This The Leftovers review contains spoilers.
The Leftovers Season 3 Episode 2
Contrary to popular belief, time does not heal all wounds. It’s been almost seven years since the Sudden Departure, and a quick look around Jarden, Texas would tell you that there are still plenty of people looking to heal. If anything, time has made things worse. When two percent of the world’s population vanishes without a trace, and after seven years no one is any closer to explaining exactly what happened, people begin looking for their own explanations. It’s why some people believe Gary Busey is coming back from Heaven to save us, or that a holy man in a tower Departed because he was closer to God. People need something to believe in and the power of belief prescribes meaning and control.
Nora Durst seemingly believes in nothing. She laughs at John Murphy and her brother for thinking that Kevin is some Messiah, she’s too smart to believe the man in the tower Departed, and she spends her professional life squashing and extinguishing the phonies and false prophets. For Nora, no Holy Snake Oil Salesman or religious text will bring back her children. Her loss is meaningless and her control is zero; there is only trying to forget, there is only moving on.
“Don’t Be Ridiculous” is another quality hour with Nora in the same mold as season one highlight “Guest,” and just like that episode, it’s one of the series’ finest to date, an absolutely stunning emotional rollercoaster that illuminates before befuddling the audience further. Carrie Coon is impeccable, delivering a dynamic performance that finds Nora morphing from steely and strong to forlorn and dumbfounded faster than a flash of lightning. From the tattoo monologue to her reaction to Kevin proposing that they have a child, this episode just plays like one long Coon highlight reel.
Or like the perfect conclusion to a long running joke. The theme music this week (which will be different each week moving forward) should have tipped savvy viewers off to the fact that we would be returning to the story of Mark Linn-Baker and the Departure of the cast of Perfect Strangers. After getting her cast removed and having her injury questioned by the doctor, Nora receives a phone call from Linn-Baker asking if she would like to see her children again. As an employee of the DSD and a natural skeptic, it would be fair to assume Nora would ignore this call, but once Linn-Baker mentions meeting in St. Louis, her ears perk up. Quickly, she’s on the phone with her office clearing a trip to St. Louis to investigate the new “scheme.”
While at the airport, we’re reminded of Lily when a malfunctioning kiosk won’t let Nora answer “No,” to the question “Will you be traveling with an infant on your lap?” Once at the hotel in St. Louis, Nora meets with Mark and she hears his scheme; Swiss scientists have discovered a form of radiation, LADR, present at multiple departure sites, and have created a device that zaps willing participants with the radiation to send them “through” to wherever the Departed went. After Nora warns Mark that these people are just incinerating themselves, Mark recounts his story of being left behind, and it sounds oddly similar to Nora’s. “I want to take some fucking control,” Mark says, as if reading Nora’s mind. Nora goes back to her room and listens to the testimonials of the sound minded people who chose to be “reunited with their loved ones,” and knowing the implications, it’s the most unsettling moment of the season so far.
We then discover the real reason Nora visited St. Louis, as she travels to nearby Kentucky to visit Lily. Losing your kids without an explanation is an impossible to deal with situation, but losing a child knowingly isn’t much easier. We learn that Christine has decided to reclaim custody of Lily, and after having an awkward run-in with both, a tearful Nora heads back to Texas and straight to the front door of Erika Murphy.
Living in a new home and coping with the loss of her own daughter, Erika listens as Nora recounts the story of her Wu-Tang Clan tattoo. It turns out that Nora originally had her kids’ names tastefully tattooed on her arm, likely because having Lily taken away reopened the wound. Shortly after the ink was applied she realized that she didn’t want to answer the questions to which the tattoo would lead. She pointed to the first design that caught her eye, the Wu symbol, and had the names covered up. She then purposely broke her arm to have the tattoo covered up a bit longer. It’s a heartbreaking story peppered with The Leftovers’ signature odd sense of humor and it leads to the two grieving women bouncing on a trampoline to the tune of “Protect Ya Neck.” It’s the sort of emotionally charged, bizarre five minutes that only this show can pull off.
Back in Jarden, Nora is pulled over by Tom, who has heard from Christine about Nora’s impromptu visit. Tom does his best to make sure Nora is ok, but when Nora venomously blames Tom for giving her Lily only to take her away, Tom reminds Nora that he left Lily for Kevin and didn’t even know that Nora existed. This news cuts Nora even deeper, leading her to spitefully end the rumor of the man in the tower Departing. Back at home, she walks in on Kevin’s disturbing new bag habit but somehow reacts calmly. Nora may be a mess on the inside, but she’s too strong to let it show and comforts Kevin instead. When he reacts by proposing that they have a baby, she laughs in his face. Eventually the mysterious organization calls Nora asking for $20,000 and for her to be in Australia by Tuesday. At first I was unclear whether Nora is following this lead because she actually believes she could see her children or if she only wants to crush this beacon of hope just as she did to the tower man. But after seeing the face she makes after Kevin wonders if he can come with, I have to believe her love for her children is actually making her consider the potential of LADR.
Just like the premiere, the episode ends with another head-scratching trip to Australia, as a group of elderly women drown a police officer named Kevin whom they mistake for Kevin Garvey. After they realize their mistake and pull the unconscious Kevin from the water, Kevin Sr. emerges from a nearby house. Next week we’ll get to see exactly what Kevin Sr. has been up to, but until then we’re left to wonder what the hell is happening Down Under.
Between all of the technological failures Nora is experiencing to Kevin’s widening legend, there are still plenty of fishy things springing up on The Leftovers, even if our days are numbered.