Summary: Nora lives her life unable to move on from the departure of her family and is in pain. She divorces her husband and runs into Kevin who has also divorced Laurie. Nora goes to a conference in Manhattan and discovers somebody is impersonating her. After a lengthy process, she exposes the impersonator who says that the DSD is a fraud and is wrong. Nora goes to a bar where she meets a book writer who wrote a book about what is next. Nora accuses him of not being in pain loudly and draws the attention of an acolyte of Holy Wayne. Nora is taken to Wayne who takes her pain away with a hug. Back in Mapleton, Nora meets Kevin again who invites her to dinner.
The Good: This was a much stronger episode than the last 2. Like "Two Boats and a Helicopter", this episode revolves around a single character which gives it a similar impact to that episode though I don't think it reached the heights that "Two Boats" did. However that's not a fault in the episode as what we got was still excellent storytelling.
I'll start at the beginning with that opening sequence which was tremendous. Nora has been an almost mysterious person in the past few episodes since she appears but we don't know a whole ton about her. This opening sequence showed us the daily life of Nora in a couple minutes, providing all the necessary details and answering many of the questions we had about the character. The sequence shows us the pain she is in and how she goes about her life knowing that her family is gone. It's really well done and tells us everything we need to know about the character in quick time. And on top of that, this opening sequence mirrors the end of the episode really well which helps demonstrate how Nora has changed after this episode's events.
This leads me to the next thing I liked, which was the transformation Nora went through in the episode. It's not very often in a TV show that an episode focuses on a character changing as it goes on which made this a fairly unique viewing experience. The events throughout the episode made me buy that Nora would want to change which was very important to show prior to her big scene with Wayne (see: best Moment). The decision to let Wayne take her pain away was huge and thankfully the show understood that and made us understand how the pain Nora has been in has been destroying her. From the scene with Margaret in the bathroom to Nora getting a prostitute to shoot her, it was clear that Nora's life wasn't good and desperately needed change. And Carrie Coon's performance made me really buy into her suffering as well. After all that we saw prior to the Wayne scene, it was completely logical for Nora to decide to lose her pain.
One scene in particular that stood out to me in this episode was the bar scene with Patrick Johansson. Nora's pain going into that scene was understandable after listening to what her impersonator screamed at the world about the DSD and seeing this man talk about moving on and being happy like it was that simple really got on her nerves, which led to a really emotional scene with Nora practically forcing Patrick out of the bar with accusations that he's not in pain.
One of the strongest aspects of this episode was really Carrie Coon's performance as Nora. She brought the character to life in a fantastic way, showing her pain and attempts to continue with life with superb facial expressions and execution of her character's dialogue. And of course she absolutely killed it with her final scene with Wayne by letting everything out slowly in a single scene.
I was also really glad to see Matt calling to apologize, which he has apparently done several times. It made sense following what he said to Nora a few episodes ago and definitely kept his character as mostly likeable overall. I thought it was a great touch to have Nora save the message instead of deleting it; he is the only family she has left and she does still love him all the same.
There were some nice small scenes in this episode too. I was happy to see Kevin and Nora get drawn too each other. I'm interested to see what their relationship will bring to the show. I liked the whole "question 121" subplot as it was a good metaphor to help us determine the change in Nora.
The Bad: Nothing from this episode was bad. Though I do feel this is the place where I must clarify why I think this episode didn't reach the heights of "Two Boats and a Helicopter" despite having a similar format and a lot of emotional scenes. Personally, I think this episode didn't do as good of a job at making us empathize with Nora as we did with Matt. Matt's story let us personally feel his struggles and gave us his extremely tense quest to keep something he cares deeply about. Nora's story didn't quite do that. It showed us her struggles, but it didn't have the same stakes as that episode and didn't make me care as much. As I said before, this isn't anything against the episode itself; it's just stating that the structure was different and didn't make for as satisfying of an experience as "Two Boats".
The Unknown: Not that any questions this week for once.
The GR existing outside of Mapleton was confirmed in this episode. How big is the cult worldwide and what is their impact on the world as a whole?
Does Wayne actually have powers to take the pain of others? He knew a lot about Nora from just looking at her. If he s a fraud how would he know that? Or is he just masterful at reading people and using the placebo effect to take their pain away?
Best Moment: The Wayne scene was television at its very best. Wayne slowly described what was bothering Nora after meeting her and Carrie Coon delivered a spectacular acting performance as she emotes that Wayne is correct about everything he is saying. The patient delivery of Wayne's lines, Carrie Coon's phenomenal acting, the superb music score, and the intrigue of seeing Wayne at work all came together to make this what I think is the best scene The Leftovers has provided so far. Excellent stuff.
Character of the Episode: It has to be Nora. No doubt about it.
Conclusion: This was gripping and powerful stuff chronicling a major change in a character. It was excellent to watch and while it's not as well put together as "Two Boats and a Helicopter", it is still better than 90% of what is on TV. The Leftovers has returned to form in brilliant fashion after a couple weaker episodes.