Saying goodbye is never easy. But what if you said goodbye a long time ago, and have spent the years since in a fugue state of sorts, going through the motions, playing the good part, but existing on borrowed time?
The theme of suicide is heavy in “Certified,” a laser-focused portrait of Laurie, one of The Leftovers’ most beguiling and hard-to-know characters. The episode opens with Laurie’s first foray into the Guilty Remnant, the cult that incited the dissolution her family and free will, things that even after leaving she was never quite able to reclaim. Before officially joining, she’s working with a patient – the woman from the first first scene of the very first episode whose baby disappears during the Sudden Departure – and at a loss for words. How can she help people when she has no answers? The patient leaves, and Laurie swallows two bottles of pills, writes a suicide note, and lays down on her couch to pass on – before suddenly jolting awake. In a last-minute change of heart, she forces herself to throw up the pills, dresses herself in white, and heads outside to the GR members waiting for her. The fugue state begins.
Laurie has always been a difficult character to parse out. Why, for instance, did she join the Guilty Remnant? Compared to many, her loss was small-scale. She only really “lost” a baby that she admits, at the end of this episode, she never even wanted. That she’s so calcified post-Departure is a thread The Leftovers has had a hard time spinning. I’m not sure that “Certified” totally brings us up to speed with Laurie’s headspace, nor am I sure the ending – where she seemingly, finally, kills herself – is all that earned. But it’s nice to see the tender side of a woman that was once so hatable. It seems, in that end, that self-hatred was her defining feature. Her inability to heal – herself, her patients, her family – makes her a puzzle with a missing border. There’s nothing holding her together. “Certified” is her suicide note come to life. A last chance to make things right before quietly disappearing forever.
The episode buoys between Laurie’s time with Nora and Matt tracking down the afterlife-blasting physicists, and her time on the ranch with Kevin, Sr., Grace, John, and Michael. With Nora and Matt, she’s able to almost silently move Nora closer to the resolution of her journey. It’s clear that she’s seeking closure for the loss of her family, and now that she’s back with Matt, she’s a few steps closer to her endgame. Laurie really gets to wear her therapist pants again in these scenes, and it’s nice to see her in her element. It’s also nice to see her softness around Nora, how these women who’ve shared a partner can ascend that commonalty and find peace in a different scope. Before she heads to the ranch, she leaves Nora and Matt at the site of the physicist blasting point, near the water. It’s not exactly clear what’s going to happen – are Nora and Matt going to try to cross over together? – but it’s a thematically resonant moment for Laurie, who brought these two together and leaves them with something like hope. Her final patients.
At the ranch, she’s brought up to speed with Kevin, Sr. and Grace’s plan for her ex-husband, who is off on a horse ride trying to decide what to do. They’re going to drown him so that he can go into the afterlife and learn a song that he can bring back with him to prevent the Great Flood. Sure. Laurie’s not totally on board, but she doesn’t fight them either – instead, she listens to each of their reasonings, and, through the empathy she’s spent a lifetime consuming, seems to condone their choice. These are all people looking for something. John wants Evie to know she was loved, Grace wants to know where her children left their shoes. Through their concerns, Laurie’s apathy is realized. They’re looking for answers, but she’s not looking for anything.
That’s why her final meeting with Kevin is so brutal. After drugging everyone in the ranch with tranquilizers, she waits for Kevin to show up. He finally does, and they spend a touching final moment together. She finally tells him about the baby they lost, and they both agree they weren’t ready for another child. She lets him keep the lighter Jill gave her in season one, when she was still in the Guilty Remnant, the one with the words “don’t forget me” engraved on its side. It’s her passing that message from her child onto her ex-husband. “Don’t forget me,” she all but says aloud. Kevin is ready for his big change, and so is she – but hers involves stepping aside, so that everything else can come together.
“Is Nora gone?” Kevin asks Laurie as she walks away into the darkness.
“We’re all gone,” she says with a sad smile.
And then we see her on a boat. Alone, except for a man steering her out into the water. She’s in scuba gear. It becomes immediately apparent what’s going on – earlier in the episode, Nora gave a speech about how if she wanted to kill herself, she’d go scuba diving, because there are so many ways of making death look like an accident while you’re under. Laurie, the wind in her hair, surrounded by blue, looks tranquil in a way we’ve never seen her. Before she can jump in, her kids call her to ask about some trivial video Jill used to like as a kid. Laurie remembers the title, and smiles and cries while she speaks casually to her kids for what is likely the last time. “I love you, mommy,” they both say. It’s heartbreaking, and is a last-second reminder that Laurie – despite the sympathy she’s perhaps raked up along the way – has an incurable cold streak. Too weak for the world, too weak for her loved ones, she’s punishing them with her absence once again. But this time, she’s finally ready for what that means.
This week’s opening theme song: “1-800 Suicide” by Gravediggaz. A little on the nose.
Kevin, Sr. refers to Laurie as “Lorelai.” Was this always her full name?
Laurie drives a stolen VW van, which looks a lot like the Dharma vans from Lost, except it’s yellow and not turquoise.
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