'The Leftovers': Four Ways the Series Could End

Is there hope for Kevin (Justin Theroux) and Nora (Carrie Coon), and what does that future tease mean? Here are THR's theories on those points and more.
Courtesy of HBO

[Warning: this story contains spoilers through season three, episode four of HBO's The Leftovers.]

Nobody wants to see mom and dad fight, but when it comes to The Leftovers, "want" has always taken a back seat to "need."

The Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta drama reached the halfway point of its final season in Sunday night's episode, "G'Day Melbourne," pushing its two central characters — the seemingly unkillable Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) and the seemingly cursed Nora Durst (Carrie Coon) — into foreign territory, in more ways than one.

The fourth hour of the season saw Kevin and Nora traveling through Australia on two separate quests: Kevin chasing a ghost across Melbourne, fearing that he's once again being haunted by forces from the great beyond, only to learn that he's very likely losing his mind instead; and Nora chasing ghosts of her own, pursuing the promise of a mysterious machine that allegedly transports people to the same place where the Departed landed after vanishing years ago  — a group that includes her own children — only to face cruel rejection in the eleventh hour. (Perhaps she's better off, since the "odds" of surviving really did sound pretty low; send some good vibes toward Mark Linn-Baker, while we're on the subject.)

With both Kevin and Nora at wits end, the two lovers spewed their individual hatred at each other in a climactic hotel room breakup — an inevitable collision given their disparate desires and world views, not to mention the fact that we know at some point in the future, an older Nora (now going by Sarah) will be wandering the Australian countryside, claiming that the name "Kevin" means absolutely nothing to her. 

Before moving into the final four episodes of the series, let's pause for a forecast. Here are four possible destinations for The Leftovers as the countdown ticks away to the seventh anniversary of the Sudden Departure, and the future that lies beyond.

1. Beyond the Book

At the height of their breakup, Kevin sets fire to "the bible's sequel," the so-called "Book of Kevin" co-authored by Reverend Matt (Christopher Eccleston), John Murphy (Kevin Carroll) and his son Michael (Jovan Adepo). Even with the only copy of the book now turned to ash, there's no reason the three authors can't recreate their testimonies in a new text. What's more, Kevin lived through those experiences and knows the details better than anyone else. If he starts to come around to believing in his own hype, Kevin could become a willing participant in the spread of a new faith. There's reason to believe that "Kevinism" will spread by the end of the series; the "Sarah Durst" scene, for example, takes on new meaning when you view the question "Does the name Kevin mean anything to you?" as referring to a greater holy concept, not just an extremely handsome man from Jardin by way of Mapleton.

2. An International Getaway

In season two's surreal "International Assassin," Kevin explores an elaborate underworld of sorts, operating as an assassin as he navigates dead men and women from his past. At multiple points in season three, Kevin has been seen placing a bag over his head, presumably to find a way back to the hotel. (Indeed, in this week's episode, Kevin tells a librarian he's looking for a book called "Assassins." Clearly, that experience remains very much on his mind.) The Leftovers does its best dancing in the realm between reality and mysticism, and an ending that sees Kevin dying in the "real" world but thriving as an assassin in the "International" landscape could fall very much in line with the series' thematic rhythms. Even if it's not a permanent destination, there's no way The Leftovers closes the book on Kevin without sending him back to the hotel for at least one last assassination.

3. Through the Machine

Does Nora really think the scientists behind the machine are frauds, or does she actually believe they can provide the reunion with her children she's desperate to acquire? Assuming it's the latter, and assuming Nora is able to convince the scientists to change their mind about her worthiness to use the machine, then how do we explain the image of Sarah Durst at the end of the season three premiere? There are some viewers who believe the Sarah scene exists in an alternate reality, or some other plane of existence that the Departed now call their home. It feels like a hard turn for the sci-fi (or perhaps a painfully familiar "sideways" twist, for Leftovers fans who still have fresh wounds from Lost) especially given the show's purposeful ambiguity, but it's not completely off the table until proven otherwise. With that said, perhaps Nora will have… how do you say… "cold feet" if she has a future opportunity to use the machine, and equally likely that she will take some other form of action that leads to the machine's destruction, physical and otherwise.

4. Happily Ever After

After a grim first few episodes, The Leftovers found its groove in the season one episode "The Guest," which focused on Nora and her emotionally turbulent business trip to New York City. While the episode was drenched in the shades of grief and despair that so far defined the series, it boasted new layers as well — a sense of joy and wonder, chief among them. Ever since, this powerful story about how to deal with inexplicable loss has come paired with a zest for life, culminating in season two's final moments, in which Kevin and his burgeoning family learn to cherish what's still in front of them while keeping their hearts open to everything they've left behind. With that in mind, don't let Kevin and Nora's breakup and future estrangement weigh you down. At its core, The Leftovers wields hope and light against overwhelming anguish and darkness, which means there's hope for a light ending, especially where Kevin and Nora are concerned. After all, if the ending of Lost proved anything, it's that Lindelof is a romantic at heart. While traditional happiness might not be in the cards for Kevin Garvey and Nora Durst, expect their final scenes to be pleasantly bittersweet at worst.

Sound off with your Leftovers finale theories in the comments below, and keep following for more interviews and news as the series races toward its conclusion.

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