The Leftovers “Guest” Review (1×06)

4 Aug


“Nothing’s next! NOTHING!”

When 2% of the world’s population vanishes, there’s no predetermined way to act, no coping mechanism that every person uses, no project or blueprint or script. When the pieces of the puzzle are torn away, everything simply falls back into place, albeit in perhaps an unusual way. Maybe, for example, you’ll stalk the woman your husband had an affair with or buy extra food for a group of people who’ll never get a chance to eat it or hire a prostitute to shoot you in the chest. Is it crazy? Well, by what standard do we measure these actions by if there is no status quo?

“Guest” takes us through a crowd of varying types of people with varying coping mechanisms, giving us an intriguing look at the way society’s plodded on after the Sudden Departure. Instead of attempting to wiggle its way through various entry points into this world, the show zeroes in on Nora Durst, then uses her plight as a way to expand upon the never-ending expanse of people. We see Marcus, for example, who parties to avoid having to deal with grief and who’s revealed to be behind the Loved Ones; Nora allows herself a moment of escape there–along with a make-out session with Marcus’s manufactured body–but her story keeps coming back around to a name tag.

I’ve written before about the significance, or lack thereof, of certain objects in this post-Departure society, and here, we have an example of a name tag acting as a tether between reality and fantasy. As “guest”, Nora can allow herself to feel unburdened for a bit, but she can’t go on like that forever because she’s Nora Durst and she can’t have otherwise. It’s as if people here feel like it’s their responsibility to perpetuate the grief they hold, to continue rituals practiced in the past, to maintain the identity they once had because if they don’t, they’ll disparage the memories of their loved ones. That’s what we see with Nora Durst, someone who’s desperately wanted to be unburdened for a while now, but simply can’t let go. She explodes at Patrick Johanson–author of What’s Next–at the bar, at first looking forward to finding someone filled with pain as she is, but later angry when she finds out he doesn’t seem to be. All there is is a broken mirror. She doesn’t want to lose herself, and that name tag with the orange circles is, to her, her identity.

And, with identity comes perception, a theme that hangs over many scenes in “Guest”. The prostitute at the beginning asks “What happened to you?” and the woman from her past–the one she called a bitch–sarcastically states “Oh, you’re doing SO much better now”. They can both perceive that she’s holding onto her pain, that she has “hope”, but that that hope is born out of a sense of grief. In the end, perception is Wayne’s greatest tool, and when he sees her, he can sense the weight of the world on her shoulders; he embraces her, and she breaks into sobs in a cathartic, moving moment. “Hope is your weakness,” Holy Wayne tells her. “You want it gone because you don’t deserve it. But you do deserve hope, Nora.”

The hope that follows for her is unburdened by guilt or uncertainty. She no longer buys extra food or watches the woman her husband had an affair with, and her brother leaves her a message on the phone. She’s smiling, she seems happy, and she sets up a date with Kevin Garvey. It’s not to say that everything is magically fixed, but it’s clear that she’s learning to live with loss and to live more freely, and others seem to be picking up on it.

Question #121 on the Department of Sudden Departures questionnaire asks “Do you think the Departed is in a better place?” Beforehand, people were subconsciously picking up on what hopes she had left for her own loved ones, but now, that doesn’t seem to be the case; the woman sitting opposite Nora tearfully answers “no”, at once perhaps a sign of giving up, but also a sign of taking on. For, only when they give up one form of hope can they obtain another, possibly more useful one. Perception of Nora is different, and question #121 becomes less of a discrepancy and more of a reality.

Sometimes the cold, hard truth can allow a ray of light to shine through.



-Carrie Coon’s performance in this episode is freaking brilliant. Once again, a more focused character story paves the way toward a compelling story and an even better performance.

-I wasn’t all too interested in Wayne earlier, but after his scene with Nora, that interest has shot up quite a bit.

-I’m not sure if I buy the Nora-paying-a-prostitute-to-shoot-her scenario, considering her personality, but it’s a nice example of her attempting a reset of sorts.

-Next week: “So, yeah, all you have to do is light the fuse, put the dynamite in my pants, and then watch me blow up!” “Uh…I think I’m gonna need an extra thousand.”

– “Oh, fuck your daughter.” What a great delivery there by Coon: funny, but also indicative of someone who could lose it at any time.

-Anyone else see that Loved Ones commercial at the beginning of the hour, before the previously on?

-*Nora nonchalantly throws grenade into the street*

*Grenade turns out to be real, and the world blows up*


Photo credit: HBO, The Leftovers

One Response to “The Leftovers “Guest” Review (1×06)”

  1. rndjajw August 4, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

    The Leftovers has one of the best scores I can remember since Lost.. Only show I can think of now that has equally powerful score is Person of Interest.

    That scene between Holy Wayne and Nora was incredibly powerful. Wow.

    Fantastic performances, fantastic structure, fantastic everything.

    The Leftovers is becoming one of my favorite shows on television. Just brilliant.

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