You know how I was wondering whether the third and final season of The Leftovers would live up to the spectacular season 2? Well, from what we’ve seen already, I can’t say I’m too worried any more. After a very promising premiere, it keeps getting better and better, and I just hope we’ll eventually get to an episode that will measure up to the incredibly high standard set by International Assassin last year.
We start with the mysterious man on the column we all remember from season 2, still up there doing his thing (whatever that was), with the inflatable Gary Busey as a backdrop. And then splat! down he goes, and the camera lingers as we hear Nora’s questionnaire on voice over before we cut to the actual interview with the man’s wife, who seems convinced this was a case of a departure, and invites Nora to talk to other ‘witnesses’.
Nora, of course, isn’t buying any of it. As soon as a preacher is mentioned, she heads straight to Matt and demands answers. Matt confirms that this event had no more to do with the departure than Evie’s disappearance did, as the poor column guy simply fell to his death and was then quickly buried by his wife and Matt. Nora is no-nonsense and wants to dig the body up. Yep, sounds about right.
After the lack of opening credits last week, we were rewarded with a new title sequence this time, which was both very similar and entirely different from last year’s: the imagery aesthetics were pretty much on par with season two, but instead of ‘Let The Mystery Be‘, we got the Perfect Strangers theme song, which was a bit jarring at first but got totally paid off later in the episode.
[Btw, it looks like we have a new trend in our favorite TV shows this season: throwbacks to classic 80’s sitcoms are apparently a thing. First it was the Walking Dead with Who’s The Boss, now the Leftovers have taken it one step further with Perfect Strangers and actually brought Mark Linn-Baker in for a guest spot! (which prompts me to think what a missed opportunity it was for TWD not to bring Tony Danza in for a guest spot at the Saviors compound! Seriously, how hilarious would that be?)
But I’m getting ahead of myself.]
As Nora and Kevin walk around town, the see the crowd gathered around the Column Guy’s memorial, featuring the an angel-like portrait representation of the deceased. They have a very different outlook on the 10/14 fever that’s overtaken the town, especially in light of the poor guy’s death: Kevin just wants the days to roll by and the anniversary to go off without a hitch so the town can get back to ‘normal’; Nora, on the other hand, is offended and quite angry and just wants to blow thing whole thing open for the world to see.
Her attitude is nothing new, either. I guess we’d all feel hurt and insulted if random wackjobs basically made a mockery of our deeply personal tragedy. These scenes do a great job of reminding us what Nora actually lost seven years ago – and, given all the crazy stuff that’s been going on since the premiere, a refresher wasn’t really uncalled for.
Aside from her anger, she has quite a bit of snark reserved for this whole Book of Kevin thing: her sarcastic lines to John were awesome, as was her line to Kevin about having a sense of humor about him being the Messiah.
We continue to follow Nora as she goes in to the hospital to get her cast removed and we catch a glimpse of a tattoo on her forearm, and an interesting comment from her doctor, which also gets paid off later in the episode: an orderly saw her smashing her own arm with the car door, which she naturally denies.
As she walks to her car, her phone rings and it’s Mark Linn-Baker! I have to admit, the name didn’t really ring any bells in the beginning, but it made complete sense when she called her colleague to approve her trip to St. Louis. He tells her he knows where he children are, and can provide her a way to see them again. At this point she’s convinced it’s a scam – after all, it’s not the first time someone called her with supposed answers only to reveal themselves as crackpots: remember the person who thought she was some demon whose name escapes me? Her colleagues basically back up her hunch that this is all a con: the actors playing the other three main characters in Perfect Strangers had departed, and Mark Linn-Baker (whom I’ll simply refer to as MLB from now on) had faked his departure, apparently feeling ‘left out’.
Nora meets with MLB at the hotel, where he flushes her phone down the toilet (really?) and gives her his spiel about radiation, and how it all ties in with the departure: a bunch of scientists have built a machine that can replicate the radiation levels found at departure sites and basically send you to whatever place the departed are now inhabiting. Now, I can’t really speak to the science, but Mark Linn-Baker wasn’t lying about his two Yale degrees — impressive!
These… experiments are obviously not sanctioned by the government, so the scientists have devised a mobile unit that moves around the globe and helps people reconnect with their dearly departed (no pun intended). He also gives her a thumb drive full of testimonials and tells her to expect a phone call from these guys to set up an appointment.
Nora’s still not buying it, tells MLB that this device is nothing more than a big portable microwave and goes back to her room. As she watches the testimonials, her belief that this is all a scam seems to waver – this belief wasn’t exactly firm in the first place, otherwise she never would have met with MLB. What she sees is normal, seemingly intelligent people, reciting the same thing as they hold up the day’s paper: their name, date of birth, a disclaimer absolving this group of scientists of any responsibility for their decision to participate.
The next day, Nora takes a drive to Kentucky to see Lily. It’s unclear how she knew exactly how to find her at the playground, but that’s really inconsequential: she sees a boy take one of her toys, gets enraged, approaches the little girl… and is crestfallen when she doesn’t recognize her. Christine shows up, concerned to see Nora there, and hastily walks back to her car and breaks down in tears. I loved several things about this scene, the least of which is the fact that it answers one of our burning questions from last week’s episode: Nora’s silent breakdown as the theme music plays; her irrational anger at the little boy, yet another reminder that, as calm as she seems on the surface, Nora is perpetually angry – at everything… much like Kevin was when we first met him.
Her agitated reaction at the playground isn’t but a prelude to her mega-outburst at the driver honking at her when she tries to validate her parking ticket at the airport. Her trip to Saint Louis is full of these little mishaps: the check-in kiosk won’t let her punch ‘no’ when asked if she’s traveling with a baby (and, of all the questions she’s prompted with, of course the malfunction would occur on this one); the GPS navigation on her car won’t work; her parking ticket keeps getting rejected. We’ve all been there and we’ve all felt a degree of agitation when that happens. But for Nora, these are not just instances of technology failing her. It’s her curse, that she just can’t seem to get away from.
In desperate need of someone to talk to, she seeks out Erika, and we get a couple more answers to out lingering questions from last week: Erika is alive and well and living nearby; She and John had already been on the outs even before Evie’s death, so it makes sense that they simply split up sometime in the intervening four years. Unlike Nora, she’s coping much better, because at least she got a bit of closure: she knows what happened to her daughter, she got to bury her.
Nora explains the broken arm, confirming what the doctor had asked her about the injury being self-afflicted, which doesn’t really come as a shock to anyone. What’s surprising is her reason for doing it: she got her children’s names tattooed on her forearm, realized that she would forever have to answer questions about the tattoo, and decided to cover it up with the first thing she saw at the tattoo shop, which just happened to be the Woo Tang
Band Clan logo. It would have been hilarious if she wasn’t so heart broken, but that’s what friends are for, right? To correct you when you get your pop culture trivia mixed up and jump with you on their snazzy new trampoline, of course to the sound of the Wu Tang playing over the scene.
What’s also interesting is that, last time we saw these two, they pretty much hated each other’s guts. Nora was dismissive of Erika when she asked her the DSD questions, they both threw rocks at each other’s homes… I guess it’s safe to assume that the inciting incident that pushed them together was Evie’s death, but I’d still like to see their friendship explored a bit more. Nora seems to share a lot more with Erika than she does with Kevin, after all.
On her way home to Kevin, she gets pulled over by the police, and of course it’s none other than Tom. The fact that they’re on the same bridge where the events of last season’s finale took place is a nice touch, but what’s more interesting is what they actually talk about: Christine told Tommy about Nora’s visit, obviously worried about what her intentions in regards to Lily. Tommy relates his own experience as an adopted child, who spent a decade of his life trying to reconnect with his birth father, who had moved on and wanted nothing to do with him. He wished Kevin and Laurie had never told him the truth. Nora wishes he had never left Lily with her. Tom’s reply is harsh, but honest: he left Lily for Kevin; he didn’t even know she existed. Boy, has this been a rough day for Nora.
She decides to vent her anger by confronting the column guy worshippers with the gruesome truth: she has a morgue picture of the poor guy blown up and places it over the portrait for everyone to see, then walks away as his widow damns her to hell. A pretty common curse, but quite poignant considering the Nora Cursed story she just shared with Erika.
And the hits keep on coming: she returns home to find Kevin doing his dry-cleaning-bag-asphyxiation thing, which seems to be a daily ritual after all… and looks pretty much unfazed. After all, is this worse than hiring prostitutes to shoot her? Kevin fumbles to explain but she doesn’t require any answers: just do your thing, Kev. Whatever gets you through the day.
Then Kevin surprises her by asking her to have a baby with him, and she basically laughs in his face. Is this just a hysterical reaction to what amounts to the cherry on top of a very rough couple of days? Would she have laughed it off had her own lost children not featured so prominently on her mind throughout this episode? Is it just the irony of it all that sends her into a giggling fit? My guess is, it’s a little bit of everything. What’s more interesting, though, is the dynamic of their relationship: they seem to be very upfront with each other on certain things, and keep the other person completely in the dark when it comes to the really deep stuff: we don’t know if Nora shared her tattoo/broken arm story with Kevin, but she sure didn’t tell him about her trip to see Lily, or her meeting with MLB. Kevin never told her about his asphyxiation ritual. When her phone rings and the person on the line tells her to be in Australia with 20 grand by Tuesday, she just tells him it’s ‘work’, and agrees to bring him along.
This is a great segue to the bizarre portion of the episode (and you know you’re watching The Leftovers when auto-asphyxiation doesn’t even register on the weirdo scale): we’re in Australia, and according to the very snarky weather man on the tv, it’s the present day. Nice work with the date, btw: of course it’s 10/15, down under, given the time zone difference.
We see a very douchey chief of police go about his night only to retuen home and be confronted by four women on horseback blocking his driveway. Grace, presumably their leader, asks him if his name is Kevin and quotes what sounds very ominously as a passage taken out of the Book of Kevin. When he refuses to go with them, one of the other women shoots him with a tranquilizer dart, and next thing he knows, he’s tied onto a see-saw type of contraption and dumped into the water. Grace is convinced this is the guy, the other women aren’t too sure, and of course it turns out it wasn’t him after all, because the poor cop drowns… and then Kevin Sr. shows up and asks what’s going on. Oops – you got the wrong Kev, there, ladies.
Like every other Nora-centric episode, this was yet another stellar one. Carrie Coon is fantastic and I’m really impressed with the new season so far.
We even got answers to a few questions that were raised last week: Nora’s broken arm, what happened to Lily, where is Erika.
But then, of course, we got a few far bigger mysteries to chew on until next week: What will happen in Australia? We’re bound to see someone go through this mobile microwave device, right? Will Nora actually do it? Is Kevin going to stop her?
Is Kevin still on the same page with Nora regarding the Messiah stuff? He never got rid of the book after all, so maybe he thinks there’s something to it? Will he ever return to the Hotel? Is that were the microwave sends people off to?
And, perhaps the strangest of all: how did these women in Australia already get proselytized? What will Kevin Sr.’s role be moving forward?
I’m so excited to see some of these questions get answered as the show inevitably poses even more of them. One thing’s for sure: if the quality of the episodes remains this high, this is going to be one hell of a final season!