The Leftovers Series Finale and the Fan Theories That Come With It

The show that does goodbyes like no other spent the majority of its 72-minute send-off with the one who lost it all: Nora Elizabeth Jamison Durst. Here’s what critics and fans had to say about The Leftovers final departure — and Nora’s contested reveal that has fans reeling.

IndieWire’s Ben Travers was ecstatic about Laurie’s shocking return:

“Of the many emotional moments packed into the 72-minute Leftovers finale, hearing Laurie’s voice on the other end of Nora’s emergency phone call was perhaps the most shocking. After spending the past two weeks (or two months, if you’re a TV critic given access early on) coming to terms with Laurie’s decision to “go scuba diving,” it took a minute (or a day) to wrap your head around the fact that she didn’t kill herself.”

Variety’s Maureen Ryan, in a deeply personal review, compared the series to physics: 

“Nora and Kevin did bring each other comfort. She was able to love again, or feel flickers of connection. She never stopped making an effort. Sometimes a lie is just a future truth that hasn’t come into focus yet; it keeps blinking out and shifting position, like an indecisive electron. The Leftovers is full of people willing alternate realities into being. But sometimes a lie is just a lie.”

Emily Nussbaum of The New Yorker reflected on the series’ power to denounce the taboos and absurdities that come along with grief and loss: 

“The power of The Leftovers is its capacity to embrace taboo impulses without judgment: to show radical faith, extended mourning, or hallucinatory paranoia not as pathological but as human, deserving of a gentle eye. The show is full of tenderness for every character who imagines seizing some control, even if that means writing his or her own ending.”

Aligning with fans, who were torn about Nora’s reveal about where the Departed went, James Poniewozik of The New York Times both challenged and embraced her story:
“Nora’s scene in the tank is edited so that we hear her just begin to cry out. Did she say, ‘Stop,’ then make up a cover story? Is the book of Nora fiction? The episode, after all, includes a pattern of lies. Kevin lies; the scientists accuse Nora of lying; Nora’s brother, Matt (Christopher Eccleston), agrees to tell people whatever she wants him to about her disappearance. Even the nun — on top of her suspicious denial about the fellow climbing down from her window — bases the wedding-pigeon business she runs with Nora on the fib that the birds are ‘delivering messages of love to the world’ when they’re really just high-tailing it back to Nora’s. ‘It’s just a nicer story,' she says.”

Many fans, meanwhile, felt bittersweet about receiving answers during a simultaneous goodbye: