Legion sure wasted little time establishing itself as a must-see in my weekly TV schedule. And no wonder; the first two episodes were exactly the kind of weird, well-acted, well-made, brain-twisting show I fall into easily. David Haller’s journey has been fantastic. Last week, he struggled to adjust to his new home and come to the realization of his powers. This week he continues to try and overcome the obstacles in his mind holding those powers back. Some of which have little to do with David’s free will.
Let’s get to it, because as usual Legion gave us a lot to talk about.
Spoilers for 1×03 “Chapter 3” below
Legion opens this week with an already established Legion special; the montage! Melanie listens to a story of a woodcutter and a swan told by her coffee machine. Yes, this is weird but it has an explanation later. As this happens we see shots of life in Summerland (complete with male and female shower objectification), a puppy chasing a ball, and Amy’s interrogation. David’s alone time on a pier is interrupted when Sydney escorts him for more memory work.
With David’s sister held captive, Melanie decides to diverge from her usual methods and dive right into David’s worst memories, triggering his powers. The idea is to speed up his mastery of them. Ptonomy takes them into the kitchen memory where David displayed immense telekinetic ability. We learn more about his relationship with his then-girlfriend Philly and her unawareness of his drug use. Her discovering him and Lenny high started the fight which led to the kitchen incident.
We also learn that they robbed his therapist, which Lenny proposed last week.
When Ptonomy tries to access the full memory, however, he faces resistance. He and Melanie assume David is blocking him, but the yellow-eyed demon shows up and slams the door shut. Only David can see it. When Ptonomy tries to access the memory again, he can’t.
They wake from the memory in an office where David teleported them from the memory cube. Both Ptonomy and Melanie are understandably frightened by this. They’ve never seen this kind of power before. The MRI machine last week was one thing. David moved himself and two others 600 feet through solid walls this time.
Sydney later finds David and shares some background about growing up in the city with a famous mother. They discuss the body-switch, which Sydney has grown used to. She tells him about her lack of attachment to her body, since she’s switched bodies enough times to know there’s something more to her than a body.
Then David delivers a cheesy line about being glad he could hold her hand when they switched bodies, and I kind of love how much of a goofy romantic he is. Legion definitely knows cheesy, effective romance scenes. I love these two.
A brief cut shows a disheveled Amy pleading ignorance to David’s powers and insisting he needs his medication. An older man leading the interrogation tells her he’s not really schizophrenic.
David seems to be seeing these moments from time to time, in this case as Cary Loudermilk hooks him up to a machine to test various physiological levels. He tells David to think of something stressful, and David falls into a memory of Halloween as a kid. He and Amy are accompanied by their dog King, who runs off. David goes looking and eventually finds a living version of the Angriest Boy from the book his father read to him. It stalks toward him, but David wakes up.
An apparition of Lenny shows up in the room to taunt him about Amy and tell him Summerland can’t help him. She also warns him about Melanie’s secrets. While this conversation takes place, Cary, his sister Kerry, and Sydney observe. The speech portion of David’s brain shows activity but David is not actually speaking. When Lenny turns into Amy to complete the taunt, it activates David’s powers.
He starts floating off the ground while breaking machinery again. Sydney runs into the room and gets caught up in David’s powers. He manages to project them into the interrogation room where Amy is held, much like what happened at Clockworks to end last week’s episode. Amy refuses any suggestion of knowing about David’s power or his whereabouts. The old man tries to guilt her by saying she knew and blaming her for letting a god (his words) run loose and uncontrolled.
Amy insists she knows nothing, that she can’t stand torture and would have told if she knew anything. The Eye (whose name we later learn is Walter) appears to notice the projections of David and Sydney and reaches for them. They vanish before he can grab hold.
Also, he spends the entire interrogation carving something again. Remember how he carved a wooden dog throughout the premiere.
David and Sydney return in a lake at Summerland. Seriously, David’s teleportation powers are frightening. Sydney is the only one who doesn’t seem to think so, and says so before bringing him to Melanie. They tell her what happened and she freaks out, telling them not do that again. She reveals that her deceased husband, Oliver, started Summerland 30 years earlier with Cary in order to gather mutants like David well before their were common knowledge.
One of the mutants brought there was Walter, but he was different in that he liked to hurt people. Also, the voice of the automated stuff around Summerland belongs to Melanie’s husband. Makes sense now why she talks to the coffee machine.
She tells David she doesn’t know how to help him since his brain is defending itself. David thinks she is giving up, but Melanie says otherwise. She can’t give up on him because he might be the most powerful mutant in the world and they need him to win the war they are losing. She also admits to using him while also wanting to help him since he deserves to be happy.
Melanie wants to try sedating David before the next memory work session. When Sydney insists on entering the memory with them, David doesn’t want her there. She leaves angrily. Also, notice the X pattern on the wall behind David.
While laying in bed, David thinks of memories with Lenny and their dealer which seem to suggest a connection between her and the yellow-eyed demon. Yet these memories end with Sydney waking up, potentially suggesting she saw them? Maybe an after-effect of the body switch? She sees David’s empty bed and finds him sitting nearby. He takes the opportunity to confess his junkie past and explain why he doesn’t want her seeing his memories, as he doesn’t want her thinking he’s a monster. David also questions everyone claiming he’s sane.
Time for more memory work, and Ptonomy tells David he wants to see how he ended up in Clockworks. Finally, some answers! Not really, though. First Melanie sedates David, and when they enter the memory he is a kid. There’s a sweet scene where Sydney and kid David hug since her powers don’t work in the memory.
The memory is the one of David robbing his therapist. As he is grabbing various things off the shelves, he finds a drawer full of tapes with recordings of his sessions, which he starts removing. A memory within this memory occurs, showing David talking to the therapist. The room starts shaking and something begins busting through a wall. Only Sydney can see this, like kid David does.
The kid runs off, and Sydney chases him. They first arrive in a memory of David and Lenny while high, then into one of David arguing with Amy. After that is a memory of David having sex with Philly (I think? It was kind of hard to tell). Then they end up in David’s childhood room. The memories still seem to be falling apart, and Ptonomy and Melanie have been left behind.
Sydney asks if kid David has a place to hide, and he leads them to an air vent. Along the way they see the Angriest Boy again, who starts after them. After they begin crawling through the vents, they glow red and Sydney looks behind to see the yellow-eyed demon crawling after them. She begs David to wake up.
She wakes up alone in the room in Summerland. David, Ptonomy, and Melanie are still in the memories. Ptonomy wakes up at Sydney’s efforts, but Melanie and David do not.
We see Melanie in a memory of David’s house. She looks in a room where his presumed parents are, and follows the sound of a dog whining up a set of stairs to David’s room. Inside the closet she finds the book The Angriest Boy in the World. She reads it, and afterwards it slams on her hand and disfigures it. The demon stands behind her and Melanie wakes up still feeling the pain in her hand, though it is back to normal.
The episode ends with David not waking up, and a scene of him grasping his head while dozens surround him and shout at him.
Legion is showing a gift for an equally fascinating and infuriating storytelling trait; the more it clears things up, the more I’m left wondering just what the hell is happening.
One thing cleared up beyond doubt is the yellow-eyed demon’s hold on David’s mind and its influence on his powers. All throughout the episode the demon refuses any glimpse into the triggers for David’s powers. Some of these we know for a fact involve the demon directly. The kitchen, for example, has been seen before in David’s memories. He looks over at one point and sees the demon in the corner. It appears whenever a dangerous manifestation of David’s power occurs.
Every attempt at seeking the origin of his powers ends with the demon, both in this episode and the others this season.
Also very much coming into question is everything about Lenny. Every episode so far has also tied her to the yellow demon at some point or another. Is this simply because she fed into the dangerous habits which allowed the demon its control, or is she some manifestation of it? Just how real is she? The fact that the demon seems to be taken her form in conversations with David suggests some connection to reveal. I know some people hate the “how real are things” aspect of shows like Legion but with Lenny, this question is central to David’s past and powers.
After all, Lenny was in Clockworks with him and the demon refused to let the Summerland Gang see why. Considering the glimpse of David’s bloodied therapist last week, it stands to guess that the robbery went awry because of his powers. And why exactly would Lenny be the only person killed when Sydney switched into David’s body? There’s something to all this. I can’t wait to find out what.
With full control of David’s powers locked behind this creature’s barriers, and possibly tied directly to it, Melanie’s job seems impossible. The key will presumably be Sydney. She was the only one who saw the demon’s manipulations during the memories. She questions whether they are memories at all. Really, this is a good point. Melanie for sure was not in a memory when she walked David’s house alone. Now there are memories within the “memories” they see. Something more is going on.
Perhaps the demon warps these memories to make it impossible to find their truth.
This episode suggests that much like David feels lingering effects of his time in Sydney’s body, she has lingering effects of his powers. That’s why she saw what he saw during memory work. The demon may have imprinted in some manner upon her in that time. How exactly will she use this to her advantage? I suspect we’ll find out in this very next episode. David is lost in his mind, and Sydney seems the logical choice to find him.
This episode also reinforced the standard X-Men “us vs. them” conflict which drives everything the intellectual property produces. Melanie again brings up the need to win the war against the other side. The division member interrogating Amy implies the same in the danger of David running loose. Both sides view David as the key to winning; Melanie by using his powers, and Division 3 by suppressing them.
So yeah, we’re probably heading for the “mutants vs. humanity” conflict we’ve seen a thousand times. Thankfully we’re heading there in a fascinating, exciting, and original way. I may have watched and read a hundred X-Men stories before, but never one like this.
I’m glad there’s a bit of moral gray to it. Division 3 is evil as hell, no doubt about it. They’ve done nothing to suggest goodness. However, the old man has a point about David. We have only seen glimpses of what he can do, and those glimpses are terrifying. Now he stands with a group wishing to unlock his powers entirely. What exactly could David do to mankind if set loose in a war against humanity? The thought is frightening.
And, of course, what happens if the demon is held back by something and all this effort unleashes it? So many questions. So many absorbing questions pulling me into this show’s narrative.
At some point, though, Legion does need to start answering questions with answers rather than more questions. I brought up before how much trust I have in Noah Hawley to do this right. And certainly Legion is providing some answers to its questions. The revelations about the demon, for example. However, this answer provides more questions, which Legion will eventually need to answer properly.
The danger always exists with shows like Legion that too many questions are raised to ever answer them all properly. I saw it with Lost. I see it with Mr. Robot. These were/are very good shows, but one ended highly controversially because of a lack of answers and the other recently finished a controversial second season plagued with much the same. I don’t mean to criticize Legion. We’re not there yet. This is on my mind, though, because I’ve seen this before with varying levels of success.
Right now, though? Right now I love this show. Legion blends so effortlessly between so many different styles. It will be horror one minute and a comedy the next. Then it shifts to mystery. Sometimes it skillfully weaves multiple genres together, and sometimes Legion smashes them together in the best of ways. The visuals, sounds, and acting always match the atmosphere the episode wants in any scene, no matter how rapid the shifts.
Of course, anyone familiar with Fargo knows how good Noah Hawley is at blending genres. He did the same thing there, to the point of somehow throwing sci-fi into gangland shootouts and making it work.
Three episodes is too soon to call Legion a complete success, but we’re approaching that territory. I just need a couple more concrete answers in the coming weeks to eliminate my lingering worry.