We've Got Hollywood Covered

‘Leftovers’ Star Amy Brenneman Dives Into Laurie’s Big Decision: ‘It’s a Real Sea Change’

Brenneman tells TheWrap about her journey to Australia, how Laurie has softened and what’s left of the series

(Spoiler alert: Please do not read on if you haven’t watched Sunday’s sixth episode of “The Leftovers”).

The characters of “The Leftovers” are always barreling toward some divine and usually-terrible truth — so when you couple that with the heavy task of delivering three final episodes, you get “certified.”

It’s number six out of eight, and it’s a beautiful showcase for many of the show’s players — Carrie Coon, Christopher Eccleston, Kevin Carroll, Scott Glenn and, of course, protagonist Justin Theroux — but none more potent than Amy Brenneman.

As therapist and former doomsday cult member Laurie Garvey, Brenneman has quietly held one of the most significant arcs on the Damon Lindelof series, and she saw a full circle moment on tonight’s episode.

Written by Patrick Somerville and Carly Wray and directed by Carl Franklin (“13 Reasons Why,” “House of Cards”), the episode lets Brenneman’s Laurie interact with each of the show’s increasingly-fractured character clusters leading to a breathtaking — and tear-jerking — final scene.

After Laurie makes peace with her former husband (Theroux), her current husband (Carroll) and bids a quick and sentimental farewell to her kids, Laurie follows through on a plan to take her own life — one suggested offhandedly by Coon’s Nora Durst.

TheWrap spoke to Brenneman about the wrenching episode and Laurie’s journey through three seasons.

A Matter of Time 

Off the bat, we get a flashback that’s tough to swallow — six years and change to the moment when two percent of the global population had vanished, inspiring questions about where they went and what it means for those left behind.

Laurie is shown in her therapy practice, sitting for a session with a mother who lost her infant son in the great “departure.” What we know from previous seasons is that Laurie was pregnant at the time of this mysterious event, in the midst of an ultrasound, in fact, and watched her own fetus vanish into thin air on the digital screen.

With no words of comfort for her grieving patient, Laurie dismisses her and quickly swallows every pill in her medicine cabinet. She writes a note, kicks off her heels and takes her own Freudian pose on the patient couch to die — but loses her nerve and finds some ipecac in a first aid kit.

The flashback is not intended to establish her suicidal tendencies, not the way I took it, but rather show the event that sparked her admittance to the aforementioned doomsday cult and former villain of “The Leftovers,” the Guilty Remnant. She bailed on them in season two.

Back in Australia … 

Laurie has now been read in on a serious (if not feverish) theory among her friends and family that her ex-husband is a Christ figure. Theroux’s Kevin Garvey has survived mortal wounds, been buried alive, shot in the chest, asphyxiates himself with plastic dry cleaning covers and still manages to get out of bed the next day.

The Laurie of old would bust out a straitjacket, but she succumbs to the group’s plan to track Kevin down in Australia and test their theory by drowning him and subsequently sending him to another realm. Why, you ask? Because they believe a massive flood is coming to reclaim the rest of the population and sweep the 98 percent leftovers into damnation.

“When you first meet Laurie, she’s hard like a knife. But this show, you think about her, is an exercise in her softening and softening and softening,” Brenneman told TheWrap. “It’s a scenario where people say, ‘I have these crazy beliefs, I’m going to do this crazy action and I know you’re going to judge me.’ But in each case, Laurie says, ‘I support you.’ It’s a real sea change.”
Not that old habits die easily. Laurie needs to engineer a situation where she can speak to Kevin in peace and make sure he knows what he’s in for, but the company of his apostles (Glenn, Carroll and some other believers) present a challenge. She spikes a stew with powerful animal tranquilizers, and Kevin happens upon Laurie enjoying her after-dinner coffee while everyone is passed out in their plates.

The subsequent conversation was not only Laurie and Kevin’s last moment, it was the last scene Brenneman and Theroux would shoot on the series.

“She wants their last interaction to be one of love and not one of judgment. If she can sense he’s genuinely OK with it, then she’s OK with it. That scene with Justin felt very special,” Brenneman said.

Clean, Quiet Certainty 

Earlier in the episode, Laurie is riding along wth Coon’s Nora, staking out a dubious pair of scientists claiming to have access to a machine that lets people see their departed loved ones (side note: “The Leftovers” is crawling with schemes like these, a micro-economy to help an entire global population process and heal from such an ambiguous loss).

Laurie criticizes the so-called machine, calling it an “elegant way to kill yourself.” Nora balks, and says a truly elegant way to go would be scuba diving. Accidents happen all the time for scuba divers.

“I know, I’m certified,” Laurie says.

Nora details the many ways to die underwater, including cutting off oxygen supplies.

“They’ll never know that you twisted the knob in the wrong direction because you wanted to. And just like that, you were gone. Clean, quiet certainty. Fully explained. Now that’s f–king elegant,” she says.

In the end, Laurie takes Nora’s advice. There’s a stunning shot of clouds brewing over the water where Laurie accepts one last call from her kids (Margaret Qualley and Chris Zylka), marvels at the sky and then flips backwards into the water.

The screen goes black, but the sounds of the sea play over credits.

Make no mistake about her fate, as Brenneman said Lindelof told her in no uncertain terms that “she does intend to go through with it.”

Depiction of suicide has been discussed widely lately, given the runaway success and subsequent panic over Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why,” on which Carl Franklin is also a director.

“I don’t think Laurie is suicidal. Like the rest of the cast, she is exploring the edges of consciousness,” Brenneman said.

Two episodes remain, and air on HBO Sundays at 9 p.m.