The Leftovers Review: The Book of Nora

Expectations are already high when it comes to season finales and with series finales it’s even worse. We as fans want answers to our many question. We want issues to be resolved and all loose ends neatly tied together. We want the final episode to contain everything that made us fans times two. Because of the sometimes unrealistically high expectations series finales can disappoint. Damon Lindelof knows this all too well after being directly responsible for the polarizing final episode of Lost. Whether all the criticism was warranted or not Lindelof has definitely grown since then. And maybe, he has even learned a lesson or two.

One of the things he has done is focussing on the fact that The Leftovers is a love story. Before reading his remarks I would have never describe the HBO drama as such. But if you look back at everything that has happened since season two you can see what he is talking about. Lindelof has also repeatedly said that there will be no answers at the end of all this. That’s a bold thing to say and an even bolder thing to do, write a show that raises tons of questions and not even try to answer them. But it can be done done without driving people insane if done properly.

The beautiful The Book of Nora achieves this and the most elegant way. A few questions are answered mind you though the episode also raises a few new ones. More importantly, Tom Perrotta and Damon Lindelof manage to end the series in a deeply emotional and satisfying way and thus The Leftovers never got the audience it deserved but it did get the ending it deserved and that is something at least.

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What happened

Nora goes through the sudden departure reunion device after an emotional exchange with Matt. Years later, Kevin is in Australia and goes to Nora’s house. He says he only met her once in Mapleton and when he saw her cycling he just had to track her down. He asks her to a dance later that evening but Nora isn’t having it. After a call with Laurie she decides to go anyway. It turns out to be a wedding and Kevin keeps up that they only met once. They dance together eventually but Nora can’t pretend that all of their history hasn’t happened and thus she leaves.

The next day Kevin shows up at her house again and confesses. He refused to believe that she was gone and had been looking for her for 16 years, coming to Australia every year to look for her. Nora tells him that she made it to the other side only to find that her family had moved on and was happy. Instead of interfering with that she found a way to return. She stayed away from kevin because she thought she wouldn’t believe him. Kevin says that he does. Tearfully they are finally fully reunited.

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What I liked

Where do I start? This was again gorgeously directed by Mimi Leder. Especially the long conversation between Kevin and Nora. Wow! Also, and again, Carrie Coon is brilliant. From Nora’s loving exchange with Matt, to her dry response offering Kevin tea after his confession and everything in between. The series finale was in large part about her and she totally pulled it off. Justin Theroux was just as great and I will be missing Kevin and Nora for sure.

After everything that already happened in the penultimate episode I assumed that this was going to be a smaller episode. I hadn’t expected to not see any of the other characters except for Matt and Laurie briefly. But it totally worked. If The Leftovers is a love story than Kevin and Nora had to have their story come to some kind of resolution. People getting back together in the series finale sounds corny but this was anything but that. It worked. It was earned and it was expertly executed. It was such a great decision to not do a mandatory check up with all the characters. Doing it via exposition isn’t much better most of the time but having Kevin casually tell how others have been doing over the years felt really natural.

This episode provided closure without answering questions and was a strong conclusion without providing a resolution to it’s biggest mysteries. I call that a true triumph.

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What I didn’t like

Nothing to say here. It was a perfect ending to a magnificent series.

What I’m looking forward to

Normally I would leave this blank after a series finale. But secretly, I hope there will be some kind of follow up. Maybe Tom Perrotta can write another book or something.

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Observations

The Leftovers season 3 soundtrack was released a couple of days ago. Be sure to check it out. Max Richter is a genius!

I was sceptical when I first heard about this show. Damon Lindelof working on a new show that’s heavy on mystery and mythology. My doubts were completely unfounded. This show was brilliant!

So, Laurie didn’t go through with it after all. Thanks to that phone call from Jill and Tommy I assume. I’m happy she is alive.

Nothing happened after the 7 year anniversary of the sudden departure nor did anything like that happen in the years after that. So like with the doomsday priest. A lot of hype but nothing more.

My only issue in the end is Nora’s decision not to reach out to her family. She was extremely selfless in that situation and it might even have been for the better, but wouldn’t her lover for her children outweigh anything else? Even reason?

Maybe it all didn’t happen. Maybe she just woke up in the same place but just alone. I don’t believe that though. I believe Nora’s story.

 

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