Nora’s house). We also meet the scapegoat: an actual goat meant to carry away the wedding attendees’ sins (the Mardi Gras beads), allowing them to start fresh. While Kevin puts his sin-beads on the goat, Nora has none to give.
A familiar song plays. Otis Redding’s “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember” plays and Kevin invites Nora to dance. If you can watch this sequence without getting a little weepy, congrats! You might be made of stone! Nora reaches her breaking point and asks Kevin one more time how he found her. When he sticks with his thin story, she bolts because it’s “not true”.
After the Dance
When she finds none of her birds have returned home, she goes to the church to ask the nun about it. When Nora sees a man leave the nun’s room by ladder, she confronts her. The nun lies about having any knowledge of the man and redirects the conversation back to Nora and her problems. Again, Nora bolts .
On her way back home, she wrecks her bike. Upon inspection, she finds her chain and gears have been wound up with Mardi Gras beads. The beads leave a trail up a hill to where the goat from the wedding is bleating its little heart out because it has become caught on a barbed wire fence. Without help, the goat will starve and die there. Nora climbs the hill, relieves the goat of his sin-filled burden, and escorts him back to her house.
Nora ties up her new goat and prepares a meal for him. She goes outside with it and starts reading the messages of love she’s collected over the past few years. After reading a few, Kevin drives up and comes clean. He wanted to start fresh with Nora and not to let the baggage of what came before get in the way. Like the idea of using a scapegoat to start over from the wedding, pretending the past doesn’t exist for Kevin and Nora doesn’t actually work either. Kevin explains how he never believed she was gone and has searched for her every year since he left her using his two weeks’ vacation. When gives her the honest story, she invites him inside.
All Kevin explained about his family to Nora before was true. He adds that he stayed in Jarden, living in their house, next to John and Laurie Murphy. Michael has taken over the church and he still occasionally sees Erika there (which implies Kevin attends church now).
Let’s start here: this reviewing team believes Nora’s story. Every word. Early in the episode, she looks into our eyes and avows, “I don’t lie.” She’s saying that to US. Let’s carry on.
She admits to Kevin that he was right about her needing to be with her kids. She went through with the procedure and wound up in the World of the Departed, an exact copy of the world we know, but with 98% of its prior population missing. Since she went through with it, she gets on with finding her children on the other side of the planet from where she appeared. Having to rely on travel by boat, she eventually makes her way to Mapleton, New York (a period of time that may have consumed a year or more). When she found her family, older now and with a new mom, living in the same house they had left her from, her perspective changes. From their point of view, SHE had disappeared. They had come to some kind of closure with that and moved on. Nora had become a “ghost” to them and she felt she had no right to upset their new normal.
Nora turned her attention to getting back to her own world by locating the creator of the device which sent her to the World of the Departed. Although it took a while to do it, he rebuilt his machine and sent her back to her own world. Although she wanted to reach out to Kevin when she came back, she feared too much time had passed and that he would not believe her. If any character in the history of TV could believe a story about flipping between worlds, it’s Kevin Garvey. He believes her. They hold hands. Our hearts swell.
The goat has eaten through his leash and wanders away. Nora’s birds return home. The show ends. 🙁
The bike – Nora rode a bike like crazy in the original book. Her character was almost as well known for the bike riding as she was for losing her family to the Departure. Until this season, we can’t recall biking taking up too much of Nora’s time. Nice to see this detail from the book re-emerge.
I’ve Got Dreams to Remember – Kevin played this song during the dinner in which he first invited Nora over to meet his family (at that time Jill and her friend Aimee). That episode, let us save you the time, was called “Cairo”.
Cairo – Not sure about the significance here, but Cairo keeps coming up. In Season 1, episode 8 was named Cairo. In that context, it refers to the town near the cabin where Dean and Kevin have taken Patti (and where she ultimately dies). The issue of the National Geographic Kevin Sr. attempts to give Kevin Jr. features a lengthy chapter on Cairo, Egypt. In Season 2, Patti’s apparition teases Kevin with Cairo, Egypt being the location of a sacred object Kevin would need to steal (and do some other foul stuff with). In this season, although we saw the National Geographic with Kevin Sr., it’s context is never explained. Finally in this episode, during the “Matt-libs”, Nora gives Cairo, Egypt as where she hails from.
LOST – The Leftovers managed to avoid directly verbally referring to Damon’s most famous TV show throughout it’s run. Many of the other writers and producers of LOST seem to enjoy sprinkling references to the landmark television show through out their later work. We finally get it in this episode when Kevin tells Nora he, “likes to get a little – lost,” in Australia. Theroux performs so well in this scene. He adds the tiniest hesitation and emphasis to the word to let you know Damon is winking at us from behind the camera.
Themes / Symbols
The birds represent love. They carry messages of love from the wedding, but fail to return to Nora while she keeps Kevin locked out of her heart. When she lets him back in, they (as in her love) return.
During the wedding scene, the newlyweds ask their guests to put their beads around a goat’s neck. The beads symbolize their sins, which they cast off unto the goat, to begin anew. We find out later the goat just winds up getting his sin-beads caught up on a barbed wire fence. Without intervention, the goat will die there. We believe this echoes the sentiment Kevin admits to the next morning with Nora: You can’t ignore the past. It’s not “true”. You have to decide how to live with it, sins and all, and move on.
The Departure Microwave delivers Nora to the World of the Departed in the fetal position, reminiscent of birth (or in this case, rebirth). Combining her adventure there ultimately ends in futility, Kevin’s well-meaning attempt to start over with his convenient amnesia, and the fate of the scapegoat, we believe the writers commentary on rebirth is – it doesn’t work. You carry on, you fix what you broke, but you can’t go back in time or start over.
“Don’t waste your breath.” – Nora to the nun concerning her prayers for the safe return of the birds
“You’re here.” – Kevin Garvey
“I’m here.” – Nora Durst
What did Kevin wish for when Holy Wayne asked him? – We’ve always believed he asked to have his family reunited, but we’ll never know.
Was Nora a “lens”? Were those concepts even real? – Season 2 spent an episode exploring this concept and then the show dropped the idea of pursuing it almost immediately.
Is Jarden (and maybe some more places, like Grace’s ranch or Perth, Austrlia) “special”? – We lean toward “yes”, but no definitive answer.
What the heck was the significance of the National Geographic? – The stories inside related to the disappearance of an island called the Thera, Yellowstone National Park, Cairo, Egypt, a spider that can live under water, and a Japanese fishing village. Except for the frequency of Cairo-mentions in the show, we’re not sure what else in that issue we should be looking at. (Go take a look at our copy, signed by the cast and creators of the show!)
Did the Pillar Guy actually see Patti? – Or was he just responding to a witnessing a person speak aggressively to themselves?
On that note, what the heck WAS Season 2 Patti? – We believe Patti was very much like the voices Kevin Sr. heard in Season 1. Unseen to everyone else and a source of all kinds of unwelcome commentary.
What was behind Kevin Sr.’s voices? – Did he have his own Patti-esque apparition or was he just crazy? He may have been very right about the flood occurring on the 7th anniversary of the Sudden Departure, so where did he find that out?
Was David Burton God? – Probably not God in the flesh, but maybe an extension of God, containing all His knowledge, but only some of his power. An avatar.
Will Kevin and Nora end up together?
Yes. They do.
Did Laurie kill herself?
No. She’s Nora’s long distance therapist.
Does the World Get It Together and Stop Dwelling on the Departure?
Although no one says anything about cults like the Guilty Remnant or other side effects of the Departure, the fact we see a world looking no different than our own in this episode gives us a lot of hope. So much that we say, yes, the world has gotten over it.
Where Did the Departed Go?
The question turns out to be relative. Reality apparently split in two. In one reality, 98% of the world’s population remained, wondering what happened, but largely able to carry on. In the other reality, 98% of the world’s population disappeared, leaving a very empty world behind. This is one theory your intrepid reviewing team put forth in several podcasts. From the show’s inception, Damon and Tom held fast that they would never reveal where the Departed went. Finding this information out left us shocked!
This show means a lot to us. Without having seen an episode, we took the opportunity to see a panel featuring Damon, Mimi Leder, Carrie Coon, Chris Eccleston, and Ann Dowd in Austin, TX two years ago. After listening to them talk about the show, we dove in headfirst and started podcasting our recaps of the first season in preparation of the approaching second season. We’ve visited the Lockhart, TX (Jarden to you) set several times and even attended the Season 2 premiere in Austin. Although the show ended tonight, we have one more occasion to look forward to. This Thursday, we will attend another panel in Austin featuring Damon, Tom Perotta, and Mimi Leder talking about the finale. Bittersweet, but we can’t wait.
Check out The Daleys on their own website: www.DaleyReview.com.
Like us on Facebook or Subscribe for instant notice of new posts.