At first, I hated The Leftovers series finale.

I felt betrayed, scammed, like the show’s co-creator Damon Lindelof had just trolled us. Why introduce so many elaborate plot devices, Easter Eggs, and character traits—like the main character’s ability to die and come back to life—and fail to reveal what it all means? How could Laurie be alive? How is Kevin alive? Why didn’t they show us Nora’s wild adventure?

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What.

The.

Fuck.

I shoved the episode to the corners of my brain and got on with my life.

“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.”

But the episode, “Book of Nora,” kept returning to the foreground. First, the music, namely all the Billie Holiday, then the intimate moments like Nora and Matt’s final conversation, an incredibly beautiful moment among siblings. I started really considering why Lindelof would have Nora tell us about her experience in the world of the departed and not show it.

Then I watched the episode a second time and realized Nora is a liar, which unlocked the larger idea that this episode—like the show itself—was all about the stories we construct to get through life. We tell ourselves stories every day. There are the personal narratives, like how you met your wife or husband, and the collective ones, like where we come from. It’s why religion exists. Science, too. The most profound and enduring stories are rooted in fact, even if they embellish the details.

Ben King/HBO

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Everyone in The Leftovers is building a story to explain why 2 percent of the world’s population suddenly disappeared on October 14, 2011, and what’s going to happen on the seventh anniversary. A small group of people built a story around Kevin Garvey—that he was the Messiah. That all the grief and pain and weirdness they’ve experienced meant something, because if it doesn’t mean something then what the fuck is the point?

The previous episode, “The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother),” dealt with this narrative. After the anniversary comes and goes, and the world doesn’t end with a Biblical flood, the characters have to pick themselves up and trudge forward. The series finale zeroed in on the stories Kevin and Nora tell themselves, and each other, to explain the last 20 years or so of their lives together and apart.

Kevin shows up at Nora’s door in a far-flung Australian town, many years after the events surrounding the Sudden Departure, armed with a story about when they met and how they hadn’t spoken since. For Kevin, this story gives them a chance to start over after their traumatic breakup many years earlier. In Episode One of Season Three, Kevin even says to Nora: “We have to work on our story.”

Ben King/HBO



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