The Leftovers – “Guest”

Season One, Episode Six

the-leftovers-guest

Grade: A

So far, The Leftovers has shown us two methods of telling its story. One, we see a day or so pass by while cutting in and out between different story-lines, characters, usually revolving around a central theme. Then we had the “Two Boats and a Helicopter” episode that focused on one character, which was Matt, giving great insight to his beliefs, flaws, and motivation. In last night’s episode, we get another episode centered around a single character, this time Nora Durst.

Nora has always been a favorite of mine. She’s an intriguing piece to the story since she’s the one person in Mapleton to have her entire family vanish on October 14. Her brother is the Reverend who still believes that everything happened for a reason. And although it seems like Nora has lost all hope, in reality she’s still clinging onto the thinnest strand of hope, but she hides it behind cynicism and sorrow.

That strand of hope is maybe that her family will return to her, or maybe she’ll be able to heal from the deep wounds the departed left inside of her. But everyday she copes with her loss and hides it through her routines (refilling the cabinets with children’s cereal, etc). And she also hires people to shoot her in the chest, which by the way was the best opening sequence of The Leftovers thus far. Nora is as broken as they come, but in “Guest” we finally get a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

What is possibly the most interesting thing about “Guest” is how things are changing. We’ve been bogged down by the bleak nature of Mapleton and its characters still grieving from the events of October 14, and honestly who can blame them? But by focusing in on arguably the most pained character and seeing her transform herself shows us that the thread of hope is worth fighting for.

Most of the episodes takes place at the hotel during the Departure conference. When Nora signs in, someone has already signed in as her and she is given a guest pass. At first, I didn’t think Nora would care as much especially since before she asked Kevin to travel to Miami with her so she can skip the conference, but it becomes clear this conference is more important to her than she wants to admit. This becomes a blessing in disguise when she meets Marcus, who invites her to live instead of suffering through the pain like everyone else at the conference. She accepts and for the first time in a long time she’s able to strip herself from Nora Durst, the woman who had her entire family taken away. She was “Guest” and she loved it. She was finally living.

This was the point when Nora realized she was capable of becoming someone more than just the sulking, lifeless form that she’s been the past two years. Towards the end of the conference she shares a conversation at the bar with Patrick, the author of “What’s Next” which tells the story of the people he lost. After a few minutes with the charming author, Nora calls him out on his bullshit, insisting he doesn’t know what real pain is. She winds up being correct, but it’s only clear when she follows the bald man to an apartment where none other than Holy Wayne awaits. What an incredible scene this ends up being. I’m still not convinced that Wayne actually has powers to take away the pain, but here Nora lets out her emotions and admits she doesn’t want to feel this way forever. She wants to get better and she wants to live again. And with Wayne’s magical hug, she’s a new woman.

Carrie Coon absolutely shines in this episode with a powerful performance who step-by-step, heals in front of our eyes. And it’s the brilliance of The Leftovers that was able to keep her character in the loop but hidden from our knowledge. Why does she carry a handgun? Why does she work for the U.S. Department of Sudden Departures? We get answers about Nora and they’re more than satisfying. After having her grief taken away, the very next person she interviews breaks her streak for question 121. “Do you believe the departed is in a better place?” She’s the only person who kept on getting “yes” answers, but now that she has moved on she received her first “no.” What does this mean? Well, she isn’t restocking her cabinets with food she doesn’t eat, she’s not stalking the pre-school teacher, and she now has a date with Kevin. I think it’s safe to say she’s moving on.

Last but not least:

  • I loved the beginning with The Loved Ones commercial.
  • What The Leftovers continues to do well is make us suspect one thing and then spinning it around in the complete opposite direction. Such as the woman Nora followed into the bathroom, what Marcus’ job was, the interaction between Nora and Patrick, and then giving $1,000 to the bald man before meeting Wayne.
  • $3,000 to shoot Nora in the chest? That’s fine, but blasting Slayer during the process would put me over the top.
  • Was anyone else slightly turned on when Nora was kissing the corpse? No? Just me? Okay moving on…
  • Her brother is still apologizing to her, as we heard at the end of the episode on her voicemail. She might have moved on, but it was still wrong of Matt to tell her about her husband’s affair and she might need more than a hug from Wayne to forgive him.
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