Previously on The Leftovers, “It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World”
“Certified” was a masterful, heartbreaking hour of television and everything we’ve come to expect from The Leftovers and Carl Franklin’s (he also directed these episodes of The Leftovers, including last season’s Laurie-centric episode, “Off Ramp”) direction was stunning.
Two years after the Sudden Departure, Laurie was barely holding on. She doesn’t have the answers for one of her patients (the mother of the baby Sam, who disappeared in the opening scene of the pilot), nor does she have them for herself. Whether it was the loss of her baby, her strained marriage, the stress of her job post-Sudden Departure, or a combination of it all, Laurie attempted suicide. She quickly changed her mind, threw up the pills she’d swallowed, and joined the Guilty Remnant instead.
We’ve had episodes consisting entirely of flashbacks, and there are have been episodes with cold opens that were flashbacks (“Ten Thirteen” and this one), but I can’t recall The Leftovers ever doing an episode with non-linear storytelling; but it’s done to great affect here. For the sake of this review, I’ll cover it chronologically.
Laurie and Matt meet Nora at her hotel and while Michael and John go to the airport to find Kevin, they accompany Nora on her mission to track down the scientists she came to meet. The three of them staking out the doctors’ house is just one of many beautifully acted scenes featuring a powerhouse of actors. “Certified” makes great use of these characters’ connected pasts. Nora, dealing with a breakup and the rejection from the scientists, is at her most petty; she reminds Laurie that she and the Guilty Remnant terrorized her, she accuses Matt of trying to kill himself by refusing cancer treatment, she mocks John and Laurie’s work telling fortunes, and cruelly won’t return Laurie’s lighter (a gift from Jill). The tussle over it results in Laurie getting a black eye from Nora’s elbow. They eventually follow the scientists to what appears to be the location of their machine.
Amy Brenneman was the MVP this episode, but Carrie Coon never fails to deliver. Nora doesn’t answer Laurie when she asks if Nora’s going to call the DSD and report the machine. Instead, she tells a story about watching an usher at a baseball game squeeze the air out of a beachball that had been passed around the stadium, shattering everyone’s fun. Why would anyone want that job, she wonders. Laurie’s answer could describe herself and the work she does.
“Because if he didn’t and that ball got onto the field, it would be fucking chaos.”
Nora decides to stay, and Matt agrees to remain with her, but it’s not clear if she’s going to confront the scientists and try to talk her way into using the machine.
Michael calls Laurie and reveals he’s with both Kevins and John at Grace’s ranch. When she arrives, she finds Kevin has gone off to think about his father’s request that he die again. Laurie hands over the burnt “Book of Kevin” to Kevin Sr., and tells him she wants to be part of whatever they have planned. She promises she won’t attempt to stop them, but she does want to understand.
Everyone has a personal reason for believing Kevin can and will travel to the “other side.” Grace wants to know what happened to her dead children’s shoes (absent when their remains were found), Kevin Sr. wants Kevin to retrieve Christopher Sunday’s part of the song that will stop the flood, and John wants Evie to know she was loved.
We’ve seen Laurie at her lowest and we’ve seen her lose her shit (running down GR in “Off Ramp”), but here she is most like the Laurie we met in “The Garveys at Their Best.” She’s a medical professional listening to, and genuinely wanting to help, the people closest to her while they make irrational choices. I’m not sure you can watch this episode for the first and believe that Laurie was ever truly onboard with their plans. You never tell someone in the middle of a psychotic break that they’re in the middle of a psychotic break, after all. She goes along to get answers. When Kevin Sr. invites her to tell them they’re lunatics, she responds, “Yeah, it sounds crazy, but these are crazy times.” She avoids saying it outright by turning it into a joke, but the response implies that she understands their “crazy” actions are a reaction to their losses.
Because they all so fervently believe, Laurie goes to drastic measures to speak to Kevin alone. While Grace, Kevin Sr., Michael, and John sleep off canine pain pills she slipped in their food – this poor dog — Laurie and Kevin share a wonderful goodbye. First, they make confessions about their marriage: he accidentally killed Jill’s hamster and never really liked their home, and she once snuck off to a spa and lost their baby in the Sudden Departure. This is the kind of closure I wanted for this couple. I like Kevin with Nora, but the Garveys had too much left unsaid between them. It was cathartic – at least for me.
The end of “Certified” will probably be one of the most debated scenes in the series’ history. Earlier, Nora described SCUBA diving as an elegant way to commit suicide. The sheer number of possible ways you can die while doing it make it so that people won’t question that it was done purposely; and your family and friends get closure. Turns out, Laurie isn’t just a certified therapist, she’s a certified diver as well. She charters a boat out to the ocean, puts on SCUBA gear, takes one final phone call from her children, and dives. The credits roll and we’re left to wonder will she purposely turn the dial the wrong way?
There are several reasons I’m inclined to believe Laurie killed herself. The one being that I called that the episode would end with her death when I saw the cold open and I like being right. Also, the theme song for the week was the Gravediggaz’s “1-800-SUICIDE.” Her phone call with Jill also felt final. In Laurie’s letter to Kevin (read by Meg) she said, “I think I was supposed to stay broken.” And my heart broke when she told Kevin to keep the lighter Jill gave her because, “I quit.” Quit what, Laurie? Cigarettes or life? *sobs*
The outcome could be confirmed if Kevin sees her next week when she travels to the other side – if he goes – but that doesn’t seem like something the show would do. It feels as though it’s supposed to be ambiguous.
Justin Theroux was on a horse twice this season. Nothing to say about that other than, “Yes, please.”
I like that Laurie kept Michael’s confidence that he called her, even thought it only heightened John’s aggravation with her. She also took Nora on as a client to assure her she wouldn’t tell Kevin and the others what she was doing.
Is it me or is this the funniest season? Remember the deputy Aussie Chief Kevin was mean to in “Don’t Be Ridiculous”? I laughed out loud when Kevin Sr. nonchalantly knocked him unconscious when he turned up, most likely to ask questions about his missing boss. And I guffawed when Kevin Sr. later referred to him as Officer Koala Farts.
Nora tells Laurie she had her IUD removed at a clinic before Laurie and the others showed up at the hotel. This and the fact that we’re a day away from the anniversary implies some time has passed from the last episode. Did Nora have the IUD removed because she got a lead on the scientists and assumed she’d be going through the machine? Also, this will make it even more of a miracle when we learn she’s pregnant with the second coming of Christ’s baby. Yup, I’m still holding on to my Nora is pregnant theory.
The Leftovers S3E6
The Leftovers – S3E6 – “Certified” | 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: Patrick Somerville & Carly Wray | Directed by: Carl Franklin