It was about two years ago when Claire, the love of my life, suggested the show The Leftovers to me, which was then, if I recall correctly, at the very beginning of the second season. I was a bit wary at first, as this seemed to a bit too “rapture” theme for my atheistic taste, but after the first episode, I was hooked. Having binged on the first season, I then began watching the second, though quickly got frustrated with having to wait for the next episode, having grown used to watching the show in bulk. My only option was to distract myself, to ignore the show for awhile — which I did quite successfully until a few weeks ago when I finally came back to the series. It had been so long that I felt it was best to start at the very beginning and work my way up to what I discovered was the third and last season of the series.
It was an epic show.
My most beloved scene in the entire, three-season series comes at the very first scene in the second episode of the second season, entitled “A Matter of Geography.”
“Look, this — if we’re going to be, um… We can’t just,” Kevin pauses, considering his words, digesting his emotions so he can better articulate himself, inevitably landing on: “We don’t really know each other.”
“Okay,” she says, with an apparent frown, and at this point I expect her to either get pissed off or tremendously hurt, ready myself for her to make a scene or convey herself in a more extreme fashion by saying nothing at all, and in any case ultimately exiting the house in response. Instead, she does this unexpected and somehow vaguely sexy maneuver of the neck and head and continues with, “What do I need to know?”
And bam, he tells her. Lays it all out on the table. That he’s been walking in his sleep. That he had been taking medication and, thinking that this might be the cause of it, tossed his pills — but then he had woken up in his car in the wood to find that he had kidnapped Patti Levin while “sleepwalking” and brought her to a cabin with the intention of killing her. When he tried to release her unharmed, she ended up killing herself, and so he had buried her in the woods with the help of Nora’s brother, a preacher.
“And nobody else knows,” he was sure to explain.
Just when you thought he was done with his confession, he added — not arbitrarily, either, but as if he were saving the worst for last — three gentle words: “And I smoke.”
Cut to Nora and Jill sitting on the couch across from him, silent and unmoving, the expressions on their faces dangerously ambiguous, reflecting both your hopes and fears simultaneously as you view the scene and anticipate their response just as Kevin would have.
Nora’s response? “I hire prostitutes to shoot me,” she replies, and then turns to Jill and confessed that she lied to her about the gun she kept in her purse, promising to never lie to her again. Looking her in the eye, Jill says that it’s okay, with Nora echoing her words involuntarily in a voice that conveys the extremes of both surprise and relief. And Jill’s response — “it’s okay” — seems to make up for any confession she might have made on her own part, and there was certainly a good deal of material that she might have drawn on. Regardless, it all manifests as the perfect expression of the general consensus in this holy fucking trinity of dire fucked-upness, a fact that became clear when Nora then turns to Kevin and tells him, “it’s okay.”
And yeah, I cried. Fuck you, I wasn’t sober.
So Kevin left out shooting the dogs. And hallucinating Patti, the woman he buried, if indeed that was happening at that point in the series (that’s what I get for indulging in The Leftovers over a single weekend like I was cramming for a goddamn exam). In any case, it was Kevin who really ignited this group confession. He broke the ice of honesty and delivered the heaviest load to the collective depth. He accepted them as he was accepted by them. It made my ocular cavities ooze fluid because it’s all one could hope for in the social sphere: to have a sense of community like that in which everyone accepted the wounds and mutations they fought with every inch of their might to conceal from the eyes of the greater society. They had a tribe in this maddening wasteland where they could be honest and yet somehow still expect support — not through pity, either, but through mutual understanding.
And then Nora just had to fuck it all up.
She had to handcuff him the bed-frame in a not-at-all-kinky-and-therefore-inexcusable way during the seventh episode of the second season, “A Most Powerful Adversary.” Why? Because as difficult as it was for him, he was upfront and honest with her. He told her that he sees and speaks with Patti. Her reaction was to simply condemn him as crazy and take his family away from him as he slept.
He interprets this as her being mad at him for having lied to him, but her ultimate response, as exemplified in the “deal” he made with her that assured a route by which he could come back to her, necessitated him getting rid of Patti. It was not that he had, at least by omission, lied; nay, it was that he had the experience in the first place. She left him because she considered him crazy because he was talking to someone no one else could see — a hallucination, a dead person, it made no difference, and that was plain and simple to see. After all, he had to get rid of that clingy ghost before Nora would accept him again. For Nora to abandon him and — albeit unknowingly — seemingly validate the perspective offered by his heckling hallucination in the process, increasing his trust in this seeming ghost to the point that he subsequently risks his own life in the hope of getting rid of Patti just so that he can honestly tell Nora she is gone all to get Nora back… it strikes me as betraying the trust that seemed to be generated and mutually embraced in the earlier, tear-jerking episode.
You broke my heart, Nora.