After last week’s episode literally beat us over the head with the sad state of the world, episode six of The Leftovers, “Guest,” provided us with a look into one of the more beleaguered existences in Mapleton: that of Nora Durst. The episode, which focused entirely on her character, opened up the floodgates of “what does it all mean?” speculation while actually giving us some honest-to-goodness hope and uplifted happiness. I know! It’s crazy but it’s true: The Leftovers left us with some warm fuzzies and oh, what a relief it is.
(We should also note our interview with Nora Durst’s real-life counterpart, Carrie Coon, will be up on the site Monday!)
So, Nora Durst. We already knew hers was a sad existence, but Sunday night’s episode really clued us into that. Day in and day out she wallowed in her own depression, her own inability to move on and feel something other than sadness, grief, and loss. Every day, watching the kids play on break from school. Every week, the same groceries from fridge to trash to bag and back again in weary repetition. And every so often, a shot to a bulletproof vest-clad chest from a barely willing participant. All in the name of keeping her own cycle of misery in check, whether she realized it or not.
Sadness, just like anything else, can be a wholly addictive, habitual thing. And it’s hard to break out of, as anyone who’s ever suffered from even a mild case of the womp womps will tell you. But clearly, there is so much more than that going on with poor, poor Nora Durst.
The Leftovers, at its heart, is a show about how our world collectively mourns an unthinkable event, but it is at its best when that mourning is attached directly to those who felt it most. Nora lost her entire family — her brother Matt is all she has left, and even then as evidenced by his voicemail, things aren’t all that great. So it’s no wonder she’s thrown herself obsessively into her work as an employee of the U.S. Department of Sudden Departure, which is a thing now apparently. Every year there’s a conference to discuss the various methodologies and what-have-you-minutiae that bogs down places such as this, but this year Nora is a guest panelist. Finally she’ll have a bit of a voice. A use for this new identity she has as the saddest woman most people ever meet.
…Only too bad even that identity has seemingly been co-opted. Upon arrival at the hotel (with tons and tons of cults protesting its existence), Nora learns that her badge has already been taken. Instead of her Legacy denotation (showing how many people she’s lost), she’s left only with a Guest badge. This, obviously, rattled Nora who felt so long as though the most useful part of her was what had happened to her, not what she was actively ever doing. Why else do you think she tossed that coffee cup over the edge of the table? And now, presented with the opportunity to once again be anonymous, to be her true self rather than Nora Durst, Super-Sad Departure Victim, terrified her. It caused her to be erratic — but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Because it led her to finally — finally — find peace.
It was a relief to see Nora cut loose a bit for as sad as that cut-loosing was. Still, it led her to a place where the absolutely unthinkable could happen: she let Holy Wayne take away her pain.
Yes: finally, Holy Wayne has returned. And, somehow, his hugging the pain away shtick has worked. Is he really a prophet? Was it just convenient timing? That’s the mystery — one that likely/probably won’t be answered — and also at the core of any and every religion: that magical combination of kismet and need and hope. Oh, hope: that fickle, terrifying, vulnerability-contingent thing. To hope, it seems, is the bravest thing of all.
And finally Nora Durst has found hope. As a new day in Mapleton began, Nora and her old habits were nowhere to be seen. She bought things for herself, and actually allowed Kevin Garvey a bit of an in. These two lost souls, swimming around in the memory of those that have left them (physically, literally, or otherwise): if they can find something to be happy about, surely the rest can as well, right? And does it really matter that she found her solace in the prophetic delusions of Holy Wayne? As long as she found it and moved on, that’s really all that should matter, regardless of whether or not we’re some notorious g.o.d.’s pet dogs or something. Because “Surely an alive dog is better than a dead one.”
– Matt must be upset about the Holy Wayne thing and that’s why they’re not talking, right?
– Also anyone else looking forward to Kevin and Nora eventually connecting on a romantic level?
– Do we think Holy Wayne is an actual threat? Is that why the ATF+C went after him so aggressively?
– And do we think Holy Wayne is really all that prophetic? How can $1,000 hug heal?
– The answer to question 121: does it really matter what anyone thinks?
– Anyone else think it was a bit heavy-handed to call the prostitute Angel, like an Angel of Mercy?
– That guy Marcus was the WORST, right?
– Also I NEED to know more about these sad and creepy living dolls that he was selling: this is the second time we’ve seen them now (last time when Christine was standing over them all splayed out on the road).
What’d you think of this week’s episode? Let us know in the comments.