Liv Tyler Is the New Joker on 'The Leftovers'

In "Ten Thirteen," we finally catch up with Tom and Meg and get some answers.

As The Leftovers returns with its second season, we break down what’s weird, what’s mysterious, and what’s simply The Fuck? on this intriguing, frequently puzzling, never dull show. Without further ado, let’s dive into the ninth episode, “Ten Thirteen.”

What’s confounding: Meg’s answer to Tom’s question about that disturbing sex scene a few episodes back (Tom: “Why did you fuck me?” Meg: “To get you pregnant”). This is not only darkly funny, trolling fan theories people were throwing around, but it’s slyly insightful. Something dark and strange and chaotic has been growing in Tom for a long time now, but his ordeal with Meg and his fake church with Laurie has nurtured it. Tom and Meg’s relationship is one of the strangest ones on the show — and his failure to acknowledge the sex as rape isn’t working for some viewers — but it’s completely believable in the context of his psyche. The way Tom looks at Meg; half fearful, half awestruck, is a kind of Stockholm Syndrome, and it mirrors the way the audience views her. Meg owns Tom now; her seed is implanted in him.

When I spoke to Tom Perrotta — look out for that interview next week — he said Tom is not an author proxy and their shared names are merely happenstance. But though he may not be an author proxy, in many ways this season, he’s been an audience proxy: he’s lost and confused, he’s gotten fucked over a few times, but he’s experienced enough moments of grace that he’s soldiering on, driven to find out what’s going to happen. If you’ve been reading my weekly ‘Getting Weird With The Leftovers’ you know I’ve been anxious to find out what the hell Tom is up to. And he did not disappoint: the glimpse we get of Tom’ bullshit Hug act is up there with the most despicable televangelists, but his self-awareness makes him unable to live with it, which sends him straight to Meg.

Liv Tyler’ plays Meg, who has been waiting on the sidelines and lulling us into a false sense of security, is the Joker of the show; an agent of chaos who wants to watch the world burn. She’s the Wild Card.

The fact that it’s Liv Tyler, with her soothing voice and serene Elf Queen legacy, has made it that much more startling, and it once again put the audience in the same half-fascinated, half afraid position that Tom is in. What with the final twist — which I’ll get to in a moment — the story’s resolution will all come down to Tom and whether his alignment is ultimately with his family or with Meg. Tom might not be making the best decisions, but we understand his mindset and he’s hardly the bland guy he was in Season 1. He’s proving himself, one and for all, to be the Most Improved Player on the show.

What’s intriguing:

The most common complaint about The Leftovers concerns its lack of answers, and yet this episode answered almost every lingering question about this season: We now know what happened to Evie and her friends and what was up with their weird silence when they were alone in the car in the first episode. I honestly didn’t expect that we’d ever find out — and if we did, I expected it to be some random tragic accident; an ironic twist of fate that had nothing to do with Departure. Never in a million years did I think that would connect to the Meg and Tom subplot. We did get some patented Leftovers irony in the fact that the girls were discovered by Tom, the only person who doesn’t know or care what a big deal this is. But otherwise, this shocker of an ending is in line with the best twists (Memento, 12 Monkeys): everything is fitting together in a way that’s surprising and unpredictable yet feels inevitable (and demands a re-watch) once you get there.

WTFs to file away for the future:

  • Stone people all you want, Damon Lindelof, but stop being mean to dogs. Was anyone else unreasonably upset that Tom didn’t adopt that poor dog on the playground? I know you were drunk and pseudo-homeless, but you had one job, Tom!
  • Matt: “You know, Megan, I don’t think you’re being entirely honest with me.” In a show rife with tense exchanges and miniature two-man plays, the Meg/Matt scene might be one of the best — not to mention, watching The Doctor interact with Arwen probably made many a fanboy weep. Christopher Eccleston’s Matt is a treasure, which means he will most likely die in the finale.
  • ‘Miracle is the park that surrounds and protects it from those who would corrupt its exceptional properties.’ A slogan like that is just asking for trouble.

The Final Verdict: “Ten Thirteen” was the least riveting offering this season, but that isn’t to say it wasn’t still better than 99% of other television. After last week’s amazing hour anything was bound to be a letdown, but following “International Assassin” with an episode focusing on the character with the least amount of depth made it even trickier. Meg is enigmatic and sinister, but as the most black-and-white character, she lacks the captivating complexity of Kevin, Nora, Laurie, and even Tom.

Even after glimpsing her past, we don’t entirely sympathize with her at her mom’s death because she’s such a bitch, and it’s still not clear why she was such a difficult person even before the death. Because of that, following Meg for the first 20 minutes of “Ten Thirteen” was interesting but not emotional or captivating the way this show usually is — until Tom got involved. Although it sounds contrary to his character, Tom really energized this episode. His presence, along with Matt’s, helped elevate “Ten Thirteen” from what would otherwise have been a necessary yet not particularly riveting filler episode. That, and the ending.

For the second time this season the Leftovers delivers a jaw-dropping ‘holy shit’ of an ending. Resurrections, vanished girls, domestic terrorism, human drama, and good old fashioned family feuds: it’s going to be a hell of a finale next week. Unless the finale fucks up so hard that it erases anything good that came before it — like Dexter or How I Met Your Mother — this will go down in pop culture history as one of the most flawless seasons of any show on TV.

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