‘The Leftovers’ Director Mimi Leder Finally Reveals What She Thinks Happened in the Finale

     October 21, 2019

One of the much-need good things happening in our year of the lord 2019 is the fact that The Leftovers team is thriving. Carrie Coon is one of the headliners in the upcoming Ghostbusters reboot. Damon Lindelof (along with fellow Leftovers creatives Nicole Kassell, Nick Cuse, Lila Byock, and Carly Wray) and Regina King are about to unleash the spectacular HBO Watchmen adaptation. Justin Theroux has a voice role in the upcoming live-action Lady and the Tramp. And Mimi Leder, who was an EP and directed 10 episodes, is about to launch the star-studded Apple TV+ series The Morning Show.

Leder directed episodes in all three seasons, including standouts like ‘The Prodigal Son Returns’, ‘A Matter of Geography’, and the absolutely stunning series finale ‘The Book of Nora’. Written by Lindelof and book author Tom Perrotta, the episode will undoubtedly go down as one of the best finale’s in TV history — as much for the questions it refuses to answer as the more existential and philosophical ones that it does.


Image via HBO

What exactly happened? Did Nora travel to her departed family and somehow find a way to come back to our reality? Was she making the whole damn thing up? We will likely never know for sure. Coon has vowed never to reveal how she played the scene, and Lindelof has likewise said he intends to keep mum. After all, the beauty of it is in the interpretation. However, with The Morning Show arriving on Apple TV+ at launch on November 1, we had the chance to sit down with Leder and the filmmaker finally revealed her take on what happened.

Leder explained:

“I think that people have belief systems, and I think she believes she went through because I think we all need stories to tell ourselves to get through this life. We tell ourselves stories to survive. So, do I think she went through? No.”

If you need a recap of what went down, the finale follows Nora on her journey to reconnect with her family — the husband and two children she lost in the Departure — by attempting an alleged form of experimental travel to wherever the heck it is the departed went to. We see Nora get into the machine, we see it fire up and start to fill with liquid, and just as the fluid overtakes her, Nora gasps and seems to shout something before the scene cuts.


Image via HBO

When we next see her and Kevin, it’s decades later, and Nora claims she traveled to the other side, only to see that her family was happy in their new life, decide it wasn’t her place to impose after all these years, and tracked down a way back to our reality. As Nora recounts in her confession to Kevin, “In a world full of orphans they still had each other and I was a ghost. I was a ghost who had no place there.”

Since the finale, there’s been a lot of speculation about how much, if any, of Nora’s story was true. But for those on team “Nora Was Lying,” Leder isn’t the only Leftovers alumnus with that take. Earlier this year, Theroux finally revealed his take and the actor is also on the didn’t happen train.

“My theory is that she’s lying to me,” Theroux told EW. “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. So I think it’s a defense mechanism.”

There’s certainly plenty to hint that Nora was, in fact, lying — her insistence on the truth with Kevin, her last-minute gasp in the machine, the insanely detailed version of the events she tells presents (people who are lying often over-embellish to make their stories more believable), the incredible unlikelihood that she would have been able to make her way back to our reality — but as Leder eloquently explained, the point isn’t what really happened, it’s what Nora needs to believe to finally come to terms with her loss. As Kevin so eloquently put it, in the end, all that really matters is “you’re here.”

For more on The Leftovers finale, be sure to check out our in-depth chat with Lindelof.