“We’re all gone,” Laurie tells Kevin when he asks about the whereabouts of Nora, his now ex-girlfriend. Laurie, having pulled the old Jimmy McGill dollar-for-doctor-patient-confidentiality trick, can’t tell Kevin the truth, that she’s decided to take her chances with the machine and hope it takes her back to her departed family. But maybe Laurie ends up telling Kevin an even bigger truth. “We’re all gone.”
What does Laurie mean by that? I think she means that — no matter what happens on its 7th Anniversary, for so many people, the world ended on Departure day. The last seven years have been the epilogue. In some ways, it is a lot like Damon Lindelof’s other series, Lost. These characters are in a sort of purgatory, somewhere between life and death, and I think they’re searching for their own peace, or a release from the grief. Their heads were cut off on October 14, 2011, and for the last seven years, they have been the chickens running around in death throes, searching for an answer that might undo the grief or give them their heads back.
That answer is not going to come, and so these characters must settle for acceptance before they can travel over to the other side. That’s what Laurie has done in this episode: She’s made peace with her death, and now it’s just a matter of logistics: Jump in the water, turn the knob, make it official. She couldn’t do it the last time, before she joined the Guilty Remnant, because she had not yet found her peace.
Before she left, she made sure that Kevin is OK — and he is, the hallucination of Evie notwithstanding. Kevin is on his own journey to acceptance; it’s just that death will continue to reject him until he finds his own peace. Laurie also helped Nora find her destination, but we know that Nora survives the Departure anniversary. We see her later on as an older lady, presumably still carrying around the burden of her grief, unsatisfied with the answers the machine sought to provide. Laurie also helped terminally ill Matt find his way last week in the form an of understanding between Matt and the Universe that everything he has believed all his life is a crock of shit. Unburdened from his religion, Matt, too, finds his peace, and on his way out the door, Matt can finally see past his own narcissism and be there for his sister. It’s a touching moment amidst the overwhelming melancholy.
Laurie was a therapist; her life was about helping other people find their peace. With the people most important to her, she’s done that now. Seven years before, she couldn’t do that with the patient who came to her after her baby disappeared. She had no answers for that woman, nor for herself, suffering from her own grief about losing a child in utero. But having set Kevin, Matt, and Nora on their paths, and ensured that her children are OK, Laurie found her own peace and made official a death that was set in motion seven years back.
She is gone — and Amy Brenneman said as much in an interview with The Daily Beast — although Laurie will return in the finale in two weeks, presumably in another realm. “Rather than it being a binary life/death suicidal life-ending, this is a post-Departure world where people are talking about other realms all the time,” Brenneman said.
Her realm is outside of this world now. But I don’t think the 7th Anniversary of The Departure will mean an end for everyone, and definitely not for those like Erika, Tom, and Jill, who have found ways to let go of their grief and live happily in this world. It’s an artificial date that only carries meaning for those who haven’t figured out how to move on, an anniversary that will hasten their search for answers, answers that will either free them from this world or allow them to move on in it.
“We’re all gone,” Laurie tells Kevin. There’s some truth in that for all of us. We’re all on an island in Hawaii, searching for answers, blindly pushing the button, typing in the same sequence of numbers every 108 minutes as we obliviously float through our lives unless and until we’re confronted with our own Departure moment. Will it lead us on a search for meaning? Will the weight of unknowing kill us? Or will we find a way to make peace with the unsolvable and “let the mystery be” and move on, either in our own lives or in another realm?
For Damon Lindelof, burdened all these years by a botched ending to Lost, I think The Leftovers will finally allow him to heal and move on, as well. The same can be said for the rest of us. It’s not that The Leftovers is providing the answers that Lost could not; it’s that The Leftovers has taught us to accept that there are no answers.