"The Book of Nora" was a perfect ending to a brilliant series that never fully spelled out any answer to the most pressing questions.
The Leftovers Season 3 Episode 8 offered a happy ending, and that's something that didn't seem possible at the start. Where there was once sadness and gloom, there was acceptance and hope.
It didn't come easy, and the biggest price paid was time. But as the final minutes played out, it's unlikely anyone was going to stop to think back on it any longer. They'd paid their price, and it was time to begin again.
The ending was perfect for me. It reminded me very much of the ending of Contact. For so long Jodie Foster's character refused to believe anything Matthew McConaughey had to say about religion. She could not take what he had to say on blind faith, so much so that it drove them apart for many years.
The same was true of Kevin and Nora. Nora wasn't willing to hear the things Kevin saw or believed because as much as she loved him, her mind didn't expand in the same way as his. She could not and would not accept what he was going through to be anything but folly.
Without proof, it was nothing.
In the movie, when scientific Jodie went through the machine and had an adventure that lasted many hours but no time progressed at all, she had to prove to the world what she experienced was real. Matthew believed her without proof.
Nora: And I knew that if I told you what happened that you would never believe me.
Kevin: I believe you.
Nora: You do?
Kevin: Why wouldn't I believe you? You're here.
Nora: I'm here.
Even so, we do not know if what Nora said she went through really happened. We, too, have to take her at her word. The only witness is dead. Matt succumbed to his cancer before we reached the end of our story, and we never saw Nora's fossil wheeled away.
We received just enough to question, and that is exactly what I expected of The Leftovers. It's what I'd expect of Damon Lindelof, certainly. After Lost, even if he's given the opportunity to spell out an ending, I don't think he will.
The beauty of a series like Lost and The Leftovers is to challenge the viewer and allow them to make their determination on the ending. As the series has always been about faith (not God, but faith), to spell anything out fully would feel cheap.
Instead, the finale was about exploring the importance of the relationships. The way Matt calmed his sister – and himself – while waiting for her trip by writing her a Mattlib obituary.
Nora: You drive me fuckin' nuts but you've always been a great gecko, Matt.
Matt: If I was a great gecko, I'd be trying to talk you out of this.
Nora: You're great because you're not trying.
I had forgotten about madlibs. As kids, we used to write our own and read them aloud, giggling, all the time. Seeing Matt and Nora reach back to their childhood to do that for comfort was very special.
Nora was still speaking with Matt right up until the moment she either held her breath here on our earth for the last time or until she called off the journey to the other side.
Cutting off the filming just as Nora shouted out left the trip open for debate. The surge forward in time to an angry looking Nora could have meant anything. By keeping the specifics of the journey for the end, the first thought was that she decided not to go.
After all, why else would Nora be here on earth as an old woman living in Australia? She didn't love Kevin enough to find him after she decided not to go through and make another life for herself.
It seemed like an odd choice, for sure, but not one I'd put past Nora. She was difficult to understand at times.
Except she was so worried when Kevin might be after her. Why would she pack up to leave? I couldn't think of a reason for her to suddenly pack her things to escape the man she once loved. What was so terrible about him being there?
Kevin: Nora? Kevin. Kevin Garvey. I don't know if you remember me. I was the Chief of Police in Mapleton. We didn't know each other really well. We only talked a couple times, really. There was this dance. A Christmas dance. At the high school? We had a really nice conversation. In the hallway. I don't expect you to remember. It was a really long time ago.
Nora: What are you doing?
Kevin: Well, I've been kinda wandering around Australia on vacation. Kinda gettin' off the grid. Kinda avoidin' the touristy stuff. I like to get a little lost, you know. Anyway, I was in that little town down the road, and I saw you riding your bike, and I thought to myself, holy shit, I think that's Nora Durst, and here you are.
Nora: That's not what happened.
Nora: You showed a picture of me to the nun at the convent; that's how you found out where I lived.
Honestly, Kevin's story when he appeared at the door gave me pause.
Considering what we witnessed during The Leftovers Season 3 Episode 7, I began to think there was something to his twin visage when dead. Yes, I'm that gullible!!
The rational side of me knew Kevin was trying to make Nora comfortable, but he was weaving quite a yarn. For something we later learned was totally off the cuff, the man did a fantastic job on short notice and before the woman he had been seeking for the better part of half of his adult life.
I'm not sure I would have been able to come up with something so fast and with such a straight face. Then again, I've never been as in love with someone as Kevin is with Nora Durst.
I'm thankful for the flash we received of an alive and well Laurie who appeared to be holding a grandchild in her arms. Knowing she took the plunge but broke out of the water afterward is a relief.
It's also quite interesting Nora would have called her years later upon a safe return from the other place, but not Kevin. Laurie would surely have put a higher burden of proof upon Nora than Kevin, but in a professional capacity, Laurie would be forced to go with the flow.
Nora was so out of place at the wedding, but the look on Kevin's face when she arrived should have been proof enough she had nothing to fear from him.
He told her about Tommy and Jill, the latter who had a child of her own and a happy marriage. And as I predicted, Kevin discovered he had a rare genetic disorder with his heart. It eventually led to a heart attack. It wasn't noted how it affected his multiple deaths, but I appreciated the drop all the same.
Nora: How are Jill and Tom?
Kevin: You remember my kids' names?
Nora: Yeah, I remember.
Kevin: That's a little creepy, but I am impressed.
Kevin kept up his ruse, and when he asked her to dance, it was as if he had just asked her the first time. Except it was too much for Nora. Not only were there emotions on high, she felt the entire thing was disingenuous.
Nora: How did you find me, Kevin?
Kevin: I'm on vacation and I saw you ride by on your bike.
Nora: I can't do this.
Kevin: Why not?
Nora: Because it's not true.
But all of that led to them finally making contact. A more intimate setting where Nora and Kevin could let their guards down and share their truths about the past years.
Whether it was THE truth doesn't matter. It was their truth. Nora could be a fiction writer for all I care because what she said made so much sense.
We saw a fossil wheeled away. When the doctors blasted someone with radiation inside that goo, where would the body go if not somewhere else? Could the liquid harden and the entire body disappear but not travel elsewhere?
I suppose that's a possibility. But why not go someplace else? It could be time travel, to a period far in the future, or the Sudden Departure could have split our universe in two. If that's what happened, and here we lost 2%, but there they lost 98%, why were they happy there?
Nora had to think about that after she made her long trip from Australia to the US. Why did losing everything and surviving feel like a gift, but losing a little and being left behind seem like a nightmare?
Whether she was actually there to see it for herself (I think she was) or she created the entire story in her head, it's the kick in the ass she needed to reconnect with Kevin when the opportunity presented itself.
And I understood that here, in this place, they were the lucky ones. In a world full of orphans, they still had each other. And I was a ghost. I was a ghost who had no place there. And that, Kevin, is when I changed my mind.
Blind faith in God or a god doesn't cure you of your ills. Matt discovered that. Having faith in medicine could, but it only takes you as far as the scientific community has progressed.
When something horrific happens, we can wallow and wish for what once was, or we can move forward and have faith in the people we know, the ones we meet along the way. We can have faith that even if things don't happen for a reason, we can still find reasons to live and to love.
The worst things that happened during The Leftovers happened because people couldn't let go and move on. They were stuck in the past searching for meaning where there might not have been any.
Kevin had to kill off a part of himself that was running away from the woman he loved, and Nora had to find a physicist in another universe to build a time machine to get back to her world, and it still wasn't enough to get her to connect with the man she loved.
I'm going to miss this series terribly. The last two seasons have been some of the best offered on television. Hopefully, it will reside on HBO for a long time, so everyone will have the opportunity to watch the show in its entirety.
The Leftovers was thought-provoking, emotional, featured an incredible ensemble of actors and writers and never failed to amaze. The special effects on the finale alone were Emmy worthy, as the closeups on both Carrie Coon and Justin Theroux would not lead you to believe there was any makeup or CGI used in their aging.
There could have been more to this story, but the way it ended worked. There was just enough left to the imagination, so we'll never be fully aware of what happened, and the discussion can be carried on for a long time. There's no better way to end a series.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.