in

The Leftovers, Ep. 2.09, “Ten Thirteen”

The Leftovers, Season 2, Episode 9, “Ten Thirteen”
Written by Damon Lindelof and Monica Beletsky
Directed by Keith Gordon
Airs Sundays at 9pm (ET) on HBO

Back to our regularly scheduled program.

Which, of course, in the world of The Leftovers, means that one should be prepared for anything. “Ten Thirteen” shifts focus completely once again, revealing the season’s big bad to definitively be…Liv Tyler. On any other series, this might turn out to be a disastrous development, but as Megan, Tyler finds a register we’ve never seen from her before, and that helps power a very exciting penultimate hour.

After last week’s divisive, Dante-evoking episode, “Ten Thirteen” thankfully revives the series’ gonzo black humor and unexpected character juxtapositions. Of course, it also revives the Guilty Remnant, whose omnipresence hampered some of the first season. “Ten Thirteen” isn’t really interested in the concept of the GR, though – it’s only interested in Megan. We spend nearly the entire episode on her perspective, starting with the day before the Departure, snorting coke like it’s candy as she tries not to strangle her mother, only to miss the moment her mother keels over dead from a heart attack.

What follows is a series of events that does admittedly have a bit of network-narrative convenience attached. It turns out that Megan beat out the other Mapletonites (Mapletonians?) to reaching Jarden, and it seems to have been Jarden that really inspired her to break bad, hilariously announced by her disdainful spitting. It also seems as though, based on the episode’s frankly jaw-dropping final moments, that the girls conspired with Megan to do…whatever it is they’re planning on doing in the finale. That last reveal might actually pay some dividends – recall how oddly Evie and her friends behaved back in “Axis Mundi,” their seemingly arbitrary shifts in demeanor. Maybe not so arbitrary after all. And hey, it’s not as though they don’t have plenty to rebel against.

Besides the plot contortions, what makes “Ten Thirteen” most splendid is its constant, gleeful manipulation of tone. The episode is constantly seducing us, the same way Megan leads Tom on a seemingly romantic tour to what winds up as a terrorist compound. Can you imagine any other series getting a laugh out of a character pulling the pin on a (dud) grenade, throwing onto a schoolbus full of screaming children, and locking the doors behind her? Or deploying legendary anti-coke anthem “White Lines” twice? (The idea, I believe, is to show us that Megan is an addict, and that she has translated her compulsion from one set of illicit activities to another. Note that she doesn’t seem to touch blow anymore.) “Ten Thirteen” is loaded with wonderfully odd moments like that.

It also pulls off the unlikely feat of redeeming the Guilty Remnant, albeit by creating a Megan-led splinter cell that constantly mocks their behavior, with Megan getting bored of the writing-only gimmick and calling them out as ineffectual losers. It really deserves stressing how great Tyler is in these scenes – a great example of an actor with hidden reserves they’ve never had a chance to call upon before. The episode is really a series of duels, with Megan using the extremity of her convictions, her determination to act rather than feel, her ability to hone in on weakness and pry those cracks wide open. It’s not until she runs into Matt Jamison in Miracle that anyone thinks to accuse her of being less than honest – but by then, it may already be too late.

“Ten Thirteen” makes clear that there is a master narrative at work in this season, not merely a set of arbitrarily sad paranormal events, and that’s a risky move, but The Leftovers has pulled off trickier ones before. There’s no reason to think next week’s finale, “I Live Here Now,” won’t find a few more ways to stun us.

A-_rating

Additional thoughts

  • As I suspected, last week’s episode worked a whole lot better for many than it did for yours truly. Vive la différence! If your French is rusty, that translates roughly to, “only my opinion is valid.”
  • Once upon a time, I predicted the Justified finale would feature Sturgill Simpson’s “The Promise.” I was mistaken, but in the months since, it’s shown up both on Rectify and in stunning fashion in this episode. It was a great choice for Megan’s “date” with Tom, armly romantic and, if you’re listening closely, a little bit creepy.
  • I’m just gonna go ahead and say that Laurie Garvey should probably quit the cult-deprogramming business. Also probably the shrink business.
  • For a moment it seemed like they were setting up a reveal that the girls simply got sucked into a rock crevice as the result of a fracking-related earthquake, but…I guess not.
  • So what’s Megan’s big plan? Blow up the bridge and let the savages of Miracle Park loose on Jarden? How do the girls play into it? Will the goats survive? Is it really impossible to cry while eating baby carrots? Find out on next week’s The Leftovers! Maybe!

Video Essay: ‘Serenity’ and Exploring the Genre Frontier

TWD S06E08 promo pic

The Walking Dead, Ep. 6.08, “Start to Finish”