Damon Lindelof’s HBO drama series “The Leftovers” has been off the air for just under two years now, but that hasn’t stopped fans from theorizing about what exactly happened in the acclaimed series finale. The last episode, “The Book of Nora,” was written by Lindelof and Tom Perrotta and intentionally kept a major narrative question ambiguous: Was Nora (Carrie Coon) lying about the machine that transported her to an alternative dimension where the departed went? Leading man Justin Theroux says the character wasn’t telling the truth.
“My theory is that she’s lying to me,” Theroux told Entertainment Weekly. “And she didn’t go to this other place, and she’s using that to try and get me to leave or to not be with her. It’s sort of implied, because our show, a lot of times when people would have monologues or say things, we’d flash back to those events. And in that monologue, there’s no flashback to the event.”
A majority of fans have long considered Theroux’s interpretation to be the correct one for the series finale. When Nora enters the machine chamber to be transported to see her departed family, the scene progresses in a way where it becomes unclear whether or not Nora went through with the transportation or asked to be removed. The show uses a jump cut to leap decades in the future, where Nora is now living in isolation in Australia. Theroux’s Kevin shows up on her doorstep and plays into a history where Nora actually transported to the other dimension. The series’ final moments find Nora recalling what happened during her trip and Kevin tearfully saying he believes her.
“I think it’s a defense mechanism,” Theroux explained about the lie both Nora and Kevin tell each other they believe. “She’s like, I’m going to tell him this story and he’s gonna go, ‘You’re bats— crazy’ and he’s gonna leave. And he ends up saying, ‘I don’t care, you’re here, you’re the love of my life, and so I’m going to stay with you.’”
Keeping the ending semi-ambiguous was a choice used by Lindelof and Perrotta to keep the show firmly rooted in the themes it first started exploring in the pilot episode. As Perrotta explained in June 2017, “The show has been a lot about faith and religion, and I think the finale put that into action. It asked the viewers and the characters to believe in a story.”
“The Leftovers” is now streaming in its entirety on HBO GO.