This The Leftovers review contains spoilers.
The Leftovers Season 3 Episode 6
Putting the central premise and mystical elements aside, The Leftovers is a series about systems of belief; what are the things people turn to explain the inexplicable and why? Whether you believe a giant egg in a volcano is going to hatch a monster that will end the world or that a series of aboriginal songs are the key to stopping the impending flood of the earth, belief systems help make sense of the narratives that we construct for ourselves and serve as a coping mechanism when we come face to face with things we cannot understand.
For Laurie Garvey, an analytical psychotherapist trained to see through these sorts of mental constructs and address the underlying emotional problems underneath, what happens when she’s faced with the unfathomable? When two percent of the world’s population disappears, including the unborn fetus in her stomach, what amount of therapy could possibly help? Who is she to judge someone’s way of dealing with the incompressible loss or say that it’s unhealthy? Laurie’s own belief system of psychotherapy suddenly stops making sense.
It’s finally revealed what caused Laurie to turn to her first replacement belief system, the Guilty Remnant. While in a session with the woman who lost her baby in the Sudden Departure in the premiere episode of The Leftovers, Laurie is left without an answer when the woman asks for help. The sudden loss of purpose leads to Laurie attempting suicide before a last second change of heart. As soon as Laurie expels the pills from her body, she dons all white and repeats the command that she herself could not answer, “Tell me what to do.”
The whole episode, told with unorthodox chronology, sees Laurie listening without judgement to each of our central characters as they pursue their individual beliefs. Kevin Sr., Grace, John and Michael all are waiting for Kevin to return to the ranch, waiting to see if he is willing to die again for their causes; Kevin Sr. wants Kevin to receive the final part of his song from Christopher Sunday, John wants Kevin to tell Evie that she was loved, and Grace just wants to know what happened to her children’s shoes. They all sound sad, yet determined and completely crazy. However, Laurie never once belittles or tries to talk anyone out of what they are doing, even when John asks Laurie to tell him he’s crazy so that they can go home.
The only professional advice she seems to deliver is to Nora. Before going out to the ranch to be with Kevin’s disciples, she joins Nora’s stakeout mission as she tries to gain access to the “suicide machine” that will allow her to see her children again. Watching Nora and Laurie interact is the most fun that this episode puts forward. Though last week The Leftovers used humor and the bizarre to sell its message about faith, this week returns to a more grim tone, only finding levity in the hostile way that Nora treats the calm and measured Laurie. Things boil over when Nora asks why Laurie never tried to give her any therapy sessions, and Laurie retorts by saying the families of the Departed don’t want closure, directly contradicting Nora’s mission in Australia.
When they finally locate the mysterious machine, Laurie asks Nora when she is going to call it in to the DSD. Nora responds with a story from her childhood about a ballpark employee that deflated a bouncing beach ball to the boos of the crowd. The story is a metaphor for Nora’s job with the DSD. She wants to let the grieving and restless have their beach ball if they want it, but Laurie reminds her that if the beach ball keeps floating around carelessly and then lands on the field, it creates chaos. If Nora allows this organization to blast people with radiation unchecked, how many people will be killed and how many more similar schemes will pop up? It’s the first thing that anyone has said to Nora that makes sense, and we’re led to believe that she is no longer going to go through with the procedure. Both women deliver such incredible performances in the scene, with Amy Brenneman matching Carrie Coon’s normal excellence.
Later at the ranch, Laurie takes her own advice, drugging Kevin’s disciples during their “last supper” so that she can speak to Kevin alone and try to stop the “chaos” of him drowning himself. Their conversation is so natural and nonchalant, they really feel like a former couple having a nostalgic moment. When Laurie turns the conversation toward Kevin’s plan to drown himself, Kevin reveals that he’s not scared and his entire face lights up. Whether or not he went to purgatory, the experience was real to Kevin and it made him feel alive. He proves he’s completely willing to risk his life if it will make him feel that way again. During their conversation, Laurie seems to realize that everyone is broken, that there is no fixing anyone, and maybe she should let the beach ball bounce around unchecked since nothing quite makes sense anymore anyway.
The episode ends on a heartbreaking, yet open ended note with Laurie on a boat prepared to scuba dive on the morning of the anniversary. Earlier in the episode, Nora spoke about how if she ever wanted to commit suicide, that she’d go scuba diving, because there’s an endless amount of scenarios that could lead to death and that way her loved ones would never know that she killed herself. Just as she’s suiting up, presumably ready to end it all, Jill calls. The two discuss a memory from Jill’s childhood, with Jill and Tommy laughing, happy to speak with their mother. The moment appears to cheer Laurie up, yet she still dives into the water. Whether her loved ones were able to provide enough meaning for her life remains to be seen, but something tells me Laurie will resurface from the water. The real question is whether or not Kevin will.