'The Leftovers' recap: Meg's mission

'The Leftovers' recap: Meg's mission
Liv Tyler as Meg on HBO's "The Leftovers." (Ryan Green / HBO)

The greatest trick "The Leftovers" ever pulled was in convincing people that the Departure mattered.

To be fair, it's impossible to wholly disregard the influence of a global event that resulted in the disappearance of 2% of the world's population. However, it's becoming increasingly clear as the show moves through its second season, that most every issue a person battles in the post-Departure world is one that existed, in some form, long before a single person went missing.


In "Ten Thirteen" we follow Meg (Liv Tyler) from her pre-Departure life, where she was meeting with her passive-aggressive mother for lunch and furtively snorting cocaine in the bathroom, to now, as a full-blown agent of terror for the Guilty Remnant, the question being, what happened to Meg to cause her to wander so far afield?

For starters, her mother died.

At that ill-fated cocaine-fueled lunch, Meg's mother dies. It is Oct. 13, the day before the Sudden Departure, though no one knows that yet.

The brain makes strange connections when trauma layers visit a person in such rapid succession. On Sept. 10, 2001, my husband's family learned that his grandfather had brain cancer that would take his life less than three months later and, because of the timing, it clings like a film to every passing mention of 9/11, even years later.

The same is clearly true for Meg, whose brain is incapable of cleaving the events of the Sudden Departure and her mother's death into two separate events. For her, they are inextricable, and thus, the thought that people might be forgetting, the concept that the Guilty Remnant is dedicated to fighting, is particularly enraging to her.

It's not enough for Meg, white-clad, to stand idly by smoking, trying to haunt people into remembering the Departure. She needs action.

The action she hopes to undertake involves returning to Jarden, where Meg had gone on a post-Departure pilgrimage in the hopes that she might get answers about her mother's death. She seeks out Isaac, hoping that he can give her insight into what her mother was going to tell her before Meg went to the bathroom, just before her mother's death. As it turns out, he can.

But Isaac doesn't tell Meg what she wants to hear. He warns her that often when people die suddenly their last thoughts are inconsequential, unsatisfying, but Meg persists in hearing the truth. And while the audience isn't privy to the information, it's clear that what she hears gives her no satisfaction.

Meg is distraught by her mother's death, and the Departure that follows in its wake, but Meg's unhappiness was manifest before either of those events, clear from the strained relationship with her mother and fervent drug use. The anger that courses through Meg's veins now and her drive to ensure that everyone feels the same biting loss that she does was always inside of her. The Departure merely allowed it a conduit to rise to the surface.

The same is true of Kevin's delusions and John's anger at Jarden. The Departure doesn't create issues, it merely focuses them with laser-like precision.

In the end, after dragging a wayward Tommy with her to Texas, Meg's ultimate plan begins to take shape. There is a Guilty Remnant sect just outside Jarden, with a top-secret trailer that holds the heart of Meg's plan for Heroes Day, the annual commemoration of the Departure.

When, under cover of night, Tommy sneaks out to the shed and looks inside he finds three young girls, clad in white. In the center? Evie Murphy. Who, when Tommy inquires who she is, scrawls on a notepad, "It doesn't matter."

And just like that, the whole of "The Leftovers" second season snaps into place, with just a single episode left to examine the devastation visited on a populace when things happen that they just can't make sense of.

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