The Leftovers is a show built on sadness, loss, and grief. We wouldn’t expect anything less from a drama that deals with what happens when 2% of the population vanishes without explanation. But after three years of the most grim storylines in TV history, The Leftovers still managed to outdo itself in the depressing department with season 3's "Don’t Be Ridiculous."
The Nora-focused installment starts off sadly enough when the fraud investigator gets a call from real-life actor Mark Linn-Baker of Perfect Strangers claiming he can help her see her children again. Although Nora is suspicious, she still boards a plane from Jarden, Texas to Saint Louis, Missouri to get all the details. The full story of what Mark’s "third party" is doing is, unsurprisingly, awful.
Scientists found radiation at Departure sites and reasoned if they could recreate that energy, they could send people to wherever the 2% went. That also means they’re blasting live humans with radiation, or as Nora explains, "incinerating them," since that’s what massive amounts of radiation does.
After hearing about this likely murderous scheme and seeing testimonials of 119 people who have "gone through," Nora goes on the saddest road trip in history from Saint Louis to Eminence, Kentucky.
It’s a mystery as to why Nora’s heading there until we see her stop at a playground. After wondering where baby Lily has been for nearly two episodes we have our answer: 1,100 miles from Nora.
The devastated mom is happy to see the little girl she loves so much is doing well, until a boy steals Lily’s toy shovel. Soon enough Nora is marching over to the kid to give him a piece of her mind and take her adopted daughter’s possession back. As Nora returns Lily’s toy, the child asks the most upsetting question possible, saying, "Who are you?" Nora’s face falls because there’s no easy answer. As the woman blankly stares at Lily, it’s impossible not to think about the season 2 finale, when Nora shielded Lily with her own body during the bridge stampede.
This is when Lily’s biological mom Christine (Annie Q.) enters the frame to ask Nora what she’s doing there. Nora stutters out an answer and runs away — it’s possibly the last time she’ll see the little girl again. When she gets to the car she sees she's still clutching the toy shovel, now she's the one who stole it from Lily. Nora throws the piece of plastic out of the car and sobs on her drive to the air port.
In a scene with Tom (Chris Zylka) later, we learn Christine realized the error of her ways some time over the last four years and filed for custody of Lily. Nora didn’t fight back and simply gave her adopted daughter back to her biological mom. This would be heartbreaking for anyone, but we know Nora lost both of her children and her husband in the Sudden Departure. The odds of that happening are almost impossible at 1 in 128,000.
Now Nora’s lost a third child, who doesn’t even remember she exists. With only a few episodes of The Leftovers left, let's hope Nora gets a win soon.