Holy crap. Those are the only two words I have after that scene between Tom and Meg in Episode 3 of The Leftovers Season 2, "Off Ramp." The show's freshman season saw Liv Tyler's character progress from depressed young woman to reluctant member of the Guilty Remnant to perhaps the cult's staunchest member. But, even the events of the Season 1 finale, in which she helped pull off a stunningly cruel prank on the citizens of Mapleton, showing little remorse for the violence, riots, and fires that followed, couldn't have prepared me for the Meg we encountered in this Sunday's episode.
First, we learn that Tommy Garvey has started working with his mother, infiltrating different chapters of the Guilty Remnant so he can identify members harboring doubts and guide them away from the cult, where Laurie (who was a therapist before the Sudden Departure, remember?) would welcome them into a post-GR support group. But you should never underestimate a zealot — a lesson Tom learned the hard way when he was entrapped by a true believer posing as a doubter. Kidnapped by the GR, he was thrown in the back of a ban, shackled, and driven to some unknown location. Enter Megan Abbott.
What happened next was one of the strangest and most stressful scenes in Leftovers history... and that's saying something. Meg climbs into the truck with Tom and closes the doors. She proceeds to pull down his pants, climb atop him and — well — you know. I think I was as bewildered as Tom in that moment, honestly. It stops as quickly as it started. Meg climbs off, exits the trucks, and the men return and drag Tom, still half-naked, onto the pavement, where they douse him with gasoline. Meg approaches. She kneels down, flicks open a lighter, and... lights her cigarette.
"Tell your mom Meg says hello," she says, her voice full of menace.
What the heck just happened? There will likely be some discussion on whether or not Meg and Tom's coupling constitutes rape, but pay no attention to the detractors. He was literally tied up, he never consented, and it was 100 percent about power, not sex. Sexual assault of men is not a topic frequently broached on television (although Outlander depicted the brutal rape of its male protagonist earlier this year), but that doesn't make it any less real.
This action on Meg's part seems such a far cry from the lost but generally kind woman we met in Season 1. How has she arrived at this disturbing place? How did she climb the ranks of the Guilty Remnant so quickly? What was the goal of her power play over Tom? How will Tom be affected by his interaction with Meg moving forward? Given the fractured nature of Season 2's storytelling — shifting between Mapleton and Jarden, between the Murphys and the Garveys and the GR — it's likely that we won't get answers to these questions anytime soon. But, hopefully they won't be abandoned, either. We'll just have to wait and see.
Images: Van Redin, Screengrab/HBO; Giphy