The Leftovers ep 9

imageAfter last week’s bizarre Limbo-based episode, this was another, albeit slightly less fantastical, first for The Leftovers – no Justin Theroux in it at all? I can’t remember a single other ep without Kevin Garvey and his furrowed brow making an appearance but he was out of the picture entirely this week as, despite son Tom and ex-wife Laurie dropping by, “Ten Thirteen” was all about Liv Tyler’s Meg.

Watching the battle for Meg’s soul last year, she seemed so unsure and vulnerable that, even after she got sucked into the Guilty Remnant, there was a real hope that she might break away and rejoin the rest of humanity. Of course, any remaining shred of that hope was obliterated by her single, devastating earlier appearance this season and this episode confirms it. Meg is in deep and she might well be breaking away, but it’s in the opposite direction; not only has she fully embraced the principles of the Remnant (apart from the not speaking – she doesn’t really abide by that one), but she’s now become too much of a zealot even for them.

Or for their management, anyway, since she’s risen up the ranks to House Leader and is building her own even more insane, ultra-violent cult-within-a-cult, setting her sights on invading the one place the Remnant can’t yet get a foothold in – Jarden.

Before we catch up with where she is now, however, the episode takes us back to the loss that arguably started her on this path in the first place, the death of her mother. Interestingly, it turns out that Meg’s pain isn’t so much about her grief as about her anger at not being allowed to grieve; as Isaac puts it, the day after she lost her mother, the Departure happened, and the world didn’t give a shit about either of them.

Of course, all the cocaine she was snorting prior  to her mother’s death suggests Meg wasn’t exactly A-okay before then, either. Is her attachment to the Remnant a case of her swapping one addiction for another? And could the real reason she wants them to “f*****g step it up” be that standing outside staring at people isn’t enough for her any more? She needs a bigger high?

Albeit it’s not my favourite one of the season, this is a daring, deftly-constructed episode, skilfully weaving in a number of disparate threads and characters, and trusting the audience to work hard enough to work it out for themselves as it jumps between time periods, developing not only Meg’s story, but Tom’s, Laurie’s and even, most audaciously of all, the mystery of the missing girls.

Meg’s loaded conversation with Matt is the highlight, I think, but her malicious little smile after a particularly shocking stunt with a school bus is terrifying and the final reveal of the ep with REDACTED in the trailer is a genuinely arresting, perfectly played surprise. (Or it would have been, had I not been spoiled for it beforehand – Hurrumph.)  Never mind last week’s folly, then, this is The Leftovers back on chilling, challenging form.