The Leftovers has always, at least in part, been about the ways in which people deal with unpredictable seismic shifts in their lives. Of course, at its core the show is speculative, exploring what would happen if an undeniably supernatural event robbed the world of two percent of its population. But whether intentional or not, this potentially banal logline allowed the writers to build a sort of thesis statement about human responses to the often tragic forces that rock worlds and destroy psyches.
Across three seasons we have watched individuals try to cope with the Sudden Departure in ways both straightforward and indirect, with the potential results of their methods only having been hinted at, and pretty ambiguously at that.
Now, through the character of Laurie Garvey (Amy Brenneman), we’ve finally witnessed something close to a narrative culmination; not an answer per se, but a suggestion at what the totality of a person’s life could look like after a massive, otherworldly tragedy.
“Certified” follows Laurie in the days following her arrival in Australia, as she does what she does best and provides counseling to Nora (Carrie Coon), John (Kevin Carroll), and Kevins Sr. and Jr. (Scott Glenn and Justin Theroux). The episode’s structure is nonlinear, following parallel timelines in which Laurie spends time with Matt (Christopher Eccleston) and Nora in Melbourne, then the others at the country ranch that has become their base of operations. Cutting back and forth between these events almost gives the impression that she’s in two places at once.
But before we get to the more urgent business, we are shown a scene that we probably never expected to see: Laurie joining the Guilty Remnant.
Back in Season One we were introduced to Laurie as a silent, chainsmoking member of everyone’s least favorite cult, before “The Garveys At Their Best” gave us some insight into what led her down that path. It turned out that, on the day of the Sudden Departure, her unborn child disappeared from her womb. As the opening scene of this week’s episode illustrates, her loss left her desperate for something to cling to that would make life worth living again.
Now we know a little bit more about her thought process around the time she joined the GR. She was depressed, and at the very least thought she was suicidal. But when she finally took the plunge and downed an overdose of pills, she realized death wasn’t the answer; she didn’t want an end, but a change.
This can be contrasted with Nora’s need for closure, expounded upon when she begs Laurie to use some of her fake psychic powers to tell her where her departed kids are. Nora is perhaps the most obviously depressed character on The Leftovers, having exemplified grief and the melancholic apathy that comes with it from the moment we saw her hire a prostitute to shoot her in the chest in the first season.
Nora just wants whatever she’s feeling to go away. Laurie wants a life that will justify living.
By the end of the episode, Laurie’s left Nora and Matt and joined the folks at the ranch as they prepare to send Kevin back to the afterlife. She ends up drugging the other apostles so that she can have some alone time with her ex-husband, and she and Kevin proceed to talk in a scene that’s understated but possibly more insightful than any of the more over-the-top metaphysical moments of this series.
Ultimately, Laurie asks Kevin if he’s afraid to die, and he claims with complete sincerity that he’s not. Of course, he may just be trying to reassure a woman he knows cars about him. But what he doesn’t know is that she’s not asking because she’s concerned for him; she’s asking because she wants to know what to expect for herself. And Kevin tells her exactly what she wants to hear.
Laurie then leaves, seemingly for good, and as advised by Nora decides to go scuba diving. She puts on her gear, talks to her kids one last time, and goes under.
God only knows if she’ll ever come up.
- I wonder if Kevin will encounter Laurie on his return to the afterlife; that might be the only way to confirm that she’s actually dead. Then again, this episode provided more than enough closure for her character, so seeing her on the other side may not be appropriate.
- Nora’s reaction to Matt deciding to stay with her was one of the most adorable things I have ever seen.
- As soon as Laurie and Nora started talking about suicide, I knew where the episode was headed, but that didn’t make it any less affecting. It was as thought the writers were preparing the audience to be devastated.