Ham Grenade

With The Leftovers in full spiritual self-delight, Meg arrives to blow it all up. Thank God! (And Liv Tyler.)

I've mentioned before that The Leftovers is at its best when it's not getting hung up in Kevin's hangups. As weird and entertaining as last week's death trip was, it also didn't add up to much in the end, and served as a reminder that you never see The Leftovers sweat so much as when it's trying to make stories work for Kevin. Contrast this with its best episodes, which are always the Kevin-less ones: the Laurie & Tom and Nora & Erika team-ups from this season; and last season's individual Matt and Nora episodes. This week's entry, the mostly-Meg outing "Ten Thirteen," makes a case not only for Meg as a far scarier villain than Patti, but also for Liv Tyler as an actor of some ability.

Here's the rundown. We open on Meg pre-Departure (aka 10/13), having lunch with her mother. Meg goes to the ladies' for some cocaine; when she returns, her mother's collapsed on the floor, the restaurant staff fruitlessly administering CPR. Then she visits Miracle, Texas, with her fiancé, where they're among the first outside tourists, and where Meg stops in to see Isaac, he of the psychic handprints. In the wake of her mother's death and the weirdness of 10/14, Meg's been visiting psychics across the country. But Isaac is different: he can tell Meg exactly what her mother said to the waiter at lunch that day, and he can tell her what her mother was going to say when Meg interrupted her to go do that bathroom cocaine. Meg leaves, claiming the psychic was a phony, and she spits on Miracle before getting back on the bus.

Cut to the present, where Meg and the GR storm a school bus, toss a de-pinned grenade down the aisle, and bolt the door shut with a crowbar. The fact that the grenade's a dummy is the only thing that keeps me from declaring Meg the Bane of The Leftovers; her penchant for terrifying pranks may put her more in league with The Joker.

The shift in Meg from Season 1 to 2 was palpable when she nearly set Tom Garvey on fire. Here in S2, she's nearly a whole other person. Where Laurie Garvey was shaken and freed by the carnage at the end of the first season, Meg was solidified. She's become a terrifying rogue even within the Guilty Remnant: she's been contacting the heads of other GR houses; she's been planning some unknown action for the 10/14 anniversary; and she's the one who, when a GR member starts scribbling on a pad, snaps, "Just fucking tell me." You know, like any of us would.

And that's maybe what's so scary about New Meg: she's not some over-the-top, monologizing villain. She's, instead, a person who used to be scared and who now carries herself with a startling amount of solidity and authority. She's definitely living her Best Life, Meg is, and she's not interested in compromise. And what sells this is Liv Tyler's performance, which is so bemused and full of presence, yet which sidesteps the now-rote archetype of the wisecracking, smirking psychopath.

What's Meg's plan, by the way? We're not sure, but it definitely involves Miracle, Texas, where she takes Tom, and it definitely involves Evie and friends. Remember them? The ones who were Raptured up from the town where that never happened before? Well, it still hasn't. Meg has them, and she's keeping them in an Airstream in an outbuilding on the Jarden-area GR compound. But here's the thing: Tom finds them, but the girls don't want to be rescued. They're full-on converts with white duds and notepads, a reminder that there's nothing scarier or more dangerous than true believers, even ones who have to stop and write everything out longhand.

So that's where we are, leading into the S2 finale. Will Kevin get to town in time to stop whatever Meg's going to do? Who cares? Not me, not when Meg's the best thing going on The Leftovers right now.

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