Last night’s second episode of the third and final season of The Leftovers started off funny, was anything but funny for most of the episode and then ended on a bizarrely funny note. Which in some ways makes it like a lot of other episodes in this series. There was some speculation about whether or not the show would change opening themes again and that mystery was revealed……..the same sequence from Season 2 was shown with the theme song from 80’s sitcom “Perfect Strangers” playing over the top of it. You can’t make this stuff up. This would not be the last “Perfect Strangers” reference in the episode either.
This week got back to a familiar episode structure, following one character around for a majority of the episode, allowing their story to play out and really feel an emotional connection with that character. It was one of the best qualities about series co-creator Damon Lindelof’s previous series, “Lost” and it has really helped “The Leftovers” stand out from other large ensemble dramas. This week Nora took center stage and it resulted in a really emotionally heavy episode. It started off with the death of “Pillar Man”. His wife, whom he hadn’t spoken with since climbing to the top of the pillar, waiting for God to have him depart like 2 million before him, was insisting to Nora that he had departed, despite the viewing audience clearly seeing him have a heart attack and fall to his death. Nora quickly realizes that her brother Matt had something to do with not only the man’s wife but other town’s people believing he had departed. Matt admitted to Nora that he had buried him but had done it because he “deserved a legacy”. When Nora began pointing out similarities between the marriages of Pillar Man and his wife to Matt and his wife (who had indeed left town with Matt’s son) it became clear that Matt was thinking just as much about himself as he was this now deceased man. The question is: what is the legacy Matt feels he deserves?
Nora’s journey really takes off after that scene when she receives a phone call from “Perfect Strangers” star Mark Linn Baker saying that if she ever wanted to see her children again – children that had departed – she needed to meet him at a hotel in St. Louis. One of the great things about this show is how they turned an ongoing gag (in previous seasons it had been discussed that Mark Linn Baker was the only one out of 4 stars in Perfect Strangers to not depart) into something deeply emotional and powerful. Nora does go to St. Louis and listens to the actor’s sales pitch about Swedish scientists who think they’ve discovered how to reunite people with those that have departed. Nora very astutely calls Baker out on being suicidal but still takes the information about following through with what Baker was selling.
Nora’s story continues with a detour to a children’s playground where we quickly realized she was watching Lilly. Nora gets out of her car to confront another child who stole a toy from Lilly. When she gives Lilly the toy back, the little girl looks up at Nora and asks “Who are you?” in one of the most heartbreaking scenes the show has ever produced. Lilly’s birth mom, Season 1 character Christina approaches Nora and asks what’s she doing her, giving the impression that there’s tension between Lilly’s birth mom and the woman who raised her for a few years. From here Nora heads to meet up with Erica, who we discovered left Miracle and her husband John after the death of Evie and John’s refusal to believe that she’s gone. Watching Nora drop her guard and open up to Erica in a way she opens up to almost nobody else was nice to see. Nora spends so much of the show trying to be the strong one, bottling up her pain that seeing her relax (if only for one scene) was a great change of pace.
Nora’s return home started with an awkward encounter with Tom, who had obviously received a call from Christina about Nora’s visit. From there it was onto her home where she walked in on Kevin with a bag taped over his head just like last week. He explained to her that he didn’t want to die, he just wanted to feel. In that moment she sprang to life and ran to his side. She knew exactly how she felt. She related. When Kevin said “We should have a baby” she broke into hysterical laughter. She wasn’t laughing at him. She was laughing at the irony of doing the same thing again: trying to replace children she had lost with another child. The source of her pain. She wasn’t about to do that again. When her phone rang with instructions on how to follow up on Mark Linn Baker’s proposal, it included a $20,000 fee and it was in Australia. Nora said yes without hesitation and when she told Kevin she was going to Australia for her job, he asked if she could come with him and she replied agreed.
The ending of the episode was once again in Australia and this time featured a less than friendly chief of police also named Kevin. He was on his way home for the night when he encountered four women on horses – one of which we met last week. When he told them his name was Kevin, they sedated him, kidnapped him and drown him, thinking that he would resurrect. Alas, this man wasn’t Kevin Garvey and he did not return from the dead. The final scene was Kevin’s dad running out, asking the ladies what they were doing.
To me this episode was all about coping mechanisms. When Nora introduced that term while interviewing Pillar Man’s wife, something clicked in my mind. Then we saw people flocking to the idea that Pillar Man had departed – a coping mechanism for all of the doom and gloom in the air perhaps? Kevin’s coping mechanism involves taping bags over his head. As he said, he just wants to feel but in a life like Kevin’s that is seemingly the only thing he controls. Nora’s coping mechanism is self inflicted pain (breaking her own arm, shooting herself with a bullet proof vest in the first season and now apparently paying $20,000 for what seems like suicide wrapped in a veil of reconciliation). Could coping mechanisms be what the core of this show is all about? How we as humans attempt to explain the unexplainable? How we try to take control back in our lives when we feel as if we have none? What do we put our belief and faith in when the going gets tough? I have never thought that The Leftovers is a show designed to answer all of its own questions but rather to take us on emotional journeys with characters we care about. Could the final six episodes be about letting go of the coping mechanisms and actually healing, even with the world seemingly following apart? We shall see……..Thanks for reading.