'The Leftovers': Finally, an episode about someone who actually lost someone in the Departure

We've seen a lot of reactions to the Departure so far on The Leftovers. Mostly, we spend time with the Garvey family, who didn't actually lose anyone to the Departure, even though that's a little weird, given the premise of the series. We see how the Guilty Remnant has reacted. We see how the religious leaders of Mapleton have reacted. Really, by episode 6, "Guest," we've seen just about every reaction except one from someone really, personally affected by the Departure.

Enter: Nora Durst.

You may remember Nora from the pilot. She's the woman who was called to speak at Mapleton's remembrance event because she lost not one, not two, but three members of her family (her husband and two children). Nora feels a pain that not many do, even in a post-Departure world. She lost her entire family to the Departure, something that we learn is a 1-in-128,000 chance. She also works for the government, for the newly-formed Department of Sudden Departure. She speaks at conferences and she drinks too much. She keeps buying the sugary kiddie cereal her children liked, but never eats it. Oh, and she hires hookers to shoot her in the chest.

-Record scratch.-

Yes, you read that right. Nora's coping mechanism for her loss involves donning a bulletproof vest and paying call girls thousands of dollars to shoot her in the chest. It knocks the wind out of her and makes her feel, presumably, close enough to death to feel closer to her family, but it doesn't kill her.

Like pretty much everything about this show, this scene seems intended to be profound and shocking, but it reads more as desperate and sad. Is there a "normal" way to grieve? Of course not. And even if there were, would those rules of normalcy apply to the tragedy of losing your entire family to a mysterious, somewhat-mystical worldwide disappearing act? Probably not. But what's the point of making Nora's experience of grief so extreme and out of left field? There doesn't seem to be one. Throughout the rest of the episode, we certainly see a portrait of a woman on the edge, but nothing to suggest that she would resort to such dangerous and potentially-destructive behavior.

It feels like every episode of The Leftovers is just an attempt to outdo itself on the WTF scale. In this episode alone, and in no particular order, Nora:

  • Hires a prostitute to shoot her in the chest
  • Makes out with a dummy used to sell fake versions of the Departed to loved ones (so they'll have something tangible to bury or burn or Lars and the Real Girl in their basements)
  • Screams "F--k your daughter!" at Chief Garvey when he refuses her offer to run away to Miami on a whim
  • Parties with a group of hooligans at the conference she's set to speak on a panel at
  • Pays a thousand dollars to Holy Wayne to have her negative post-Departure feelings cleansed

More and more, I feel like The Leftovers is a social experiment in self-punishment and I'm one of the study's subjects.