When THE LEFTOVERS started, I was certain we’d never see an ending. Nobody would watch this depressing, spiral of a slice’o’life. Like 1% of the world in the first episode, it would depart without getting a final word in.
CARNIVALE had me kind of bitter.
But here we are. A final season! 8 episodes of glorious (and potentially apocalyptic) angst!
Here be spoilers!
“A man and wife asleep in bed, She hears a noise and turns her head – He’s gone”
Last year’s cold opening was a knife in the gut for my best friend, who had just given birth to her first child. I didn’t think I would hear the end of it. Now, I understand. This year’s opening did the same for me.
The devout woman, whose entire life revolved around waiting for the end, really hit home. I grew up in a religion renowned for their failed prophecies of Armageddon. Eventually, they stopped trying to peg a solid date, which was almost worse. All you knew was that it could happen at any moment, and you better be ready when it does. It’s been so long since I spent every waking moment with God’s judgment in the back of my mind, and this prologue really put me there. Never give up, always be ready, because the moment you’re not is the moment it happens.
Of course, the end never comes. The woman becomes a laughing stock, and loses her family. She has nothing left but her fellow devotees, waiting for the end.
The camera pan across the bodies in white to Evie gave me chills. Like the devotee in the 1800’s, Evie has given up everything. She has nothing left but to wait. And for what? The end?
Holy shit. The end.
Totally did not see that drone strike coming.
Three Years Later, Everything is Weird and Happy
Seriously, is anyone else uncomfortable with how happy things have become?
Jarden verges on paradise, open to the public. Tommy is at home, working as an officer. Norah is working for the police as well. Laurie has married Michael, and is having a grand ole time being a headset therapist. Matt’s church is flourishing, and he’s able to be open about Mary’s miracle. This may be the happiest the show has ever been.
And yet, there’s just enough happening under the surface to make you feel like you’re swimming in shark infested waters. Mary is leaving Matt, because he’s basically keeping her in captivity. Erika is nowhere to be found. Nora is struggling with a cast. Where the fuck is Lily? And why is Kevin killing himself every morning?
This gave me crazy anxiety. Can you imagine filming this? That was one shot, people. One shot.
The turning point is when Dean shows up, declaring that the dogs have turned into people and they’re going to run for president. The fucked up thing about this show is that I don’t know if I should think this is funny or take it seriously. Are the dogs turning into people? I don’t fucking know, this is Damon Lindelof we’re dealing with!
Is this… a flash forward? DO WE HAVE TO GO BACK?
I’ve always pitched THE LEFTOVERS to my friends as Damon Lindelof’s apology letter for LOST. It has all the same elements, condensed into three short seasons with a promise to do it right this time. Tonight’s episode (possibly) took it one step further with a flash forward.
There is dense foreshadowing in the scene before Kevin kills himself. The camera zooms in on the dove tattoo on his back when he gets up from bed (the doves are seriously everywhere in this episode, I could write a whole post about them). Then we move from the dove and follow Norah to the right as she rides away on her bicycle. When she is gone, we drift left as it pulls back and Kevin turns away.
Later, we transition to the flash forward with a dove flying to the right. The same left-out camera movement that exits Norah in the earlier scene is maintained in the flash forward as she bikes through the fields. Seriously incredible directing by Mimi Leder.
Okay, but seriously, let’s talk about Norah for a minute. Put on your tinfoil, we’re gonna get crazy.
Dogs turning into humans isn’t the first time this show has had me questioning what to take seriously. Remember last year, when Norah received that hilarious phone call? It was in Season 2, Episode 6: Lens, at the 26:00 mark. Here’s the transcript:
Ms. Durst, please don’t hang up. It’s Allison Herbert speaking. If I could have one moment? Please?
What do you want?
I need to apologize for my colleague, doctor Cuarto. He’s a great scientist, but he lacks… people skills. He should not have come to your home to collect the data from you without your permission.
Yes. I must say, the measurements he took were very promising. Very. If you’d allow us, we could guarantee their accuracy by replicating them in laboratory conditions.
You think I’m a lens?
You’re familiar with this theory?
Not really, I don’t, um. I just read an article.
Ms. Durst, you moved to Jarden, a town with no departures, and that very night three girls disappeared. One of whom lived next door to you. Yes, we believe you are a lens.
Why? Do you know why me?
Well this is where our research is – ah, divisive. I would like very much to discuss this in person.
Please just tell me.
Ms Durst, we believe that the demon Azrael has chosen you as his earth-bound instrument. This entity resides in you through no fault of your own, and is responsible for the chaos that surrounds you and possibly many others. Doctor Cuarto and I have contacted the Vatican–
Hilarious! She bursts out laughing, and hangs up the phone. We all laughed, too. I remember joking, “I’ll bet you that’s the one solid answer for anything we get out of this show.”
What if it is?
This throwaway moment was voiced by Sonya Walger. If you’re unfamiliar, Sonya played Penelope on LOST, and has starred in a variety of other shows. Seems a waste to use such a notable actress for a couple of phone calls, doesn’t it? Could there be more to this, and will we see more of Dr. Herbert?
Let’s talk about who Azrael is. From the Wikipedia article:
Depending on the outlook and precepts of various religions in which he is a figure, Azrael may be portrayed as residing in the Third Heaven. In one description, he has four faces and four thousand wings, and his whole body consists of eyes and tongues whose number corresponds to the number of people inhabiting the Earth. He will be the last to die, recording and erasing, constantly in a large book the names of men at birth and death, respectively.
His body parts correspond to the number of people inhabiting the Earth, and he will be the last to die – constantly recording and erasing the names of men at birth and death. Further, Azrael in Islam is somewhat of an Angel of Death – he is responsible for taking souls from the body, but only takes those commanded by God.
In some pop culture, Azrael is on a mission to find out what’s happened to the missing souls who didn’t make it to heaven.
The angels had long known that some human souls arrived in Heaven, and others did not. Reincarnation and oblivion had been offered as theories, but no one really knew where the “missing” souls were going.
The Azrael pitch may be more relevant than we thought. Norah collected data for the departed, both recording names and trying to figure out where the missing souls had gone.
Now let’s take a look at the promo poster for this season of the show.
At first glance, it appears the wings in the wall belong to Kevin, who is being tauted as the Messiah this season. Take a closer look at the wing directly behind Norah. The edges appear sharper, and the wing is torn. The shoulder slopes up sharply, rather than hilling to indicate bone. It more closely resembles the wings of a demon than an angel.
The season begins with an episode titled THE BOOK OF KEVIN. The final episode of the series is titled THE BOOK OF NORAH. The show began with Norah hiring hookers to shoot her, and ends with Kevin putting a bag over his head on the regular. Awful lot of circles closing, here.
Is Norah meant to be the anti-Kevin?
If you think about it, they have always been opposites. Kevin cheated on his wife, and Norah was cheated on. Kevin didn’t lose anyone in his family, while Norah lost everyone. In every respect, they have been the opposite of each other. Yet they’re consistently attracted to one another.
If they’re opposites, and Kevin is meant to be the Messiah… what does that make Norah?
The idea of Norah being an instrument of Azrael puts a spin on so many of her actions and what’s happened in this series. Remember her determination to get into Miracle? She charged off without a word, and bid all of her money for a house she’d never seen before. Is that really because she wanted to feel safe, or is it because Azrael needed in? Was it a combination of both?
It’s feels silly to theorize about things like this, because THE LEFTOVERS does such a good job of staying grounded and very human. But the depth is there, and they’re able to pull it off without cheapening it. That’s what makes this such an incredible show.
I doubt we’ll ever get solid answers to this, but if Norah really is Azrael, the flash forward could be presenting her as the last person Earth. At least as far as her family is concerned. She lost her family, not once, but twice.
And that is… wow. Absolutely gut-wrenching, and absolutely something the writers of this show would do.
I don’t know what’s going to happen this season, but my imagination is running wild. Strap in, folks. It’s going to be one hell of a ride.