The penultimate episode of The Leftovers draws the events of the season into perspective as more characters descend upon Jarden. Only this time they harbour great ill-will.
Let’s bitch it out…
Let’s give a slow clap to Liv Tyler, who successfully expands her monstrous performance from ‘Off Ramp’ into a full-fledged character study of madness in ‘Ten Thirteen.’ It’s significant that we’ve only seen Meg a few times this season; despite her scattered appearances, her evolution into a full-blown villain (or the nearest thing that The Leftovers has to one) doesn’t feel awkward or out of left field. Part of this is because of the way that Tyler has played Meg’s simmering rage at the world, even back in the first season when Meg appeared to be little more than a lost, wounded housewife. ‘Ten Thirteen’ proves that Meg didn’t slowly fall away from her husband in the aftermath of the Sudden Departure simply because she was grieving the loss of her mother. The opening scene proves that Meg has been broken and hurting for a long time. The circumstances of the new October 14 world simply allow her to act on her impulses because people are willing to form militant off-shoots of the Guilty Remnant.
This penultimate episode does a lot of careful maneuvering to lock circumstances into place for the finale, but it never sacrifices the series’ primary focus on character. ‘Ten Thirteen’ works primarily because of Tyler’s performance and a substantial part of her flashbacks are dedicated to Meg’s evolution into the psycho she has become. All of this character work complements the narrative work of laying the foundation for an attack on Jarden’s bridge, the only place on earth that dares to feel “safe” because its residents were “spared”. Of course from our adventures within the city’s limits, Jarden is anything but the utopia those camped out believe it to be, but that doesn’t matter. One way or another, the bloodless acts of aggression that Meg has been working through (including that horrifying scene with the fake grenade and the school bus) are about to spill over into real violence in next week’s finale.
Unfortunately as much praise as I want to heap on the episode, it’s hard not to feel frustrated whenever we cut back to Chris Zylka’s Tommy. Zylka’s performance back in ‘Off Ramp’ was amazing – I remember heaping similar kinds of praise on him then – but in this case Tommy is little more than a (literal) passenger on Meg’s journey. Obviously it ups the stakes to bring him to Jarden so that the entire Garvey family is reunited for emotional fireworks in the finale, but Tommy doesn’t do much more than get pissed off at Laurie (Amy Brenneman) for pimping him out and tagging along with Meg. The former development has been expected since Laurie called Nora in ‘Lens’ and appeared at the bridge in ‘A Most Powerful Adversary’; the latter stretches credibility a little too far unless we want to believe that Tom really wanted an answer as to why Meg raped him.
Either way, all of our main cast are now settled in and around Jarden for next week’s finale. If last year’s finale is any indication, it should be a barn burner.
- I was happy to have my expectations defied regarding the content of the trailer. Given the nature of Meg’s talk, I fully expected a bomb, so it was a pleasant surprise to see Evie (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and her missing friends decked out in full Remnant whites.
- The explanation for Meg’s rape of Tom in ‘Off Ramp’ don’t entirely satisfy. It’s clear that she messed with him in order to send him and Laurie a message, but her suggestion that she wanted to impregnate him is little more than a flippant line. Or perhaps Meg is better at towing the Guilty Remnant rhetoric than even she realizes and explanations truly are useless.
- It’s fun to see Adina Porter show up briefly as the unhappy leader of the Guilty Remnant board questioning Meg’s recent slate of non-condoned actions.
- Side Bar: have we heard about the incidents with the dogs that are referenced at the inquiry? Is this a reference to the woman who abandons her dog at the park later? Are Guilty Remnant members abducting pets?
- In flashbacks, Meg visits Isaac (Darius McCrary), the town’s psychic whose house was burned down by John Murphy in the premiere. Judging from her reaction, Isaac tells Meg exactly what she didn’t want to hear (likely an inane detail of her mother’s final thoughts), which presumably help cement Jarden as a target in her mind years later.
- Meg’s chance meeting with Evie on the park bench not only draws a connection between them, but Evie’s stilted reaction to a joke that Guilty Remnant members would undoubtedly appreciate of (the punchline is “pointless”) hints at the episode’s big reveal.
- I find it fascinating that Meg and her splinter group adheres to some Guilty Remnant practices (smoking, not speaking, stoning), but not others (wearing white). Why adopt only some? How are those decisions made?
- Finally, the scene between Meg and Matt (Christopher Eccleston) in the tent city is electric. As always Matt just can’t help pushing people’s buttons, reminding Meg about how he baited her about her mother’s death back in S1. I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised if she had produced a gun and shot him right then and there (though I’m sure whatever she has planned for next week’s finale will be so, so much worse).
- Evie (to Meg): “I’m sorry you didn’t find what you were looking for here. No one ever does.”
- Meg (when she doesn’t get the answer she wants from the GR council): “Don’t give me that mysterious bullshit. That’s what we tell them.”
- Tom (when Meg asks what he’s doing on the compound): “I wanted to follow you.” Meg: “I don’t want you to follow me.”
Your turn: what did you think of Meg as a master villain / psycho? Did you groan when we returned to Tom’s point of view? Were you expecting a bomb in the trailer or violence during Meg’s conversation with Matt? What kind of attack does Meg have planned and how will it feed into all of the other dangling plot threads (Kevin’s resurrection, his hand print being flagged by John, Virgil’s death, Nora’s disappearance and Jill’s reunion with Laurie)? Sound off below.
The Leftovers airs its season finale next Sunday at 9pm EST on HBO