Although The Leftovers is about grief and depression in a more literal way than any other show, it hasn’t overly addressed suicide. Sure, Kevin tried to drown himself in a river in Season 2, but as he told Patti, it wasn’t intentional. He really did kill himself in “International Assassin,” but that, too, was tied to the show’s mystical elements.
But in “Certified,” the show uses Laurie and Nora as parallel lenses to examine it in a far more grounded way. The revelation that Laurie tried to kill herself before joining the Guilty Remnant in Season 1 is not surprising in retrospect. In fact, it fills in the lingering question about her motives, aside from her Departed unborn child. But Season 3 has presented a version of Laurie who is happy and well-adjusted. She’s in a loving relationship with John Murphy, and she supports her ex-husband Kevin when he hallucinates her dead stepdaughter. The scenes from the past in which she pops pills in her office are a jarring contrast.
Nora’s decision to essentially kill herself is also a mixture of shocking and expected. Nora and Laurie have always acted as natural parallels to each other, as they have gone on opposite narrative trajectories. Nora began a relationship with Kevin when Laurie moved away from him; Nora has become increasingly more self-destructive as Laurie has pulled herself together.
Ever since The Leftovers introduced the concept of a machine that can supposedly take you to where the Departed people went, it’s been a Chekov’s gun just waiting to go off. It’s hard to say if Nora legitimately believes it will take her to her family or if she just wants to get out of her life. But when she decides to go through the machine, it’s fitting that Laurie is the one to see Nora off.
The end of the season premiere, which featured what looked like a much older but very alive Nora, suggests that this machine won’t have quite the effect she thinks it does. But then again, nothing ever goes as planned or expected on The Leftovers.
The Leftovers is currently airing Sunday nights on HBO.