Damon Lindelof on last night’s complicated ‘Leftovers’ scene

Last night, I reviewed the third episode of “The Leftovers” season 2. Today, I’ve got the final bonus feature from my pre-season interview with Damon Lindelof, as we touch on an unnerving moment in an episode full of them, just as soon as my mattress adapts to my contours…

I want to ask about the Meg/Tommy scene. Given the hot water that “Game of Thrones” got into with the Cersei-Jamie scene in season 4, and whether the people making it even wanted to call it rape, did you have any pause about the way in which that scene was depicted, and specifically Tommy”s reaction to what”s happening to him as it goes along?

Damon Lindelof: I wouldn”t say “pause” as much as “sensitivity.” I think that we knew exactly what we were getting into, and that I think that the specific gender politics of that scene would be vastly different if Meg were a man and Tom were a woman. And it would have to be handled with another degree of sensitivity. But ultimately – and I don”t want to peel back the onion and say these are all the conversations that I had in order to make sure that scene happened – but it did require having conversations with Liv (Tyler) and having conversations with Chris (Zylka) and having conversations with Carl Franklin, who directed it, in terms of what was happening and what was going on and what characters were thinking and feeling as it was happening. But then I also wanted there to be an organic quality in terms of Liv. “How do you want to play this?” And she was like, “I just kind of want to see what happens.” And I think Chris was the same way. And so, you know, I was actually on set that day. (producer Tom) Spezialy and I were both there. And I think that all the things that we put on the page became secondary to what was actually happening as the actors played it. And all I can say is that that scene is the beginning of something. It”s the beginning of a relationship between those two characters. So there”s a larger context to what”s happening there. And the pause that we had was really based on, “Let”s not let this be a one-off.” Let”s treat this with real intention and not just say this is a scene where one character sexually takes advantage of another character. Let”s complicate it. Let”s talk about where Tom is in his journey and what it is that he is looking for and why he”s gravitated towards the Guilty Remnant and Meg is now a representative of the Guilty Remnant. And what”s happened to her since we saw her last? What was Meg”s relationship with Laurie, almost mother and daughter? And so they’re oddly kind of siblings in a way without even knowing that emotionally. And Meg is really mad at Laurie and now she”s taking it out on Tom. So there were all these complicated emotional dynamics that we had to discuss in order to justify the scene and then we did the scene.

And, again, I hear what you”re saying and I can”t compare our show to any other shows, but I”ll say when you are depicting it on television, any presentation of non-consensual sex, you just have to do it with a lot of intentionality and a lot of responsibility and hopefully we did. But, you know, we didn”t go into it with blinders on.

Any depiction of non-consensual sex that has the implication at some point that the non-consensual half of it begins consenting, there is going to be a reaction to that. People will be talking about that and maybe not in kind terms after that episode airs.

Damon Lindelof: I understand. But I also understand that Don (from “The Newsroom”) is not going to show up to talk to Tom Garvey about whether or not it was rape. I think that what the audience decides to call what happens between Meg and Tom, I have no control over what they call it. And I don”t think that the show is particularly interested in how it gets defined. I thought that the scene was really powerful and it achieved what we wanted it to achieve. And it takes place in a world where people are incredibly confused and scared and at times violent in very interesting atypical ways. But most importantly, I think that you have to take into context what the Guilty Remnant is and what Meg things the Guilty Remnant is and that”s something that we”re just not seeking to define on the show.

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com