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SEASON 3, EPISODE 6: CERTIFIED
Is Nora gone? – Kevin
We’re all gone. – Laurie
Bye Laurie. – Kevin
Goodbye, Kevin. – Laurie
This was Amy Brenneman’s masterpiece, and it was relatively clear from the outset of the episode that the story, not to mention the main Leftovers stage, was Laurie’s. Though we would also progress the story from multiple angles, at its essence, this was Laurie Garvey’s night.
It’s a character that has cut in and out of the proceedings of the series from the beginning. She’s always been important, but as with everyone on this show, the structure enables someone to be a major focus and then to recede into the background after a starring role. That can be a hallmark of Lindelof-driven storytelling, and it usually works to the advantage of the material.
We’ve reached the penultimate episode of the series, which will air this coming Sunday, and then we’re down to the last stand for Kevin, Nora, Matt, John, Senior, Grace, and all the rest. After spending a week with lions, orgies, and a fleet of weirdness, what we got this time around was pure, unadulterated, gripping emotion. Before the title sequence, we heard a cello rendition of Metallica’s “Wherever I May Roam” and watched as Laurie went into a waking trance listening to one of her patients. The woman discussed how the Departure took her child from her after several incredible hardships in even getting pregnant and being in that position, and Laurie couldn’t respond.
She had no answer. There was nothing in a book to tell her what to say to this woman, who desperately wanted to hear what she should do with her life. How should she go on? Laurie had no idea, and began thinking about her own past, her own children, and the baby that disappeared from the ultrasound at the moment two percent of the world vanished into thin air. The pills, the syrup of ipecac, the suicide note, the white clothing, and the decision to join the Guilty Remnant all relate to the same inescapable truth for Laurie Garvey, and it’s the same battle she can’t win in Australia seven years later.
SHE DOESN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO.
She speaks of Judas at Grace Playford’s dinner table, and though she’s spent so much time working to provide rationale, scientific explanations for people’s moods, their emotions, and even their souls, when it comes to her own life, she’s never been able to figure it out. It’s the single guy that gives fantastic relationship advice, but can’t get a date. That lack of companionship manifests itself into depression and loneliness, and eventually rash decisions can be the consequence. It doesn’t always have to be a bottle of pills. It can be staying in a dead-end situation, spiraling inward rather than channeling outward, or…
…it can be scuba diving.
Of course it would be Nora that would give her the idea, and despite her being “certified,” it’s another derivative of that word that came more to mind throughout the episode. Laurie Garvey is certified, but she may also be “certifiable.” That’s a problem for someone trained to help others deal with just those sorts of issues. Once again, she rejects God, she rejects any possibility of communication with departures, and she even rejected her family in the past, but in this episode, she stops arguing. She receives a black eye after a struggle for Jill’s lighter, because that piece of metal reminded her of a life she missed. Those people made her feel something, just as her ex-husband did, and still does.
The conversation at the end of the episode that led to Laurie walking from the ranch into the darkness was one of the more telling scenes of this final season thus far. For one of the only times, we’ve seen why Kevin asked Laurie to marry him, and why she said yes. Their sense of humor, the sarcasm, the similarities in the secrets they kept, and the reasons for those omissions all click. There’s chemistry between the two, and both are on a similar plane as it relates to what they believe.
Kevin’s optimism is born just as much from a careless attitude than it is anything spiritual, and Laurie has stopped fighting against her own “maybe” impulse. She’s no longer willing to play the usher at Nora and Matt’s baseball game.
Nor, for that matter, is Nora Durst, who as she recounts the story of the game and the nasty, all-business attendant that wrecked everyone’s fun by destroying the beach ball, basically tells us she doesn’t respect what she does for a living. The Department of Sudden Departures employs that usher, ruining the hope of something real for those left behind uninterested in the kind of closure Laurie and John refused to provide. She has spent her time with the DSD destroying people’s faith and not letting survivors tell themselves comforting stories to sleep at night. She has been the opposite of the woman Laurie was when she drugged the dinner food to get that final one-on-one moment with Kevin on the porch.
As a matter of fact, most of these people are that usher. Laurie has used psychobabble to tell the John’s and Nora’s of the world they’re insane. The Guilty Remnant took things to extremes. Matt has told people having certain types of fun what it might mean for their souls. As a police officer, Kevin and his father have both broken up their share of parties. Laurie reminds Nora she isn’t a bad person, saying chaos reigns if the usher lets that ball get onto the playing field. It isn’t the job people want, but it’s one that must exist to protect society.
As Nora tears up telling the story, and as Laurie leaves her with her brother, who chooses to stay with his sister rather than find Kevin and follow the prophecy, we’ve seen growth and understanding on all fronts. Laurie has decided what she has to do, Matt has given way to family over the blind faith that led him to hide his cancer from everyone in his life, and Nora is either set to confront the two doctors, or to accept what she can’t change and stay in the arms of a loving sibling. Questions are still out there, and I don’t know what her intent is, but this was an episode filled with self-realization.
The goal of discovering one’s purpose is something we all attempt, but very few actually complete. It’s subjective, so when you think you have the answer, you might be right. What we’re seeing in Australia right now is a group of people in various stages of belief or non-belief; some suicidal, some delusional, some barely awake, but all coming to a place of acceptance. If Kevin doesn’t wake up, oh well. If Senior, Grace, and others are wrong, they may all die anyway. What if those that paid Bekker and Eden for the service and left testimonials ended up in pine boxes? What does that change in this world.
As we enter this final few hours of what has been one of the best dramas of the century, start thinking about everything differently. Begin to look at the entire series as a series of events beyond human understanding and control. Regardless of the actions taken, there are certain things that will simply be, and leaving those mysteries alone might be best. Rather than searching for an answer, the one needle in a global haystack, perhaps spending time with loved ones, piecing what does exist into a life is the way to succeed.
Matt Jamison, when he tells Laurie to take the van and decides to stay with Nora on that hillside, has figured it out. His faith may still exist, but his real purpose is to make sure his sister doesn’t shatter into a million pieces. Her response to that choice shows he’s right, and lets us know that what’s to come will at least come with those two people together. Laurie’s purpose is to tell John he isn’t crazy, that his hopeful message to his daughter is beautiful, and that he has to see it through. It’s also to listen to Kevin, to allow him to make the decision he feels he has to make, and to make her own.
She must let not the mystery, but the people be. These men and women must take whatever steps forward they deem appropriate, without disdain, sarcasm, or cynicism.
Everything, from the flashbacks to the present and the events of the past few days, it all culminates inside that boat, where Laurie elects to fall backwards into the water and take her chances with the sea. The scuba diving conversation in the Volkswagen bus was odd, but as with most things in The Leftovers, it made complete sense mere minutes later. It’s a dangerous undertaking, and so many small things could result in death. A storm is coming, potentially the flood Kevin Sr. is attempting to prevent, and Laurie Garvey is all alone in the ocean.
What we don’t know is if she simply has a death wish, wants to test fate, or plans to puncture her oxygen tank far below the surface. It’s certainly done wanting the audience to believe it’s her end, and even the hip-hop variation in the title sequence lends itself to suicidal conclusions.
What we do know is she loves her kids, and when Jill calls her to talk about Today’s Special, she hears her son in the background. She smiles, she laughs, fights off tears, tells both Jill and Tommy she loves them, and hears them say it back to her. They both seem happy, which is a far cry from many occasions in the past. They sound like her children, not miserable adults. If that’s the last time we see Laurie Garvey on The Leftovers, there’s no better way she could have gone out. She recognizes the cult as a mistake, and feels she ruined her life after an event attempted to do it for her seven years ago.
Going with the natural sounds of the ocean and the floating boat all the way through the credits wasn’t unexpected, but it was beautiful. The Leftovers main theme, which we hear in most every episode in some variation, was especially powerful this week. This was undeniably one of the best hours of the series, and it just adds to a season that’s been scary good. I’m going to miss the hell out of this show in two weeks.
Amy Brenneman was extraordinary tonight, and has been throughout the show. This was her finest hour. It was also one of The Leftovers’ finest hours, even as that list continues to lengthen.
I’m @JMartOutkick. Same time next week? You’re on.