The climax of Sunday's episode of The Leftovers, "Guest," involved an emotional moment – and potentially magical hug – between Nora Durst and Holy Wayne. Writer Kath Lingenfelter admits that "the way that Nora associates with people has changed," but does that mean that Wayne has a supernatural touch? Watchers debate the merits of Wayne's enterprise.
"Holy Wayne is the real deal," argues Sean Collins of Rolling Stone, who maintains that his scene with Nora illustrated that "he's the guy who, it seems, genuinely is capable of supernaturally removing emotional pain." New York Times commenter Drew Tillman concurs: "Wayne seemed like a hack before, this episode seemed to legitimize his healing powers."
"I don't know if he has supernatural powers or is just a really fantastic therapist," observes Reddit commenter As*hole_Salad. "We saw the senator get positive results in the pilot and Nora was a completely different person before and after her encounter with him… We have seen him get real results at least twice and presumably far more times based on the size and loyalty of his followers."
Some viewers believe that Wayne is doing a genuine service – no magic required. Dustin Rowles of Uproxx argues that Wayne is providing "exactly what those who are grieving need right now." Rowles suggests that Nora surrendered her pain on her own accord: "Wayne was just a conduit for her own catharsis. He gave her permission to feel hope. He listened to her as a person, and asked her questions that others would be too afraid to ask of someone with so much loss. "
Michael M. Grynbaum of the New York Times notes that Nora's catharsis "fills in why Tommy Garvey is so devoted to the cause of Holy Wayne… He reads Nora perfectly, even mirroring her ironic detachment to gain her trust, and he provides her with a respite from pain that we’ve rarely seen in the series."
It's that same trust, however, that leads other viewers to be skeptical. io9's Lauren Davis is convinced that Wayne is "a conman," adding, "He knows his audience, his customer base. He knows how to finesse them – even when he admits that all he really cares about is their money, he MAKES them believe in what he's selling. That is his prophet's dilemma – Holy Wayne has turned what probably started out as genuine meaning for himself into tangible product to sell." Reddit commenter MSDolloff27 agrees, maintaining that Wayne is "a scam artist, based on the way he charges people $1,000 before they even get to meet him. But at the same time, Wayne is clearly charismatic and has had an effect on people."
Reddit user Tinydancer87 poses a more sinister theory: "He's the devil," and by hugging someone, "he takes their soul… The reason anyone feels happier or relieved without it is because they just don't care anymore?" Fellow commenters suggest that "maybe his kid with Christine is the Antichrist?" calling back the title of episode 4: "B.J. and the A.C" – which user De3ertf0x reads as "Baby Jesus and the Anti-Christ."
On Reddit, gregstelzer proposes that a connection between Wayne and the G.R.: "Wayne's process of taking away people's pain seems similar to the G.R.'s exaggerated mission of desensitizing and healing, with the G.R. being a sort of bastardized, distorted practice of Wayne the Prophet's message." What does this mean for the future of the show? "These two movements will come face to face," gregstelzer hypothesizes, "with the Garveys just along for the ride because of their connections and involvement."