That knot of tension that you’re feeling in your stomach after watching this week’s episode of The Leftovers? That’s not going anywhere for at least another seven days. It may linger for even longer than that, seeing as it has been building and growing more taut for the past nine weeks now—all to gear us up for what’s going to be a momentous series-ending episode.
We know this for sure now, after the return of Meg into our televisual lives and the slow reveal that her faction of the Guilty Remnant are planning something big for the anniversary of The Departure. There were mentions of plastic explosives and that pointed moment of her going to inspect the bridge. On the surface, it seems pretty obvious what is going to go down next week, but if this show has proven anything this season, it’s that there are zero guarantees.
Like the return of Evie and her two friends. It seems now perfectly logical that they’ve been kidnapped or, at best, wooed away from Jarden by the Guilty Remnant as part of their long-term plan to shake at the foundations of this supposedly blessed town. But for the past few weeks, I was strangely comfortable and a little impressed that the show would introduce this character, only to snatch her away and keep her gone for the rest of the season. That felt like further evidence of how Damon Lindelof and crew are playing by their own rulebook, and tossing aside as many of the conventions of episodic television as they can get away with.
There’s a strange comfort, however, in knowing how much Lindelof and his writers (in the case of this episode, former Parenthood producer Monica Beletsky) are still sticking to some of the narrative precepts that guide short run series like this. So many of the scenes in this hour felt like the tumblers falling into place as you dial in the combination on a padlock. Of course Evie makes an appearance early in the episode. She has to prime us for her return at the end. And now it makes sense why Matt decided to stick behind at the camp outside of Jarden. He had to have that one big tense scene with Meg, so she can twist the knife in a little deeper about her nefarious plans.
That line of reasoning also opens up some larger and more worrisome questions. When Meg and her ex-husband pointedly stop at the big crack in the ground in Jarden as part of their guided tour, was that, in part, a reveal that the explosives that the Guilty Remnant have been purchasing were to blame for the earthquake that kicked off the drama of this season? Was the stoning of the likely innocent biker dude that the Texas faction of the GR captured a precursor to what might happen to Tommy, now that he’s found out about Evie and the other girls? As I’ve been repeating to myself like a mantra throughout this second season, anything is possible.
Just as it was for Amy Brenneman this season, this episode was especially great for letting Liv Tyler flex her acting muscles a lot more. She was a cipher throughout much of the first season, as we tried to ascertain what her motivation was for slipping into the GR fold. Now that she’s in it, Meg’s darker spirit is coming to the fore and Tyler is responding by revealing the ice water that runs through her cardiovascular system. The moment when she dismisses Tommy by handing him a rock and, with a creepy grin, advises him to make himself “useful,” right after she ordered the stoning of the trespasser was as chilling as they come.
Meg’s gone above and beyond painted signs and protests the during days of remembrance. She’s on some Unabomber shit now, with a dead look in her eye. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, friends. Next week is, as the tattooed lady’s sign said, gonna change everything.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.