This season of The Leftovers has incorporated technology in subtle and fascinating ways. We analyze the most recent episode, “G’Day Melbourne”.
Halfway through its final season, The Leftovers continues to amaze. Each episode is packed with indelible moments (the trampoline! Lindsay Duncan!), gathering emotional potency so gradually that you don’t realize you’re being punched in the gut. The latest hour, “G’Day Melbourne”, was perhaps the most painful yet, as Kevin and Nora set fire to their relationship (cue Adele).
As tempting as it is to write 1,000 words of glorified fan fiction, though, something else is on my mind. Namely: what’s the deal with technology on this show?
Technology has figured prominently throughout season 3. In the premiere, Matt rigged a speaker system to address his growing congregation. Every electronic machine Nora touched in “Don’t Be Ridiculous” seemed to malfunction. In “Crazy Whitefella Thinking”, Kevin Garvey Sr. toted a decades-old cassette tape through the Australian wilderness like a charm.
“G’Day Melbourne” involves Nora flying across the globe to find a device that may or may not really exist. But its interest ultimately lies in more mundane technology. Here are three moments that stood out to us:
The hotel TV
Nora isn’t the only Leftovers character who struggles with technology. Alone in their hotel room while Nora investigates the LADR scientists, Kevin tries to turn off the flat-screen television, but it doesn’t respond. He does manage to switch the channel to a local daytime news show, where the hosts chat about pancakes. Staving off panic, he calls the concierge, who assures him that this “happens sometimes” and the TV will be reset.
A defective remote turns out to be the least of Kevin’s worries. His reading of Matt’s book gets interrupted when one G’Day Melbourne host casually remarks, “I sure hope no one watching is named Kevin.” For a second, it seems as though she is speaking directly to him. But no, it’s just his dad causing trouble again. More startling is the face he notices in the background: Evie.
Even before the ghost sighting, the scene has an eerie vibe, recalling the last time Kevin was alone in a hotel room. Then, he communicated with his drugged-out father through a TV. What if he somehow wound up back in purgatory? What if he never left? In The Leftovers, machines are like nature: fickle, unfathomable, and cruelly indifferent to human suffering. You’re just as likely to find God in a television news report as in a burning bush. When technology doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to (a toaster gets jammed, a touchscreen freezes, an image distorts reality), it is more than an inconvenience. It’s an existential rebuke, a reminder that you aren’t in control.
The turning point of “G’Day Melbourne” occurs when Kevin calls Laurie for a second time, demanding to know the truth about “Evie”. It seems as though half the conversations in The Leftovers these days take place over the phone, from Mark Linn-Baker contacting Nora to Senior berating Matt for his book.
Director Daniel Sackheim, working with cinematographer Robert Humphreys, frames Kevin and Laurie’s conversation mostly in a series of close-ups. This creates a feeling of intimacy, but also of isolation. Neither character is truly alone, but for the time being, “Evie” and John fade into the background; they might as well have disappeared. Humphreys also emphasizes the physical and emotional distance between Kevin and Laurie through lighting: he is surrounded by beige, while she’s bathed in neon red. Each point-of-view switch comes as a jolt, as if we’re jumping between worlds rather than merely countries.
But it’s also important to note that this is the episode’s most honest conversation. Laurie, ever the therapist, deconstructs Kevin’s delusion with cold precision. Somehow, her absence lends her added authority. It’s like talking to a priest at confession, or to, well, God; there’s something oddly soothing about a voice without a body.
Nora returns to the hotel shaken by yet another rejection, this time by Dr. Bekker and Dr. Eden. Either out of need or some kind of rebellious impulse, she lights a cigarette, covering the room’s smoke detector with tin foil. It’s not one of the show’s subtler metaphors (she’s trying to hide!), but it nonetheless effectively illustrates Nora’s mental state.
During their subsequent argument, Kevin and Nora’s defenses are shattered, as long-buried fears and resentments come to the surface. Yet, even as they pour salt on each other’s deepest wounds, it’s clear that they don’t truly understand one another. We know that, unlike his father, Kevin has no desire to save the world; he’s too busy trying to save himself. And we know that Nora likes nothing less than being pitied; it forces her to acknowledge her loss. Still, the accusations expose something true – an emptiness that neither person knows how to fill.
Of course, the instant that Kevin storms out the room, the smoke detector goes off, activating an alarm and sprinkler. There’s nothing inherently bizarre about this; Kevin just lit a book on fire, and tin foil is only so strong. But the timing seems too deliberate to be coincidental. Some would interpret it as a sign of divine judgment, karmic punishment for all the lies Kevin and Nora told. They can hide from each other and even themselves, but not God.
The Leftovers airs Sundays at 9 p.m. EST on HBO.