I know I’ve gone on and on about Legion’s visual splendor over the course of this first season. And for good reason; showrunner Noah Hawley and his crew have worked magic. Even when Legion is at its most confusing, it’s easy to enjoy the confusion simply because of how good everything looks and how creative its scenes are. When I say “Chapter 7” set a new standard, I do not say so lightly. This episode has two sequences in particular which I’m confident will stand tall against anything any other show manages this year.
More importantly, Legion also did a good job settling its business ahead of next week’s finale.
Spoilers for 1×07 “Chapter 7” below
You know how I’ve talked about Legion trying different genres? Well get ready for a zombie apocalypse! Not a real one, to be clear. Legion opens this week with fake Clockworks in a state of disrepair while Kerry continues fleeing the Eye. Manic “patients” claw and grab as she runs by. She eventually hides in a room while the Eye continues searching.
Meanwhile the yellow-eyed demon searches as well from what seems to represent a control center. What it’s searching for, it doesn’t say and is never stated. It takes Lenny’s form and questions nurse Amy about the day David’s father brought him to live with his adopted parents. Then it continues searching before noticing someone escaped the hospital.
(There is a shot of Charles Xavier’s chair here. Yeah, I freaked out.)
Which we saw last week and follow up on now. Cary follows Oliver to his ice cube in the astral plane, and the two discuss his time in the plane and the demon in David’s head. We have official confirmation, everyone. The demon is infamous Charles Xavier comic foe Amahl Farouk, also known as the Shadow King. Phew, I’m glad to have a name making this recap process easier.
Oliver and Cary come up with a plan to rescue the others from fake Clockworks, help David escape Farouk’s clutches with the device he built two episodes ago, and save both him and Sydney from the bullets about to kill them in the real world. From here the episode picks up where the last left off. Cary takes the headphones off Sydney to wake her from her trance and escorts her out of Farouk’s mental construct. He begins explaining what happened but she’s well ahead of him. You go, Sydney.
Cary hands her pairs of glasses for her and the others to see through the hospital’s illusions. Sydney reenters a Clockworks straight out of The Walking Dead. Undead-looking patients snarl, sprint, and shuffle around ruined hallways. She puts on the glasses and the patients vanish. While she looks for him, we see David screaming and trying to escape the space Farouk banished him to last week.
Melanie’s experience also picks up where it left off previously, with her in the frozen real world trying to stop the bullets from hitting David and Sydney. Cary and Oliver join her to help. Oliver vaguely remembers her but wants to remember everything on his own. Melanie leaves the room for a breather and finds The Boulder in a closet with a knife in his chest. She whispers something in his ear.
Sydney continues her search in fake Clockworks and finds both The Boulder and Kerry. She places the glasses on both. David finally gets some help in the form of…himself. His “rational” side takes form to help him escape his mental prison. This rational side of him also speaks in Stevens’s British accent. In case people didn’t know Dan Stevens was British.
Within a simulated classroom (seriously, how many mental constructs within mental constructs can this guy create), the two Davids talk through the facts of his situation. An awesome chalkboard drawing sequence visualizes their hypothesis about the history of Farouk and David’s father, as well as his history with David. David assumes his father was a powerful psychic, Farouk was his enemy, and they fought in the astral plan. David’s father won, but Farouk’s consciousness survived. It followed them and took control of David while he was still a baby.
By the way, this sequence includes a surprisingly accurate chalk figure of Professor X and a wonderful imitation of Patrick Stewart’s voice.
Sydney and the others continue searching the hospital while Oliver, Melanie, and Cary try to help everyone in the real world. Oliver uses his powers to begin building a word shield (literally, he somehow creates and manipulates visible letters spelling “shield”) to block the bullets. While he does that, David breaks out of his prison and tries to find his way back to the Clockworks construct.
An amazing silent film sequence begins with Sydney and company’s search interrupted by the Eye. He tackles Kerry and knocks her glasses off. He then grabs hold of her while she’s distracted fighting the crazed patients surrounding her. All this commotion attracts the attention of Farouk, who arrives in the form of an absolutely terrifying version of Lenny.
Lenny kills the Eye and is about to kill Sydney and Kerry when she notices what Oliver and Cary are doing. She quickly stops them and returns, but The Boulder stops her before she can kill Sydney or Kerry. Cary places his device on David’s head, everyone returns to their bodies, and David stops the bullets himself before teleporting everyone back to Summerland.
End amazing silent film sequence here.
Back at Summerland, Cary warns David not to take the device off his head. Melanie rushes back and finds the diving suit in the cryo chamber empty, and Oliver back in the real world making everyone breakfast. Kerry is angry at Cary for leaving her back in the Clockworks construct. Amy tells David about the day his parents brought them, and wants to call her husband, but David tells her she can’t because of Division 3.
They begin hurrying to the Summerland lab after David sees the Angriest Boy, but Division 3 ambushes them. Turns out the interrogator from the first episode survived and now leads them again. The episode ends with Farouk Lenny trying to break out of a prison in David’s mind, and a crack appearing.
Where do I even begin with this episode? David’s seeming control of his powers? The naming of Farouk and his history with Xavier? Oliver’s role in helping the escape proceeded by his own escape? Aubrey Plaza’s continued incredibleness?
I don’t think I can talk about any of this without covering the reason this was all executed with such quality. Week in and week out, Legion has established itself as an inventive and stylish show. This week that inventiveness and stylishness reached an entirely new level. If Legion doesn’t win some technical awards for this season than the Emmys will have lost all credibility. If they have any left to begin with. There is no show running today or any time in the next year that will top it. I am 100% sure of it.
Legion’s style and creativity carried an episode that, despite the typically complicated nature, didn’t have too complicated a setup. Oliver, Cary, and Melanie tried to help David in the real world. Sydney tried to help everyone still stuck in Farouk’s mental construct. David tried to escape it. Most of the exposition was delivered in two huge rushes with Oliver/Cary and David’s classroom scene.
Otherwise Legion basically used incredible visual style to follow each of the characters carrying out their part in the escape. And what style it was.
The “silent film” section in particular stands out as one of the coolest things I’ve seen on any show. Such potential existed for the scene to be lame. Between the intertitles delivering the dialogue, the black and white coloring, the unhinged appearance of Lenny, and Oliver conducting literal letters spelling shield to form a shield, everything had to go right to make this work. Even one part failing would have doomed the entirety.
Somehow Legion made every single part of it work. Both Aubrey Plaza and Jemaine Clement deserve considerable credit; Lenny and Oliver had the most responsibility of the actors to carry this sequence, and they did so with ease.
When any scene overshadows the chalkboard history of David, his father, and Farouk, you know it was special. If the silent film segment was the best thing I’ve seen all year, then the chalkboard scene was second best. I can’t imagine a better way of plowing through exposition. The apocalyptic appearance of Clockworks was also well done and made me crave a Noah Hawley zombie show.
One aspect of the “zombie” scenes made me very curious; who are all these people? David’s friends and associates made up most of the hospital population, but we have seen others sprinkled throughout. Are they just made up figures? Are they people from David’s memories? Maybe the various shots we’ve seen of legions screaming at David are a hint. The show is called Legion, after all.
I assume we’ll at least get a hint in next week’s finale. David appears to have a greater grasp of his powers at the end of this episode. Enough that he seemingly allowed Farouk an avenue of escape with intent to use him to stop Division 3. It’s easy to predict that will go wrong and he will have to defeat Farouk much the same way his father did. Or maybe something else will happen since Legion has been a difficult show to predict.
What happens when David has full control of his mind for the first time in his life? I suspect this will be the subject of the second season.
Don’t assume all this talk about the visuals means Legion faltered in the character department this week. While not perfect, we got yet another showcase for the supporting cast around David. Sydney shined in leading the effort within the Clockworks construct. Cary and Kerry had a split over Cary leaving the construct with Oliver. The Eye had a memorably brutal end. Even The Boulder got a moment to shine.
I think the most attention this week deserves to go to Melanie Bird, and the amazing Jean Smart. Melanie has been a bit of a background authority figure throughout the season. She has led this effort with David in large part to rescue her husband from the astral plane. In this episode she did get Oliver back, but an Oliver who did not remember her. Jean Smart was incredible with her silent mix of joy and sorrow. She was exhibit A of how an actor can take simple material and breathe life into it.
Legion didn’t succeed with everything, though. For the second week in a row, and in fact even more so than last week, I have to complain about Ptonomy’s involvement. Or rather his lack of involvement. Every single character played an active role in this episode except for him. He didn’t even show up until the end when everyone returned to their bodies from the Clockworks fantasy.
Why? Ptonomy is supposed to be a memory artist with powers over the mind. Sure, he may not be powerful enough to overcome Farouk or David. He doesn’t need to be in order to play a significant role in an episode so dependent on escaping someone’s mind. I’m quite disappointed at his disappearance over the past two episodes. He should have been one of the leading characters involved.
Hopefully he’ll get a sizeable role in the finale.
Oh no, last week is the finale already! Why didn’t someone warn me?
The good thing is that Legion’s pace has left the finale plenty of time to close the season’s plot threads. In fact, they could probably afford to throw in something new to pad the finale’s plot. Taking a look at where the show is, we have David facing a “final showdown” with Farouk and Division 3 preparing to kill Melanie and her mutants. Everything else has been settled.
I think one last episode is plenty of time to tackle these final two plot points and set up next season. And it will probably do so with the creative, mind-bending flair which has quickly established Legion as one of the best shows on TV. I can’t wait.