Wednesday, May 24, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Leftovers' - Laurie Makes a Bold Decision After Interactions with Kevin and Nora in 'Certified'

HBO's The Leftovers - Episode 3.06 "Certified"

Laurie Garvey, a former therapist, must become one again as she heads to Australia to help Nora and Kevin along their paths.

"Certified" is a stunningly beautiful and heartbreaking episode of The Leftovers in a season that has been so tremendous and perfect so far. It takes a profound look at the life Laurie Garvey has lived. It questions whether she has ever been okay following the Sudden Departure. She joined the Guilty Remnant for a specific reason. She was broken as a therapist because she suddenly had no explanation or guidance for the people who needed it the most. She left the Guilty Remnant for a reason too. It wasn't ultimately worth all the pain and suffering she was causing others. She left because of her love for her daughter, Jill. She still wanted to protect her family even though the world is now broken. Over these last two seasons, it's seemed as if she has returned to the job she's really good at. She is great as a therapist. But has she really helped anyone? She tried getting people out of the Guilty Remnant. She even wrote a book about it. But both efforts failed in a spectacular way. She married John and helped him cope with the sudden death of his daughter. But both of them would probably admit that they aren't the love of each other's lives. They are simply two broken people who found each other. They are on this extravagant journey together. One that may all end in a very surprising way in Australia.

Of course, Laurie seemed calm and rational during last week's adventure on the lion sex boat. It was Matt who was freaking out about the impending apocalypse. Laurie felt the pressure to find Kevin and help him through his latest psychotic break. And yet, the events of this episode are very different. Her mission when she was traveling to Australia was clear and had purpose. But now, things have changed. They've changed because of her interactions with Nora and Kevin. They expose the true depths of Laurie's psyche in a way that she hasn't been willing to confront since the Sudden Departure happened. She's excellent at talking people through their problems and making sure they don't ultimately hurt themselves. But Laurie herself is very enigmatic. She's closed herself off to the world. Whenever forced to talk about herself, she either deflects or lashes out. That's why her book fell apart last season. And now, she's forced to confront her true feelings about what has happened in this world. It's a surprising journey that she goes on. But one that feels emotionally true and earned as well.

Laurie hates the Guilty Remnant because of a stunt that Patti did that almost got Jill killed. But she may not disagree with the cult's underlying philosophy. The world ended on October 14. And thus, it's pointless to try to move on and have things go back to normal. It's impossible to do so because the world will always be broken. The family members of the departed will never get closure. There will never be an explanation for why two percent of the world's population mysteriously vanished. Laurie wanted to kill herself in the aftermath because she could no longer help people. She ultimately couldn't do it and that's why she joined the Guilty Remnant. The world was already dead. She truly felt that. And now, she's realizing that she still believes that - even seven years after the Sudden Departure occurred. Her life has changed immensely over the years. But there's a certain full circle quality to this episode. It opens with the woman who lost her baby in the opening minutes of the series telling her story on Laurie's couch. Laurie is moved by her story but has no answers or words of advice. All of these years later, she still has no clue. She doesn't know if her family members are legitimately crazy for believing that the world is going to end and killing Kevin is the only way to stop it. She just doesn't know. It doesn't sound crazy to them. She respects that even though she's on an entirely different journey.

When the action returns to Australia, it starts with Laurie arriving at Grace's ranch. There's no explanation for how she arrived there. She is just there with a black eye wanting to talk to Kevin. John and Michael are already there as well and fully know what Kevin Sr. and Grace have asked Kevin to do. Throughout the hour, the story cuts back-and-forth between Laurie's experiences on the ranch and with Nora and Matt the previous day. The structure doesn't set out to manipulate the audience. It's just telling two complete stories. Both involve Laurie doing her best to help the people in her immediate orbit. But her adventures force her to come to a major decision about her own life as well. It's profound and moving to watch because of how revealing it truly is. She's still carrying around this immense amount of pain. She came to Australia to talk Kevin out of this crazy plan and return to Texas to get the help he needs. Instead, she's open to the possibility of these people following their own paths and how they'll diverge from her own. She didn't come to Australia to kill herself. And yet, that seems to be where this story is taking her.

Plus, it's never abundantly clear when Laurie ultimately makes that decision. Does it happen when she's talking with Nora about the departed and what the best way to commit suicide is without doing much harm to one's family? Does it happen when Laurie, Matt and Nora are on that hill and Nora is revealing to them that she wants to get into the physicists' machine? Does it happen when she arrives at Grace's ranch and hears everything that these people want Kevin to do when he travels to the "International Assassin" hotel once more? Or is it when she is confessing everything she's ever lied about - both big and small - to Kevin? All of these actions together are leading her to that fateful moment out in the ocean. But which one specifically is the turning point? That will never be clear. All of those moments are distinct and emotional. They reveal something new to Laurie. She could have made this decision early on and everything that happened next would only confirm it to be the right choice. She carries herself with a distinct understanding and clarity over her life. She is bold and proud. She doesn't try to stop Kevin Sr. and Grace from killing Kevin. When Kevin Sr. is declaring themselves as the apostles, Laurie gladly steps into the Judas role right before drugging all of them. She wanted to talk with Kevin. And that's precisely what she got.

It's the conversations that are key to the understanding of this episode. Nora wants answers. She wants clarity. She no longer wants to feel this way. She lost more than anyone else on October 14. She wants to see her children again. She wants to believe this machine can take her to them. She's not tracking the physicists down to bust them as an official sting. She just wants a second chance. She wants to know why horrible people do the things that make them so horrible. Laurie seemingly has an answer to that question when Nora asks it in the form of a memory from her and Matt's childhood. That awfulness needs to happen because otherwise the world will spin into chaos. There needs to be balance even though it's very depraved to think of all of that. Laurie is accepting of what Nora wants to do with her life. She's also accepting of what Kevin decides to do when he finally returns to the ranch. She wants to know if he's scared. He isn't. He's at peace with returning to the hotel because it was the last time he felt happy and in control of his life. He only feels that way when he's dying. He has no fear. Neither does Laurie it would seem. Their final conversation is so beautiful to watch. It's a moment that Laurie actively wanted. She wanted to say goodbye to Kevin. She ends the scene by saying "We're all gone." That's such a profound and intricate phrase. It could mean any number of things. It could mean that Laurie and Nora have already left Kevin and will never be seen again. It could mean they're all dead already and there's no point to anything. It could mean the flood is coming and will kill all of civilization. Or it could mean that Laurie has already decided to die and has made her peace with it.

And yet, there's still ambiguity in that final scene. Laurie takes Nora up on her idea of the perfect way to commit suicide via a scuba diving incident. It could go wrong any number of ways. It wouldn't have the same feeling of the people being left behind trying to understand why the person they loved so much killed herself. It would bring closure even though they wouldn't know the full truth. It would still be a gift to them. A way for them to move on with their lives. But right before Laurie goes in the water, she gets a call from Jill and Tommy. It's a simple conversation. One that shows that they have peace and happiness in their lives. To them, things are incredibly simple. The world has returned to normal and they can just be siblings getting on each other's nerves. It's a fun and playful conversation as seen through the eyes of a woman who is ready to die. There is the hope that her children save her in the end. But it's unclear. Laurie still goes in the water. This could be the last the audience ever sees of her. We'll have to live in the ambiguity of the situation. She doesn't tell her kids she's in Australia with the rest of the family. She just shares that she's enjoying a peaceful day alone. That could inherently disprove the idea that a scuba diving incident would provide easy closure. Jill and Tommy would still be at a loss as to what happened and why their mother lied to them. No matter what happens it's going to be complicated. It shows the profound grief and sorrow that comes out of a tragedy. The Sudden Departure was this huge event and is still shaping people's lives even seven years later.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Certified" was written by Patrick Somerville & Carly Wray and directed by Carl Franklin.
  • The show answers one of its biggest mysteries this week too. It confirms that Laurie's baby was taken during the Sudden Departure. She saw it in her womb one second and gone the next. So, that means the Garvey family was touched by this massive event in a personal way. They weren't just bystanders to a thing that tragically destroyed all of their lives.
  • Laurie makes sure to have a memorable and important last conversation with Kevin. And yet, she doesn't do the same for John, her current husband. Instead, they get into fights about the craziness of all of this. And later on, she drugs him and leaves him behind with no more closure. So, his future will be complicated even if he does find peace with Evie's death.
  • Michael is revealed to be the person who called Laurie and told her where they all were and what was going to happen to Kevin. He seems very afraid. He doesn't want to be associated with another mission to kill Kevin. But he seems trapped in that world as well because Laurie doesn't really notice his pain.
  • The Swedish physicists are in a relationship as well. That would possibly explain why they are so reluctant to get into the machine themselves. They are perfectly happy with the lives they have here. Plus, it's not surprising that Nora is able to easily track them down.
  • It's so nice to see Matt as the loving and supportive brother instead of the preacher proclaiming impending doom from the upcoming anniversary of the Sudden Departure. He's really there for Nora in this moment. Yes, she's hurt about him keeping his illness from her. But she is very welcoming to him on this journey as well because she needs the support too.
  • Given the last scene she is in, it would be easy to just assume that Nora goes into the machine and is taken away to potentially see her children again. That would be a very fitting end for the character. And right now, it's more and more likely that these are the final glimpses we'll ever see of these characters. And yet, the premiere's final scene with Old Nora in Australia likely means that something more is going to happen with her.