[Editor’s note: The following review contains spoilers for the “The Leftovers” Season 3, Episode 2, “Don’t Be Ridiculous.”]
Another episode of “The Leftovers,” another mind-blowing last-second twist. After an episode spent entirely with Nora Durst (Carrie Coon), we took a trip to the Outback in the final minutes and watched a police officer named Kevin get drugged, tied up, and drowned by a group of women on horseback who are somehow connected to Kevin Sr. (Scott Glenn).
Now, it appears as clear as anything in “The Leftovers” can be that this was a case of mistaken identity: The women, led by the tremendously talented Lindsay Duncan, thought Australian Kevin was American Kevin (Justin Theroux). They believed he would rise from the dead, as Kevin has, but why they wanted him to briefly die and how they found out about him in the first place remain mysteries. Does Kevin Sr. know them? Did he have a copy of Matt’s book? Is this even the present day, or — like last week’s tantalizing flash forward (presumably) — are we seeing the future? Perhaps Matt’s update on the New Testament really took off.
No matter — these are the kinds of mysteries that will soon be explained, and we’ll relish their unveiling when it comes. The major accomplishments of Episode 2, “Don’t Be Ridiculous,” took place before we traveled down under, as another spotlight on Nora paid off in emotionally rich ways: Who knew Lily’s absence in the pilot would have such a profound, heartbreaking effect on Nora? The entire episode revolved around her coping with loss, and why she gave Lily up in the first place.
But we’ll get into that beautiful mess in the section on “purpose” and “pain” because there’s a lot of both. The key initial takeaway from Episode 2 is two-fold: 1. Carrie Coon should get any role she wants, forever, and 2. Nora is the driving force of Season 3, and thus, the series. Nora is our main protagonist now, as it’s her quest that has the most at stake. Kevin may be the second coming, but Nora is the one in active pursuit of closure. Nothing will get in her way: not broken machines, not Mark Linn-Baker, not even a trip to Australia. She looks ready to risk everything. What, exactly, she’s trying to accomplish remains just hazy enough to create incredible suspense, but we know one thing: She wants an ending, and she’s going to get one.
1. The opening credits music will change every week.
OK, so a few people leaked this before the episode aired, but how great was it to hear the “Perfect Strangers” theme blast over “The Leftovers” opening credits sequence? It foreshadowed the return of Mark Linn-Baker beautifully (who we have the full scoop on right here), and kept the good times rolling post-Episode 1. Sure, those good times came to an abrupt halt when Nora pissed off a grieving widow, but hey, we’ll take it. More to the point, there will be new music every week, relevant to that specific episode. For more, watch Damon Lindelof explain it himself right here.
2. The Man in the Tower died of a heart attack. He did not depart.
(Nora made me write this.)
3. Nora broke her arm on purpose to cover up a Wu-Tang
Band Clan tattoo.
It was so good to see Erika (Regina King) again — especially as Nora’s trusted confidant — that we could write an entire article about their scene together. And we will, I’m sure. For now, know that trampolines are a valid psychological tool and that when Carrie Coon gets nominated for an Emmy, the scene where Nora recounts getting her tattoo will play right before Coon takes the stage to collect her trophy.
4. Kevin is suffocating himself to feel alive.
One of last week’s more concerning scenes came when Kevin put a plastic bag over his head and suffocated himself. He trotted out of the house right after, as if nothing had happened, but the question of “Why?” hung over the scene until tonight. Much like when Nora hired prostitutes to shoot her in Season 1 — relax, she had kevlar — Kevin doesn’t want to die. He wants to feel alive.
The only obvious problem is this isn’t healthy behavior. It wasn’t for Nora, and it’s not for Kevin. That she encourages it by saying his hobby is OK only exacerbates the issue: This couple isn’t good for each other. Not entirely. That was emphasized when Kevin asked to have another baby and Nora literally laughed in his face. They’re not on the same page, even if they’re hopelessly in love. How they figure this out — in Australia, it looks like — will define both their endings, as we inch closer to the final episode.
5. Tha Lonely Donkey Kong & Specialist Contagious are Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta
In another nod to the episode’s narrative, the co-creators used the Wu-Tang name generator to identify themselves in the opening credits. See? “The Leftovers” is super fun!
1. What’s up with Matt’s bloody nose?
– Did someone stop by and punch the very punchable preacher? A nosebleed is never just a nosebleed.
2. Why do the machines hate Nora?
– This clever storytelling device showcased the ambiguity in day-to-day life while simultaneously setting Nora up to explode. We’ve all had one of those days when things just don’t work like they’re supposed to, and we can all commiserate with a fed-up Nora hulking out on that airport parking gate. But while some people might ascribe meaning to Nora’s bad luck with technology — is she really a lens? is she giving off waves of radiation that mess up machines? — she’s not about to do that.
3. Why is Nora going to Australia?
– Is she going to debunk the promises of this shady organization, or is she going because she really wants to see her kids? It depends on how much she bought into Mark Linn-Baker’s final words: “I don’t want to kill myself. I want to take some fucking control.” That last part should sound mighty good to Nora, even if getting inside a machine that vaporizes you would constitute the former… unless you believe.
The Purpose Behind the Pain
“Don’t Be Ridiculous” revolved around anything but, as Episode 2 was all about Nora coping with loss. The loss of Lily, the loss of her children, and, more importantly, the potential loss of anyone and everyone close to her. She gave Lily up because she thought it was the noble thing to do. How could Nora, a woman whose children vanished on October 14, not return a baby to a mother who wanted her child? No matter how much Nora loved her, no matter how much she thought of Lily as her own, returning her to her biological mother was a noble act.
But that doesn’t mean she’s OK with it. Not only did the choice bring up past memories for Nora, but the decision itself was likely motivated by the Sudden Departure. Nora built herself a bubble in Miracle. She moved there, with Kevin, Jill, and Lily, to make sure she’d never have to worry about losing her family again — at least not inexplicably. But the events of Season 2 shook her: When Kevin told her he was talking to a dead woman, her flight instinct kicked in and she bolted. When presented with the idea she might be a lens — someone who causes departures — she threw a brick through her neighbor’s window. She later had a showdown with Erika over control, and all of the above made it clear Nora was not ready to let go.
She’s insulated herself from the potential of loss, and she did it again by giving Lily up. As she told Tom in the car, she didn’t put up a fight when Christine asked for the baby back. Yes, some of that was obligation to help another mother in pain, but it was also to prevent Lily being taken from her if the courts ruled in favor of the biological mother (or if her family, Tommy, Kevin, and Jill, were torn apart by the legal battle). Nora is trying to protect herself from a world that refuses to let that level of safety be an absolute, and having people like Mark Linn-Baker come calling, offering to reconnect her with her kids, isn’t helping.
Nora is living on the edge, and as she travels to the edge of the world, we can feel the world tip with her. It’s Nora against the machines, and she’s not about to lose anything — or anyone — again.
“The Leftovers” releases new episodes every Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO, HBO NOW, and HBO Go.
Bonus: How Funny Was “The Leftovers” This Week?
- Nora walking in on Kevin suffocating himself was exactly like a wife walking in on her husband cheating, down to Kevin’s line, “I thought you were gone ’til tomorrow.” His face when he gets caught is priceless, and the scene ends on a laugh, too. OK, that laugh was not funny, at all, but the start of the scene was funny.
- The whale photo!
- “Hey, you are the calmest and the nicest person I know.” I could die from the cuteness.
- “If we can’t have a sense of humor about you being the messiah, we’re going to have a problem.” (Funnier before it was clear they do, in fact, have a problem.)
- “Can holy balls be busted?” (still funny)