Television: The Leftovers, "Guest"

The only things I seem to be watching these days are: The Leftovers, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and Orphan Black. I should probably find something lighter (John Oliver notwithstanding). Though I do watch an episode of House Hunters now and then, too.

Last night's episode of The Leftovers focused on Nora. You know, the one who lost her kids and husband in The Departure? Sister to Reverend Jamison? And then he did the brotherly thing of telling Nora her husband had been sleeping with the kids' preschool teacher?

To this point Nora had been set up as the most likable and sympathetic character. Which isn't to say she's not just as messed up as everyone else. I mean, she hires someone to shoot her (she wears a bullet-proof vest) so she can have a near-death experience and possibly see her family. I guess it's not the weirdest thing—there's some logic to it—but it's still pretty fucked up.

Nora has also sort of held a privileged position as a semi-celebrity in having lost her entire family. And so, even if she is the most likable character, I can't say I really like her much anyway. Because she uses this status to excuse the way she behaves, and she doesn't really behave all that well a lot of the time. On the outside, sure, but whenever she starts to let loose and be herself, there isn't much to like.

In "Guest," Nora attends an annual convention having to do with The Departure. Her job (if you recall) is to interview people who apply for benefits based on having had family members Depart. The questions are extensive, the reason being the government's underlying motive is to find patterns and see if anything connects all the "victims." Anyway, Nora is off to this convention and is supposed to sit on a panel. But when she arrives, she finds someone else has taken her registration badge, and so Nora is forced to wear a "Guest" lanyard.

Here we get a hint of how self-important Nora can be. While it's somewhat justified to get angry about such a mix-up, Nora tries to pull rank, loudly announcing she's a panelist and an employee of whatever government department handles The Departure (I don't recall the exact name). These things flare up repeatedly over the course of the episode, including a moment when we discover Nora verbally eviscerated another attendee the year before, and even though she is ultimately "right" in that someone has stolen her badge for nefarious reasons, one can't really be happy for her in her vindication. In fact, it only encourages Nora to continue behaving in such a way; she goes on to shout at a man in a bar, someone who has written a self-help book.

It's this final rant that draws Nora to the attention of a man who ultimately works for Wayne. Remember him? Pseudo-messiah who has magical hugs? Nora makes the questionable decision to follow this man to an unknown location and then pays $1000 to find out "the truth." (This government job of hers—or maybe it's the Departed benefits she receives—clearly pays well; she has no trouble paying $3000 to the woman who shot her earlier and now this $1000 on top of that.)

After paying, Nora is shown in to meet Wayne. They hug it out. And Nora returns to Mapleton a changed (new?) woman. She has found peace. Or something. (Meanwhile, Wayne foretells his coming death.)

Are these meaningful, synchronic encounters? Or just bizarre coincidences? Does it matter? One almost begins to hope this will all come together eventually. But I won't hold my breath.

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