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‘The Leftovers’ Review: A Certifiably Exceptional Episode 6 Bridges the Gap Between Belief and Insanity

"The Leftovers" dropped its most heartbreaking episode to date, in a study of suicide and purpose that culminated with an elegant ending both ambiguous and certain.

The Leftovers Amy Brenneman Season 3 Episode 6

Ben King/HBO

[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “The Leftovers” through Season 3, Episode 6, “Certified.”]

Immediate Reaction

Last week, I was sitting in the lower deck at a baseball game, near the wall where the field meets the fans . It was a sparsely populated affair, as the woeful Anaheim Angels were hosting the Chicago White Sox on a cold, cloudy Tuesday night, but the lower seats were populated by a few enthusiastic fans.

One of them brought a beach ball.

The ball started making its way around the crowd, each member joyfully punching the multi-colored orb back up toward the sky so the next lucky group could do the same. As I turned in my seat to catch sight of it, my first thought wasn’t, “Oh, I hope they hit it my way.” Instead, it was just fear; pure, instinctual fear. “Oh no,” I thought.

READ MORE: ‘The Leftovers’: Amy Brenneman on The Shocking Ending to Episode 6 and Laurie’s Powerful Change of Plans

And before I could even realize why I was so worried, before I could place why this ball was suddenly so important, an overly enthusiastic child took his swing at the beach ball and sent it rocketing over my head and into the outfield. And dutifully, without any evident emotion, the security guard seated just in front of me ran out, grabbed the ball, and immediately crushed it — sitting down and absorbing the ball into his chest, puncturing it with his fingers as his body pushed out all the air.

He tossed it under his seat and didn’t so much as glance back to the fans who were booing him; at the child who just wanted to play with a ball. And I thought:

“Why would he want to do that job? Why would anyone?”

The Leftovers Christopher Eccleston Carrie Coon Season 3 Episode 6

Nora is sick of being that person; of doing that job; of crushing the ball that brings people joy. And that was her job at the DSD. She determined whether or not people’s beliefs were valid, and she used her internal anger over the Sudden Departure to fuel a righteous crusade against those trying to take advantage of it. But now she’s tired of recording testimonials given with good intentions, but ultimately proven false. She’s tired of storming into her brother’s house and demanding he turn over the body of a man who claimed to be departed. She’s tired of disproving everything, especially the little things people cling onto just to keep going; to remain sane; to live.

LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘The Leftovers’ Review: The Most Profoundly Moving Boat Orgy Honoring a 92-Year-Old Lion You’ll Ever See

That job isn’t fun. The security guard at the Angels game doesn’t enjoy crushing that beach ball any more than Nora enjoyed blowing up the poster of The Man in the Tower’s corpse and putting it in front of his widow. That’s unchecked anger. That’s venting. Nora was and is at a breaking point, and even when Laurie tried to tell her that someone has to do that job or the world will burn, well, it doesn’t matter anymore.

“If he doesn’t, that ball is going to go onto the field, and it’ll be fucking chaos.”

Nora is ready to believe in something. And she doesn’t care about the chaos.

 Continue reading for the big questions heading into next week’s penultimate episode.

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