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The Leftovers – S3E8 – The Book of Nora

Previously on The Leftovers, “The Most Powerful Man in the World (And His Identical Twin Brother)”

I was so sure I was going to love this series finale, but I didn’t. The acting, music, and direction were all flawless, as usual. It’s the writing I take issue with, because for the first time, it felt manipulative. Of course, all writing is manipulative; the writer(s) wants you to feel a certain way. But The Leftovers has never left me feeling manipulated until now. So much so, that this episode changed the way I feel about the two that came before it: “Certified” and “The Most Powerful Man in the World (And His Identical Twin Brother)” — especially “Certified.”

Images: HBO

The first 20 minutes or so are spent showing us what happened shortly after we last saw Nora in episode 6. She has convinced the scientists to let her use the machine and is filming her statement indemnifying them for her decision. Dr. Bekker, ever the skeptic, has Nora do it twice, the second time saying the names of her children. While they prepare the machine, Nora has a beautiful and funny conversation with Matt in which they play a game of Mad Libs (Matt Libs) to write her obituary, and he admits he fears dying and he fears living (and preaching) with the knowledge that he doesn’t have the answers.

Nora gets into the machine as instructed and the compartment fills with a mystery liquid that will harden once irradiated, leaving beyond a fossil of person. Just when it appears that she’s either going to scream and change her mind, or scream, take a deep breath and go through with it, the scene cuts.

We’re in the future with “Sarah,” who lies to the nun about knowing a Kevin. After she learns Kevin showed the nun a picture of Nora, Nora rushes home and prepares to flee until Kevin knocks on her door. He claims to only know her as the woman he spoke to in the hallway at the high school Christmas dance. They never fell in love, adopted a child, and moved to Texas. He’s on vacation and was shocked to see her ride by on a bike, but he wants to catch up that evening at a nearby dance. Nora declines, and immediately calls Laurie (yes, Laurie) to accuse her of telling Kevin where she was. Laurie insists she didn’t; she didn’t tell Kevin about her and she doesn’t tell Nora anything about back home. That’s been their deal.

Nora does go to the dance where Kevin keeps up the charade. They dance, but Nora cuts it short and rushes out. She can’t do it if it’s not true. Kevin comes clean at her house the next day. He’s been coming to Australia once a year, looking for her because he never believed she was gone/dead. Once he found her, he panicked and came up with the idea to act as though their messy past never happened.

Nora then admits that she went through the machine and landed in a world that lost 98% of its population seven years prior. It took a long time, but she eventually found her family — years older and happy — in the same house where she lost them. They don’t see her, and she realizes it’s for the best. She tracks down the scientist who built the machine (remember: he was the first to use it) and convinced him to build another to send her home. So much time had passed when she returned that she decided not to contact Kevin, and why would he believe her? But he does believe her and the series end with the two crying and holding hands.

They Had it Right the First Time

Listen, I’ve been all in on The Leftovers being, at its heart, a love story with extraordinary tales of how people cope with loss. Even though I had a soft spot for Kevin and Laurie (mainly due to my love for Amy Brenneman), I wanted the series to end with Kevin and Nora reunited and happy. But this doesn’t feel… earned. At all.

Last week, Assassin Kevin told President Kevin that they fucked up with Nora, and I said on the podcast that felt like it absolved Nora of the ways she contributed to their toxic relationship. I also said I hoped that “The Book of Nora” showed Nora work through her shit the way Kevin did. Though I didn’t think the episode had done enough to convince me that Kevin was “okay” and wouldn’t try to return to wherever the hell it was he went when he died on the next SD anniversary, I was able to live with it.

But did Nora work through her shit? Has she changed enough for us to believe these two would have a happily ever after? We’ll talk about her incredible story in a bit, but whether the machine worked or she changed her mind, the fact remained that she hid in Australia (presumably for decades) and let Kevin believe (as far as she knew) that she was dead. That’s… not okay.

He has spent every year since using his two weeks of annual vacation searching for her on a vast continent with nothing but a photo and his gut feeling. Romantic? Eh. Healthy? No. Then, when he does find her, he tells this huge lie. What the hell was he going to do if she went with it?

Also right the first time? Laurie’s death. I know I’m not the only one who was confused as hell when Kevin showed up with no memory of their relationship and Laurie answered that phone, and I’m sure many people considered (like me) that this was some kind of afterlife or that Kevin had followed Nora through the machine. Hell, we’ve all seen LOST. The Laurie reveal added to that because not only did her suicide feel certain, but the cast and producers gave interviews in which they confirmed it. Apparently, the decision to kill Laurie split the writers room so badly that it made it impossible for them to break the final two episodes. They hashed it out, and after Lindelof viewed the final scene of episode 6, they decided to include the finale reveal that she didn’t die. And I’m sorry, but, that’s exactly what it feels like. I’ve often applauded The Leftovers for not showing the seams, but this feels hastily, poorly stitched together.

Let the Mystery Be

I’d made my peace with not learning what happened to the departed, and it’s been fun speculating the show’s more supernatural elements. Nora tells a story that explains what happened to the departed, but doesn’t touch on why. I love the idea that the 2% actually have it harder because they lost damn near the entire world. And though we have no way of knowing how happy Nora’s family truly were seven years later (I’m sure there were times when Nora and Kevin’s family unit look happy and healthy to an outsider), it makes sense that she’d decide to leave things as they are.

That’s if she’s telling the truth.

The idea that she either came up with this elaborate lie on the spot or planned it doesn’t sit well with me — especially because this is, they keep saying, a love story. Since we were warned they’d never tell us what happened to the departed, we have to assume Nora is lying, right? If so, that doesn’t feel like the proper way to give this toxic relationship another chance. It’s possible that Kevin had already told himself he’d accept whatever reason Nora gave if it meant they might be together again.

In the end, it comes down to what you believe and what you want to believe. I choose to believe Nora is telling the truth; I need her to be telling the truth to feel better about choosing to believe that Nora and Kevin will spend the rest of their days together.

Leftover Leftovers

Please, don’t misunderstand: a disappointing episode of The Leftovers is still better than everything else currently on television. I suspect I won’t see performances such as the ones delivered by Coon and Theroux any time soon. Hell, their dancing and crying was more powerful than most dialogue.

The music has been perfection this entire series; especially Max Richter’s score.

I knew that if we got closure on the other characters it would come in the form of conversation and I’m fine with that. And it’s good to know that Mary worked things through with Matt before he died and that John forgave Laurie for drugging him and his son.

Leave your thoughts on the episode below or on our Facebook post for this review, and we’ll read them on tonight’s podcast. 

The Leftovers S3E8
  • 7/10
    Plot – 7/10
  • 8/10
    Dialogue – 8/10
  • 10/10
    Performances – 10/10

"The Book of Nora"

The Leftovers – S3E8 – “The Book of Nora” | Starring: Justin Theroux, Carrie Coon, Regina King, Christopher Eccleston, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Jovan Adepo, Amy Brenneman, Kevin Carroll, Scott Glenn, Margaret Qualley, Liv Tyler | Written by: Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta | Directed by: Mimi Leder

User Review
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About Nina Perez (1391 Articles)
Nina Perez is the founder of Project Fandom. She is also the author of a YA series of books, “The Twin Prophecies,” and a collection of essays titled, “Blog It Out, B*tch.” Her latest books, a contemporary romance 6-book series titled Sharing Space, are now available on for Kindle download. She has a degree in journalism, works in social media, lives in Portland, Oregon, and loves Idris Elba. When not watching massive amounts of British television or writing, she is sketching plans to build her very own TARDIS. She watches more television than anyone you know and she’s totally fine with that.

10 Comments on The Leftovers – S3E8 – The Book of Nora


    I never left feedback this season and I wanted to say thank all three of you for podcasting this.

    1. Laurie being alive is a cop out. And cheapens Certified.
    2. Nora and Kevin are toxic as fuck, but I love them y’all.
    3. I don’t believe Nora went anywhere because how did ole dude find the exact materials to send her back? Also, older Kevin is still fuckwitable.
    4. I need Justin in a new show. And both he and Carrie fucking deserve Emmy’s and golden globes.
    5. Was this the best season? Nope not by a long shot but I enjoyed it and will miss it dearly. All I need to do now is get back on track for American Gods because I still haven’t seen the show passed the first episode.

  2. That dance with Nora and Kevin got me. The emotion from their faces and bodies was powerful. That would have been a good place to end their story, without the need for explanation or prevarication.

    Kevin’s approach of being in Australia on vacation and meeting Nora by chance was the right approach, with the wrong woman. He needed a fresh start with a new partner, so he could ease into his true self, i.e. “I’m Kevin, I like horseback riding, jogging, and self-asphyxiation. Got any dry cleaning bags?”

    As for Nora, I loved that she was full of piss & vinegar until the very end. Never let up. Not a compassionate bone in her body. I laughed so hard at her riding that bicycle like she wanted to murder the very earth under her feet. I hollered when she fell off! She’s been angry since she was 7. Nora needed FUN. She needed a man on a motorcycle climbing up into her window for some wild lovemaking. Last thing she needed was an equally serious, morose self-destructive partner. Those two ain’t worked through sh*t.

    6 months from where the finale left us all the doves will have their necks broken and the goat will be in a pot out of spite when these two return to their toxic ways. Even if the person is the love of your life, it does not mean you should be together.

    “Certified” was a beautiful, melancholy, haunting death for Laurie Garvey, and her story should have stopped there.

    Sorry for my imagination taking over; I loved the series and enjoyed the finale, especially Nora’s reflections on the Gone-Aways.

    Looking forward to the podcast.

  3. For The Podcast:

    I’m not going to try and explain to any of you why I loved every part of this finale, because y’all are grown folks and can have your opinions. I’ve loved the journey, the emotion, the acting, and Lindelof allowing women everywhere to imagine themselves with Justin Theroux at any point in his life.

    Bye Jasmin, sorry you’re getting departed now. Take care of Tyler, and maybe create a machine that gets you back to us to podcast another TV show.
    And Nina and John, y’all also are always special. Don’t you forget that.

  4. I love this Finale for a host of reasons that I can’t really articulate right now .
    Be that as it may the show did kinda try to cheat by making us think that Nora was in an alternate universe. The time jump and Kevin pretending that the school was the last time they met was a in my opinion a deliberate way to misdirect the audience . I understand his explanation but it was more to try to fool us then a character flaw .

    I personally don’t believe Nora’s story at all . If the scientist did go over “there” why wouldn’t he come back .? Why wouldn’t he go to 2% and explain he has a way to bring them back . Some people may like being there but I’m pretty sure allot don’t . You might say they wouldn’t believe him; true but What about the other people and cousin Larry who crossed over ? There’s your proof that the machine works . Nora was in that Demolition man goop and stopped it at the last minute swore Matt to secrecy then got a bit lonely and called Lori knowing she couldn’t tell .
    This is a story she concocted in order to give herself closure .
    Her statement during the interview of “I don’t lie ” further made me believe that the story was false .

    The best bits of this episode I really loved the nun , she is what I’d like religious people to be like . So I’m a nun I lie and I fuck ….whys that any of your business.
    And the both of them hugging while dancing was great as well . So many emotions going on in that moment .
    In the end great show and great podcast.


    Hi Nina, Jasmin, and John

    I’m can’t think of anything profound to say about this episode other than I loved it. It wasn’t perfect but it worked on me, I was in a puddle of tears by the end! I’m going to miss this show! This has been a wonderful journey made all the more better listening to you all discuss it! Thank you for the podcast!

    Love you guys! Peace out!

  6. Hey Nina, John and Jasmin,

    This show is everything.

    I thought they may make it a love story because of all the pain this show caused us with the previous season finales.

    Don’t have much else to say except…
    -Kevin is still fucking fine as an old man
    -I think I’m only slightly annoyed that Laurie is still alive but I appreciate how they showed her.
    -this is my favorite type of love story, one that is sappy in a lovely way.
    -I LOVE the Billie Holiday accompaniment

    Great ending to a fantastic series. Thanks to you three, for such great coverage of this phenomenal piece of art.

  7. Im 50/50 on liking the finale. I feel cheated in that we didn’t get to see the 2% world. I would’ve just rather it remain a mystery of what happened to them rather than to just hear about it a few sentences. I wonder if the scientist told the 2% he could build a machine? Like did none of them want to go back to the 98%? I mean when people like Nora showed up did none of their family ask how they got there? I wonder if there’s less issues like racism, poverty, war, etc with the 2% world? Maybe that’s why the scientist didn’t broadcast to the 2% that they could go back bc he preferred the new world? I love that Kevin and Nora ended up together but I don’t like how we got there. I mean with Kevin being able to die and other crazy stuff I was just expecting something more surprising or mystic. I even thought at the moment that Nora said “I can’t do this bc it isn’t true” that it was going to be some virtual reality thing like in Vanilla Sky and she had been just living in a simulation made up in her mind by the doctors’ machine. But no such luck. I’m sorry this was such a disappointment to you Nina; I feel you girl.

    P.S. Do y’all think the Nun was getting busy with the motorcycle dude? I think so ?


    This was the show that took the most amount of work for me to get people into. It’s not easy to sell someone on a show that is all about the deep exploration of loss, grief, depression, faith, and family. Particularly in a show that uses a supernatural event as a jumping off point, but isn’t interested in the question that literally EVERYONE always asks after first hearing the plot synopsis: “Oh that sounds crazy, where did they go?”

    People are lost every day, and most of the time it can be rationalized- They were sick, they were old, they were murdered, they died for their country, they were an addict, there was a drunk driver, there was a tornado, they couldn’t swim. And then we’re devastated. Because why would knowing ‘how’ help? I think what The Leftovers did best was remove the logic and rationale behind loss, and focus solely on the raw and exposed emotions of what it feels like, and the lengths that people will go to to find meaning and understanding in it.

    We watched all of these characters deal with loss in their own ways- They joined cults, left cults, dedicated themselves to debunking beliefs about the departure, threw themselves head-first into their faith, lost their faith, battled their inner demons, accepted their fate, and denied their fate. But in some way or another, all eventually found themselves coming back to the world to find that love was still there waiting for them.

    It was a story of what it’s like to be lost and to live with that for so long that it becomes its own kind of comfort, and it ended on the hope that so many people who feel that way choose to have- that you can come back from it all.

    I don’t think I will ever connect so emotionally with a show like this ever again. Damon Lindelof has created a beautifully intricate story about the lost finding their way again, as only he can do.

    Sorry it was long but it IS the end, after all. Thank you guys so much for covering this show, it has truly been an experience. ❤️

  9. For the podcast:

    I’ve never left feedback before, but without you guys I would never have watched The Leftovers, so I wanted to say thank you. I started it first season, got depressed and gave up. But on your other Podcasts you talked it, so I had to go back.Thank God! It is by far one of the best series I’ve ever watched. As for the finale, I was skeptical – I didn’t think they could do a finale that brought everything together in a way that didn’t seem forced. But this did. I never would’ve thought Nora really would’ve gone to the other world. And as far-fetched as it seemed, it worked. The choice she made not to disrupt her children’s lives – it was heartbreaking and beautiful. As For Laurie still being alive, I was OK with that. To be honest, the suicide really pissed me off as much as I loved Laurie’s episode. I have a real problem with making suicide seem calming and fitting and for anyone – maybe that’s because I’ve recently watched 13 reasons why with my 14-year-old. Anyway, let me just say that Kevin looked amazing in the future- she damn well better have offered him tea! It’s been an amazing journey. Now what to watch?

  10. For the podcast

    I liked the finale-not sure if I can connect the dots but the story & especially the acting was great: Coons & Theroux were beyond fantastic in their scenes together; the wedding, their slow dance to Otis Redding tune & the final confession.

    So anyone think Nora really broke on thru to the other side a la earth 2? Prior to her journey she seemed hesitant, or was it nerves, while recalling her final interaction w/the kids. Her final goodbye w/Matt was touching.

    Nora riding that bicycle throughout reminded me of Margaret Hamilton’s spinster from wizard of oz.

    How to explain Laura? Thought we saw last of her 2 wks ago then bingo!

    Overall, leftovers has been a 3 year enjoyable viewing experience.

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