Why ‘The Leftovers’ Last Episode Centered On Nora Durst Over Other Characters

HBO aired the last episode of The Leftovers Sunday night, choosing to center most of its action on Nora Durst (Carrie Coon).

The Leftovers series finale was titled “The Book of Nora” and largely focused on Nora’s decision to go through with a dangerous experiment that would allow her to see her disappeared children again. As viewers eventually saw, though, Nora was still on Earth in the future, living in Australia where she reunited with long-lost husband Kevin (Justin Theroux). The series concluded with Nora telling Kevin a story about going through to a different plane of existence, realized she didn’t belong there and convincing the designer of the experiment to build a machine to zap her back to Earth. The experiment worked, and Kevin accepted her story as they finally found some level of happiness that they both desired for so many years.

Much like series co-creator Damon Lindelof’s previous show, Lost, The Leftovers chose to focus on providing an emotional ending for the show’s main characters. Lindelof spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the final Leftovers and how they wanted the story to end with Nora’s journey towards relief.

“If we’re writing a show where basically the antagonist is not the Guilty Remnant, the antagonist is actually the fear and anxiety of losing the people that you love, and that fear and anxiety basically prevents you from forming new attachments because how could you ever fall in love with somebody and trust somebody not to leave you in a world where the departure could happen again at any moment?” Lindelof said. “That wound would be the most intense and open and seething with Nora Durst, who basically was the statistical anomaly who lost her entire family.”

The Leftovers finale
Justin Theroux as Kevin Garvey in ‘The Leftovers’ series finale [Image by Ben King/HBO]

The Leftovers also left Nora’s story up for interpretation by not actually showing it onscreen. As such, fans don’t know whether to accept what Nora went through as true or if she was simply making it up to provide closure for her unspeakable loss. After all, Nora asks the nun earlier in the episode what she is selling, to which the nun cryptically says, “I’m not trying to sell you anything. It just makes a nicer story.”

Is Nora choosing to accept a nicer story rather than reality? It’s possible, and Lindelof has no real intention of confirming or denying this theory.

All I’m really willing to say on the subject of that without being like frustratingly and pretentiously obtuse is that Nora told the story. She told the story. I definitely feel like there are going to be people out there who watch the show who don’t believe her story, and then for a lot of people, it won’t even occur to them to disbelieve it. That’s why the answer to the question, ‘Why didn’t we show Nora’s journey?’ is that because if we showed it, it would be undeniable that it were true.”

At its core, The Leftovers was never truly about answering what happened to the 2 percent of the population that disappeared that fateful October day. The Leftovers was about dealing with loss, finding connection with others, and trying to move forward while not forgetting the past. As Lindelof explained, the series often featured its characters telling stories to others, whether they be true or not, as a way of easing people’s pain, like Matt (Christopher Eccleston) preaching at his church or Tom (Chris Zylka) offering relief to others by hugging away their grief.

The Leftovers final scene
Carrie Coon and Justin Theroux as Nora Durst and Kevin Garvey in the final scene of ‘The Leftovers’ [Image by Ben King/HBO]

“We landed on the idea of this season, if not the series, being about people telling stories. And, more important, people telling stories that would either give themselves a degree of comfort or that they believed would give comfort to others.”

The Leftovers is available to watch in its entirety on HBO Go, HBO NOW, and other cable on-demand services.

[Featured Image by Ben King/HBO]