The Leftovers: The Book of Nora
June 4, 2017 7:58 PM - Season 3, Episode 8 - Subscribe

Nothing is answered. Everything is answered. And then it ends. Series finale.
posted by JimBennett (38 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
i'm going to need some time to process this but i wanted to get a post up so that it wouldn't get left behind the other high profile shows airing tonight. for my money this episode was perfect. carrie coon cemented her performance as nora durst as one of the finest in television history.
posted by JimBennett at 7:59 PM on June 4 [1 favorite]


So, one reading of this could be that Nora did indeed opt out of the Dr's machine. She built a lie around herself to cope with the loss of her children. That lie is the reason why she didn't want to see Kevin, needed to speak to Laurie, etc...
And when she's dancing with Kevin and says "I can't do this [...] Because it's not true", she's not talking about his lie to her about seeing her on her bike; she's talking about her lie to herself.
Maybe?
posted by Riton at 8:06 PM on June 4 [4 favorites]


If Nora's story is true, that was a really shitty day for Lori's baby.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:22 PM on June 4 [3 favorites]


Also, 2% world is seriously fucked. I mean at least they've got a lot of canned goods, but civilization doesn't work when you lose 98% of the population. They're back to 19th century at best, and there's a shit ton of people who are back to being farmers.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:26 PM on June 4


I really, really liked that. I had no idea what to expect from this episode, or even what I wanted, but that was really lovely.

I was a little annoyed with Kevin for keeping the "oh hey we just met" stunt going for more than three seconds, but I also appreciate that really, Nora's "a machine sent me to another reality" like barely registers on the list of weird places he's wound up, so why wouldn't he believe her.

I was floored when Nora said she'd gone ahead with it. Her explanation of where she went, and how she came back, worked really well on an emotional level, even if I'm not totally sure how much sense it makes if I poke at it logically (well, if you really can go back and forth, couldn't they eventually figure out a way to bring them all back? Maybe they don't have the resources for that on Departed World, but if Regular World knows they're there and how to get to them, I feel like that's a solvable problem, and one that, if actual departed people start showing up, would get solved real fast.)

I could argue that the sin goat wandering away and the love pigeons coming back was a little on the nose for a last shot, and when I write it down like that it sounds like the dumbest thing possible, but in practice, I'm going to believe that the goat went for a nice walk and the pigeons had a nice breakfast and Kevin and Nora made some more tea and worked themselves out (and then maybe made some calls and got working on how to bring back two million people, some of whom maybe want to give reintegrating into their families the old college try.)
posted by jameaterblues at 9:04 PM on June 4 [2 favorites]


The other world sounds so desolate and the only show on TV is Perfect Strangers.

By the by, Alan Sepinwall has posted a great interview with Lindelof on the finale.
posted by guiseroom at 9:24 PM on June 4


I have so many thoughts/feelings about that episode, but primarily, I'm happy that Lori didn't actually commit suicide.
posted by bibliowench at 9:29 PM on June 4 [7 favorites]


A surprisingly satisfying conclusion to such an intentionally ambiguous story, while watching. Which is something of a point to much television, superhero comics and ghost stories. Don't think on it too closely, may not hold up to analytic inspection.

Want a goat spinoff.
posted by sammyo at 5:40 AM on June 5 [1 favorite]


Oh the acting....that last conversation scene, with such tight closeups....just amazing. And the last conversation between Nora and Matt...

I was happy it ended like this, since the series started with such misery and darkness, it was so nice that it ended on an upbeat, hopeful note, I believe people found what they were looking for. I find that I don't actually care if Nora was telling the truth or not about 2% world, because it doesn't really matter in the larger context of their lives. She came to terms with the loss one way or another just like the rest of the world seems to have done.

God I loved this series so, so much.
posted by biscotti at 6:16 AM on June 5 [8 favorites]


What great aging makeup. I can't think of a better job I've ever seen, and those close-ups on it. There's your Emmy, if none other.

Yeah, Nora never went through anywhere. If there were round-trip machines ... a lot of people would be going on round-trips.

A random 2% of the people would have a rough shakedown ... but overall they'd be damn fine, and pretty soon they'd be rich in purchasing power terms as supply overwhelmed demand. There's no key extractive or productive technology that doesn't have 10,000 experts in the world ... so 200 of them are more than enough to work what's needed and teach additional people. Some economic value that relies on density would temporarily go away, but it would come back eventually, too. If the population doubling time because of the resource abundance went to 20 years, you'd be back at the pre-Sudden Departure population in a little more than a hundred years.
posted by MattD at 8:11 AM on June 5 [2 favorites]


Also, 2% world is seriously fucked. I mean at least they've got a lot of canned goods, but civilization doesn't work when you lose 98% of the population. They're back to 19th century at best, and there's a shit ton of people who are back to being farmers.

Does anyone what Lindelof is doing next because "2% world" sounds a lot like the book World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler--with a bit of Leftovers tossed in. He'd have to clean up some of the latent sexism and racism though unless part of plotline would be about how sudden, unexplainable upheaval might cause some people to drop all social pretense and reveal their their base natures.
posted by fuse theorem at 8:47 AM on June 5


...unless part of plotline would be about how sudden, unexplainable upheaval might cause some people to drop all social pretense and reveal their their base natures.

They already made that. It's called The Walking Dead and it sucks.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:05 AM on June 5 [4 favorites]


I find that I don't actually care if Nora was telling the truth or not about 2% world, because it doesn't really matter in the larger context of their lives.

The only reason I care a little is because, afterward, Nora chose exile until she finally chose connection (and love). Whatever happened to her in the machine, she was still isolated in her loss. And, really, only Kevin, who lost no one in the Departure that he really loved, whose damage all came in the aftermath, could be the person for her.

Kevin's two-week vacations to Australia were LADR machines for him. Even though Matt told him that Nora was gone, he kept searching. Kevin got his departed person back, and Nora Cursed was a blessing. I loved the ending and thought it was the perfect way to end the story. Ultimately, a much happier and loving ending than I thought the show would give us.
posted by gladly at 9:40 AM on June 5 [2 favorites]


They already made that. It's called The Walking Dead and it sucks.

Well yeah but I was thinking of a show without zombies, vampires, werewolves, space aliens, etc.

Even though Matt told him that Nora was gone, he kept searching. Kevin got his departed person back, and Nora Cursed was a blessing.

"Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." In different ways, both Kevin and Nora were perhaps saved by faith. It just wasn't necessarily faith in a god.
posted by fuse theorem at 10:08 AM on June 5 [1 favorite]


I really enjoyed that finale and it mostly left me able to put the series away. Though it kind of seems the whole "is Kevin immortal?" thing was a big red herring in the light of Nora's account. But with each there were corroborating testimonies, so to speak, so we can accept them as having some kind of reality beyond the characters' dreams.

Also, with the Sudden Departure, we were sort of shown the "what"but not the "why", and I suppose that is fitting. If anything, it showed an anthrocentric theism on the part of the writers -- because why did that weird radiation only make humans shift over to the alternate universe and not other animals? But, alas, that doesn't really matter. It was all about creating moments anyway.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:10 PM on June 5 [1 favorite]


I have so many thoughts/feelings about that episode, but primarily, I'm happy that Lori didn't actually commit suicide.

Or maybe she did? The only people in the world we knew were Lori (last seen considering suicide), Nora (last seen attempting something which could be considered suicide), and Kevin (admits he had a big heart attack.) Maybe we were in a kind of purgatory for people who needed to work things out after they died? Everyone else in the world seemed to have some kind of sin to work out too (the nun was breaking her celibacy vows, the married couple admitted to having their issues and brought up the very idea of sin.)

I like that each meaning (she went through to 2% world and came back, she was lying about going through, and this purgatory one) is equally plausible and depends on how you want to interpret it.
posted by bluecore at 2:24 PM on June 5 [1 favorite]


I think it's pretty clear the intent was this was the "real" world.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:01 PM on June 5 [2 favorites]


So, if Kevin's world was "real" it was nuked, which makes three separate universes. Why not more? When Nora "came back" did she necessarily come back to the world she left? Perhaps just one similar enough that Lori didn't suicide.

I was actually itching for Nora to go though the machine at the very end of the episode and land naked in a vast nuclear wasteland.
posted by sammyo at 5:57 PM on June 5


Burhanistan: I think it's pretty clear the intent was this was the "real" world.

Pretty sure it could be interpreted multiple ways. After all, we're talking about a show were Kevin has already done trips into a purgatorial International Assassin world, one where he's both the President and his twin brother trying to kill him. The show is about the transformational power of loss and the things we can't let go of, which is central to the concept of purgatory, as is sins we can't let go of. There are certainly production reasons who couldn't shoot a Lori scuba suicide, but it's also interesting the decision to do it or not happens off camera, as does what happens to Nora with the LADR, as does Kevin's supposed heart attack scare. Seems to open the door to speculation.
posted by bluecore at 6:08 PM on June 5


The world where Kevin is an international assassin isn't another dimension. I think that's more like an afterlife, which I think is different than where Nora went, and I do think she went there. And both of those are different than the Australia where the series ends. That down under, where there are magic machines that slip through quantum possibilities, machines which look a lot like a bowl full of prayers at a pregnant Australian's wedding, that is an entirely different plane, and probably not the same as the one where Kevin used to be a cop in either Mapleton or Jardin. That one has sinful scapegoats stuck on Sisyphean mountains, burdened by human sin and then domesticated by the purity of kindness. These places aren't all in the same place, but except for Kevin, everyone else could only exist in one at a time. Maybe that's why Kevin had to kill Kevin and destroy the two Kevin world, the afterworld, "Heaven." He closed the vertical option leaving only the horizontal options.

This was a really great show. The best in spiritually speculative fiction. That Reza Aslan helped produce it seems evident to me. It's so religious studies smart. I very much loved it and will miss it.
posted by Stanczyk at 6:29 PM on June 5 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Kevin was in dreamtime.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:53 PM on June 5 [2 favorites]


I absolutely believed Nora's story. If that makes me a dope, so be it. But reading the interviews after, it seems suggested by Lindelof that her speech was meant to be true and then when the writing staff asked each other if it had to be, they decided to play it in a way that wouldn't kill that option. So the option isn't out, but believing her still makes more sense to me personally.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:58 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


I mean, they showed her in the machine and everything.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:49 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


They showed her at the last moment sticking her head above the fluid and screaming, perhaps to have them stop the process. It was a split second and then they cut. All that was seemingly done deliberately to keep both options open.
posted by Falconetti at 8:43 PM on June 9


Nora did nothing this whole show but walk around being a stone cold truth teller, a damn Terminator of justice from the very first time we meet her and she tells Matt his failing church is failing. To think we're supposed to think she's lying now just because we didn't see it with our own eyes would be a huge betrayal of her character.
posted by bleep at 10:30 PM on June 12 [6 favorites]


I mean what is the point of watching a work of fiction and deciding to believe that the characters are lying to everyone, themselves, and the audience all the time about everything? All of the characters are lying and I'm going to spin my OWN story about what REALLY happened. Do people get enjoyment out of that? I mean I am a big fan of headcanon too but if your headcanon requires that previously rock solid reliable narrators are suddenly and inexplicably lying right at the end then it's just not very good.
posted by bleep at 11:02 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


I mean what is the point of watching a work of fiction and deciding to believe that the characters are lying to everyone

I think we're growing to expect an unreliable narrator in our serial narratives. In the last couple of years, we've seen them in Mr. Robot, Legion, Westworld and even in parts of The Leftovers, just to name a few, though in The Leftovers it's typically been Kevin. I think we're being conditioned to look for them everywhere. I also wonder if it has anything to do with the larger Zeitgeist where authority, facts, and verification are all coming into question, even when it's inappropriate.
posted by Stanczyk at 2:41 PM on June 13


bleep: All of the characters are lying and I'm going to spin my OWN story about what REALLY happened.

Well, none of this really happened. It's all a parable about the transformative power of grief, and it's pretty clear it can be interpreted in multiple ways. Apparently one of the influences of the finale was based upon something that happened to one of the writers (not sure if it was Lindelof or another writer) where they were playing the social board game Werewolf with a group of friends. One of the players swore on the life of his children that he wasn't the werewolf, but he was. They were all shaken that someone could lie to their faces with such complete commitment.

Sure, Nora was a stone cold truth teller the whole series, but she also couldn't let go of the loss of her children. Maybe she needed to make up a story to tell herself so she could get through the day? That doesn't make her any weaker of character to me. It's just part of the human condition. No one's immune from it-- like the nun swearing to God while lying, breaking her vows with the man climbing out the window. It's part of the DNA of the show. I personally think she went through and came back, but you could also make the case that a bunch of things from her story didn't add up. I love that it's open to interpretation like all great literature.
posted by bluecore at 3:41 PM on June 13


According to Lindelof, the timeline basically is: writing staff comes up with ending intending it to be literally true; the idea is bandied about that maybe some people would like it to be possible it was a lie; Lindelof says, Sure, fine... leave enough room for people who want that.

Let's say our friend Gina says she's moving because of her job, and you say, "But couldn't it also be because of the climate?" and she says, "Sure. Whatever. If you like." I personally am not coming out of that with "It's a mystery!" or "It was the climate!" as my number one interpretation.

Very clearly we're two camps here, so I'm not trying to talk down anyone else's take, just explaining my reasoning.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:02 AM on June 14


According to Lindelof, the timeline basically is: writing staff comes up with ending intending it to be literally true; the idea is bandied about that maybe some people would like it to be possible it was a lie; Lindelof says, Sure, fine... leave enough room for people who want that.

Let's say our friend Gina says she's moving because of her job, and you say, "But couldn't it also be because of the climate?" and she says, "Sure. Whatever. If you like." I personally am not coming out of that with "It's a mystery!" or "It was the climate!" as my number one interpretation.


I'd argue that seems like an inaccurate depiction of events as they've been told in interviews, as well as terrible analogy about how collective art gets made. Lindelof brought up the idea of another plane/mirror universe in the writers' room, but Tom Perrotta, who wrote the book on which the show is based, hated the idea:

“It was always just a given for me that there is this mystery, the same mystery of where do we go when we die, and the idea that there’s one authoritative answer seems palpably ridiculous to me.”


They struck a compromise, which Lindelof apparently came around to preferring:

“But,” Lindelof countered, “if she tells it, then we won’t know if it’s true!” Which, he realized in the middle of that sentence, is the perfect way to end the series: Give the audience an answer, but don’t say whether it’s true. And so they wrote a new phrase on that whiteboard: “Nora makes tea.”

Ultimately, as showrunner, Lindelof could've vetoed Perotta, so we have to assume the ambiguous version isn't just a "sure. whatever" eyeroll but the version he prefers. I'm not sure why everyone is hung up on there being a "correct" answer. Every piece of art that I love that's stayed important to me has different facets that can be interpreted in multiple ways. If it was simple and flat it would be boring.
posted by bluecore at 10:15 AM on June 14


Works having multiple interpretations is great. It's the best. I'm an English major, I love it. But if it doesn't have any evidence from anything else that went before? Well I think Kevin was actually gay this whole time. Theees nothing to support it but ????
posted by bleep at 11:46 AM on June 14


bleep: But if it doesn't have any evidence from anything else that went before?

Huh? There was no evidence for the human condition of lying, especially to oneself? It ran through the whole episode with the nun, who put her happiness ahead of her vows, and the notes put on the doves at the wedding, and the beads put on the goat.

Or do you mean no evidence that Nora ever lied? She lied about her broken arm. She lied about getting rid of the gun when she kept it around to feel like she had an escape. Nora relentlessly pursued the truth, yes, but she didn't always tell others the truth about her coping mechanisms. If she didn't go through, then the lie she told herself was a giant coping mechanism, and her call to Laurie to ask permission to go to the dance was about asking permission to choose happiness over relentlessly pursing the truth, or at least permission to tell Kevin her lie despite her dedicating her entire life to the truth. If it was a lie, then Kevin choosing to believe it was the ultimate act of love.

Like I said, I believe she went through and came back, but if I was playing devil's advocate: there's no actual evidence she went through. We didn't see her disappear. We didn't see the mirror world. No one else in the mirror world decided to come back through? Once it was established you could move freely between the worlds, people didn't try to reunite with their loved ones? If they didn't know, Nora selfishly decided to keep it a secret knowing parents like her are in pain? That seems rather mean, doesn't it? Me thinking she went through is more about me needing to believe that than anything else, just like anyone's beliefs about the afterlife.

She's an amazing, strong character, but being a strong character ≠ never having weakness, it means accurately representing the human condition with all our flaws and imperfections. At least that's why I love her.
posted by bluecore at 1:08 PM on June 14


One thing about Nora's story wasn't entirely clear to me. When she got zappped by the machine Dr. Von Whatshisname did she zap back to the parking lot in Australia? She said "I came here"... No further qualification. Anyway, her explanation made sense enough to me because just a few days before the episode I had this thread on my mind, especially visualizations of the solar system in 4D, and could sort of handwave the physics away with a notion of an echo of a four dimensional Earth orbit caught in thr wash somehow. Why only humans would mostly just mean the head writers are theists at heart.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:54 PM on June 14


I'm a month late to watching this and now I'm gonna be a bummer. Really didn't like this finale episode, nor the whole season very much. I mean it was beautiful and nostalgic and warm and I like Nora being Nora. But it was also really sloppy and self-indulgent. I think they could have cut 20 minutes by removing the whole red herring of Kevin pretending to be alternative universe Kevin who didn't marry Nora. What was the point of that? Remove the whole wedding scene while we're at it. Just get on to the actual story of reconciliation. Also firm up the ambiguity of whether Nora really went to 2% world or not. Make a tidier show.

I know, it's not a tidy show. But the emotional beats it hit that were strong for me were in parts were the narrative itself was clear, just not the feelings. Like the whole establishment and play-out of the Guilty Remnant in Season 1, that was brilliant, loved that. It was always clear what was happening in the story, just not why, the complicated expression of grief.

One more complaint; why were John and Michael even in this season? Particularly poor Michael. They could have left Evie out too, for that matter. This whole season is an indulgence in the conclusions of everyone's stories: Lori, Kevin, Nora, Matt, Kevin Sr. Tom and Jill are wisely left out of it, no time to cover everyone. John and Michael are dragged along for the ride but we never really see where they end up. Particularly Michael, he barely even has lines in the whole season. It seemed like a frustrating omission.

OK, griping done, this is me wishing the show ended as strong as it started. It was really unique TV and well produced. I love the stories focussing on emotions of grief and nihilism, unusual themes for popular entertainment. Just this last season felt a bit off to me.
posted by Nelson at 7:16 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]


that was perfect. I love this show so much.

Also, why you guys keep spelling it wrong? It's Laurie. And I'm so glad she's alive.
posted by numaner at 2:21 PM on July 26


Chris Hardwick recently interviewed show co-creator Damon Lindelof on his podcast/Talking show.
posted by Stanczyk at 3:26 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]




This is long but worth the read - behind the scenes of the final episode.
posted by k8t at 6:47 AM on August 6 [1 favorite]


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