Since the start of the season, Nora’s arm has been in a cast. How she broke her arm has been a mystery thus far. It wasn't an accident. Nora, who doesn’t shy away from playing fire with self-harm (she used to have people shoot her while she wore body armor), slammed a car door closed on her hand to cover up a Wu-Tang tattoo, itself a cover-up of a tattoo she’d gotten of her Departed children’s names. Rather than show how raw she still was over her missing children so many years later, rather than having to explain the embarrassing tattoo to Kevin, she slammed a car door closed on her hand in the parking lot of the hospital. Seems a little extreme?
Now, she has a tattoo of the Wu-Tang Clan (or “Wu-Tang Band,” as she tells Erika—Regina King—on her way back to St. Louis, where she was visiting Mark Linn-Baker of Perfect Strangers, about a way to go to the other side, where the Departed are. (I’ll explain later).
Clearly, Nora is unraveling.
In town, it’s cult business as usual. When one of the locals falls from atop the tower and dies, his death is quickly chalked up to be a Departure. Kevin wants to just move on from the incident and let the man’s wife think he died; Nora, playing Scully to Kevin’s Mulder, is intent on making sure everyone knows that the man died a normal, natural death (a heart attack). She’s tired of everyone’s religious fucking bullshit. It’s the first inkling of a rift between the two.
Her brother, the preacher Matt, isn’t helping. He buried the guy, but he’s letting everyone in the town think the death was divine, too. “He deserves a legacy,” he says, but Nora forces him to show her where the man is buried.
That’s just a sidebar, though. The real action happens when she gets a weird phone call from a stranger as she’s driving home: “Would you like to see your children again?” the voice asks.
Skeptical, but intrigued, Nora is lured out to a hotel in St. Louis. She half convinces herself that she’s investigating the call “for work,” but she really thinks there’s a way to see her departed children again. The man is Linn-Baker playing himself. “Everything that matters is up there in the cloud,” he says, when he junks her phone in the toilet.
He tells her that scientists have found a way to send people to where the Departed went—through a specific kind of radiation. People, using this device, can “go through.”
Nora is skeptical: “They are not sending people to some magical place. They are incinerating them.”
(I’ll pause here: Damon Lindelof, if this turns out to be a fucking time-traveling device, I will have your head.)
Nora leaves with a thumb-drive of testimonials from people who’ve gone through. She’s still intrigued/skeptical when she watches them later, but the mere possiblity sends her into an emotional spiral (she smokes like a bad girl in the hotel room) and the next day she drives to Kentucky to see Lily, the baby she had briefly watched, where she lives with her mother, Christine, safe and out of the cult.
Throughout the episode, in the airport, in the car, basic technology fails Nora. She can’t get out of the parking lot using the machine, she can’t use the car’s GPS, and weirdest still, she can’t select whether or not a baby will be flying with her on her lap (it will only allow for her to have a baby). These scenes recall the supernatural creepiness from Lost, and give the episode an extra delicious layer of foreboding. It pushes Nora over the edge so she drives to Erika on her way back to St. Louis.
After she tells Erika the story of the tattoo, they go outside and jump on a trampoline in Erika’s backyard. The camera shows them in slow-motion gracefully going up and down, staring at each other, not quite in joy, but in catharsis, as Wu-Tang’s “Protect Ya Neck” plays. It’s a stunning scene, and illustrates just how far The Leftovers has come in three seasons. Like an infant growing into a toddler learning how to walk, it’s finally found its footing. You could say it’s “gone through.”