Confusion and The Leftovers can go hand in hand. In the previous episode, Kevin Garvey either had a psychotic break or a trip to limbo to detach himself from Patti. Dream logic is aplenty. But for those who remained patient — or those left confused and kept watching anyway — you are in for a treat. Because finally, finally, this show is delivering some answers in its penultimate episode of the season.

No, we’ll never learn what caused the Departure (or why or how), but we do learn (or begin to learn) just how every storyline is connected in this episode. And to do that, we need to spend time with The Leftovers most relentless character, Meg. Don’t be fooled by Liv Tyler’s airy, almost girlish portrayal of the woman — she’s easily the most terrifying, dangerous character on the show.

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A quick little recap on Meg: the former wild child’s mother died the day before the 14th, aka the day the world ended, and, three years later, finally caved to joining the Guilty Remnant after some pretty heavy stalking. Quickly after joining, however, Meg became its most ardent follower — until she disagreed with the cult/religion’s nonviolence stance (there was an incident with dogs and a rather terrifying incident with children on a school bus). Now she’s the HBIC who resents everyone who’s not in as much pain as she is, and in the guise of season 2, that means Miracle.

In some ways, it’s a brilliant, brilliant heist The Leftovers pulls off this season. Part of it is because of the way the episodes are structured, where each episode focuses on a handful of characters at a time. Without that structure, that twist may have been more apparent if we were jumping back and forth between the GR and Tom and Laurie and the Murphys and Garveys all season. But part of it just makes absolute sense on a thematic level to make us understand that the Guilty Remnant are in fact the Big Bad. And of course they’d be angry as hell that the town of Jarden, Texas, gets to forget when they are all about remembering. 

Meg was Always a Little Terrifying, Honestly

Last season was amateur play, basically. Sure, the Guilty Remnant may have stalked people, stolen home photos and stoned their fellow fallen GR members, but that was child’s play to what Meg has been doing. She’s terrifying children and dogs, pouring gasoline on a man she then sexually assaults and having trespassers stoned to death. This faction/offshoot of the Guilty Remnant are terrorists who won’t let you forget.

But before Meg was a terrorist, she was just a cokehead about to get married. She was always a little bit terrifying underneath the surface — her mother calls her “relentless” — and she was always in a bit of pain. We flash back to the last day of normalcy for the rest of the world — October 13 — to see her last few moments with her mother, who wanted to tell Meg something. One quickie trip for some blow in the bathroom, and her mother’s lying dead on the ground. And the next day? 

The world ended. It’s not “lucky” that her mother died the day before the world ended. It just is. Two years later and a few months after the Miracle National Park opens, Meg and her then-fiance visit the town for an audio tour and a meeting with Miracle’s psychic, Isaac (the dude who will have his house burned down in two year’s time). Meg’s there for answers, namely what her mother was going to say to her before she died, and has both an open mind and a bullcrap meter. Isaac cautions her that she may not like what she hears. She doesn’t, but we never know what is said before Liv goes to town and meets a compassionate Evie, setting the groundwork for the present…

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In Which the Guilty Remnant are Terrorists

Let’s not forget that. And Meg, as a leader of a house in the Guilty Remnant, is quite clearly creating her own sect. She rarely smokes, she encourages speaking in a conversation, she’s totally cool with violence. Plus, she has a plan to make people remember their pain.

First things first — she has to eliminate any other obstacles in that plan, re: Tom and Laurie. Remember how they’re creating their own cultish con by claiming that Tom can take away people’s pain with a hug? Well, they’re gaining quite the following. Laurie’s suggesting a more permanent space (which Tom calls a church) and more donations, but Tom can’t take it anymore because he’s still in pain. 

Until Meg shows up back in his life, determined to be the one helping people remember their pain, not forget it. Through crazy, random happenstance (and some truly crazy laughing on Meg’s part), the two travel down to Texas together for a little road trip. Meg teases that she’s about to commit to a really amazing plan, but Tom wants to know why she f*cked him (note: his words, not mine). So she stops to a local hoot and nanny bar for a quick minute. They down shots of whiskey, they bond over broken childhoods, they dance to a crooning country song, all until Liv delivers this weird blow: “[I f*cked you because] I wanted to get you pregnant.” And then she just skips out, leaving Tom (and everyone else) dumbfounded.

Shortly thereafter, the two arrive to a Guilty Remnant campground not far from Jarden where people may not wear white, but they smoke and use message pads and prepare for Meg’s big plan, hidden in the barn. Meg pretty much drops Tom as soon as they arrive because she has more pressing business to deal with — like stoning an innocent trespasser to death and sneaking off to the Miracle National Park campground.

And since this is The Leftovers, she runs into Matt Jamison, of all people. He instantly recognizes her (since she attacked him that one time) and she puts on the facade of an ex-Guilty Remnant. To Matt’s credit, he sees through that innocent smile to see something sinister lurking about. He realizes that this is the anniversary of her mother’s death and she must be in town for something big. As we see Tommy break into the barn, it is big: Evie and the missing Jarden girls are alive. Worse, they are members of the Guilty Remnant. 

It’s such a brilliant, calculated move so deeply entrenched in the story that it’s hard denying how brilliant it is. Remember how the girl seemed so quiet and distant when they were alone with one another, compared to when they sang in church and ran naked through the woods? That cynical, teenage-edge they had toward their town is about to explode in a big way.

Many lauded The Leftovers move away from the GR, but this episode clicks everything into place: they were always the Big Bad. This is another apocalyptic October the 14th stunt to make the town of Jarden — the 9,261 spared — remember that they were not spared from pain. And it’s glorious. 

Other Thoughts

  • Shout out to Liv Tyler for a great performance. Everyone gives their A-game on The Leftovers, but there’s this quiet edge Tyler brings to the role this season. Hollywood should make her a villain in a blockbuster since she’s easily as captivating as any other villain.
  • I’m glad we didn’t see much of Tom and Laurie’s cult/new religion stuff. It would feel like a retread and we don’t need to see their fallout too much.
  • My only major gripe with season 2 is how little Jill’s been on-screen. But that should be rectified soon enough.

The Leftovers airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO.

(Image courtesy of HBO)

Emily E. Steck

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV