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The Leftovers “The Book of Nora” Review (3×08)

4 Jun

“I’m here.”

In the end, a simple game of Mad (Matt) Libs might be the perfect encapsulation of what this show is all about. You have a framework, a scenario, something you’re working within the boundaries of even though there are endless possibilities to choose from. The most important part is the choice: what word do you choose? Does it have a special meaning? Do other people choose similarly? Differently? How do you deal with the blanks that pop up in life? This show is not about providing those blanks; it’s about “letting the mystery be”, following people as they go on journeys that might never be logically parsed but still maintaining a sense of empathy and compassion toward them. It’s about exploring how people’s belief systems are crafted in response to a lack of answers, and it does it so goddamn well.

The wonderful thing about this finale is that it actually does provide a possible explanation. It’s just up to us whether we want to believe it or not. Nora’s story at the table–in a conversational setting staged very similarly to the Kevin Sr. scene from a few weeks back–has several possible interpretations. The first is that she’s telling the truth: she actually went through to the Departure land of the 2%, and they’re over there wondering what the hell happened to the other 98% of the population. The second is that she’s lying in order to shield herself in a way. In both cases, she doesn’t wind up reconnecting with her family, but the first option is the “nicer story”. In that story, she realizes that people move on and that the emotional connections of the past can be reshaped in order to help us keep on living; that allows her to accept her place in her world and in her situation and to realize what she has in front of her (Kevin did a similar thing last week). Obviously, she’s still self-exiling herself by living in Australia under another name, but the important thing here is that Kevin goes to find her.

When he does find her, they dance together to Otis Redding’s “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember”, and it’s a beautiful scene in every way imaginable. There’s so much love and pain in their body language, and you can feel the weight of the entire series on their shoulders. After all, it is in a way. Afterward, when Nora struggles up the hill to a goat that is metaphorically weighed down by sins–the beads–and then essentially puts those sins upon herself, it’s as on the nose as anything in this series has been. However, it’s emotionally resonant in a way that you wouldn’t think it could be if you just read it on paper. Remember the beach ball story from “Certified”? Nora’s doing the opposite here with her actions, allowing others to begin anew unencumbered.

It all leads up to that final scene that I’ve already discussed. However, there’s one additional thing that has to be mentioned here: Kevin’s reaction to Nora’s story. This is a man who has fucked up time and time again, sitting across from a woman who has done the same. These are two people who are living in this one world, in this one timeline, still here even after all the misdirection from Lindelof and co. And what does Kevin do? He chooses to believe Nora, not necessarily because he’s ascribing the events to a higher power or meaning (like many people throughout the series do). He does it because he believes in Nora as a human being, as someone he can live with and fuck up with for the rest of his life. The series was centered around organizations like the Guilty Remnant at the beginning, all of which were examples of the powerful influences of faith on a large scale. The series ends with a smaller, but perhaps even more important, element of faith: faith in the people around you. Nora believes in Kevin. Kevin believes in Nora. Laurie believes in her kids. Matt believes in Nora. So on and so forth. Maybe it’s the nicer story that you have to believe in at the end, but maybe that’s worth it when you’re trying to hold onto the people you love. Sit down, take a look at yourself, and take a look at the person at the person across from you. Then realize that you can say something that you may not have been able to say before, but was always inside you.

“I’m here.”

GRADE: A-

SEASON GRADE: A-

SERIES GRADE: A-/A

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-Back to “Let the Mystery Be” by Iris Dement for the opening credits.

-Though I said I thought Laurie killed herself, I’m so glad to see that she didn’t. I’m very, very glad.

-That Nora Matt Mad Libs scene…the tears.

-Thank you so, so much to everyone who read my reviews over these last three years. I’m proud to say that I reviewed every single episode of this amazing series, and even though I’m less a television blog and more a film one these days, I knew I had to return to close out this show. Some of the pieces I’m most proud of were the result of The Leftovers, and I want to say thank you to the entire cast and crew for this wonderful journey. This series is already among my favorites of all time, and I think it’s going to be looked back upon as a classic.

-Now that Person of InterestRectify, and The Leftovers are over, I’m not entirely sure yet what my next regularly covered television series will be. Maybe something new will come along; I’m hoping to find something over the summer. I’ll definitely be reviewing some of the final season of The Americans next year.

Photo credit: HBO, The Leftovers

 

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4 Responses to “The Leftovers “The Book of Nora” Review (3×08)”

  1. Keith Noakes June 4, 2017 at 11:35 pm #

    Great series. I always thought Nora was telling the truth because she seemed genuine but I think it’s for the best that they left it up to interpretation. Either way, it was nice to see her get some sort of redemption. It would be a crime if Theroux, Coon, or Eccleston don’t get Emmys for this if not the series.

    • polarbears16 June 5, 2017 at 2:35 am #

      Yeah I definitely believed her. And they all deserve Emmys, without a doubt.

  2. Matthew Thompson June 5, 2017 at 8:54 pm #

    I have sort of mixed feelings about the finale and the series, but both had some really special moments that will stick with me. And Carrie Coon was always incredible. She’s become one of my favorite actresses. Will miss your TV posts!

    • polarbears16 June 8, 2017 at 4:48 pm #

      Understandable! And yeah it was a flawed show but it reached some incredible highs.

      I’ll hopefully be back with a tv show sometime soon. If not, I’m still watching TV and will make year end posts.

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