This Legion review contains spoilers.
Legion Episode 2
Memory can be comforting, but it’s not to be trusted. Though our memories form the basis of our personalities and how we interact with the people and world around us, we cannot help but distort and dramatize, to let others twist and shape our perceptions, and block out any recollection that disagrees with the narrative we’re constructing in our heads. The average person’s memory is just an approximation of the truth, so a person like Legion’s David Haller is likely to find even less fact wading through the recesses of his mind.
Following the trend of the pilot, this episode plays fast and loose with chronology, with much of the episode taking place in the past. Some of David’s memories are being presented and guided by Ptonomy, a “memory artist,” while others seem like they’re being recalled by David alone. However, all of the visions of the past seem incomplete or distorted to some degree, noticeably displayed with interesting audio and visual quirks. It’s all meant to hammer home the fact that the viewer can’t rely on David to present an accurate portrayal of what is happening any more than he can.
Though there is vague talk about David learning to utilize his full power and “the war” to come, the episode is meant as an introduction to Summerland and the characters that inhabit it. Summerland feels like the sort of new age rehab center that’s advertised on late-night TV, and it’s fitting that we find David here after we’re given a brief glimpse of his past as a drug-user. There’s almost a light rehabilitation narrative lurking behind all of the sci-fi stuff; we see David twitchy and strung out, to struggling to settle into the program at Summerland, convinced he’s found the perfect excuse to leave the facility, then urged to stay and “do the work.” Strip away all of the talk about powers and remove the super-powered trips through the mind, and that’s the basic plot structure of an episode of Addicted.
Jean Smart’s Melanie Bird isn’t given much to do besides seem simultaneously nurturing and stern, and Ptonomy is given a poignant backstory about having a memory-impaired father, but most of the character work is spent exploring David and Syd’s relationship. Syd is completely supportive and convinced of David’s power, but David appears to be craving more comfort than their little talks can give him. After Syd describes the anticipation of being touched like a thousand anxious needles beneath her skin, David resigns to the fact that they’ll just have to enjoy a romance of the mind. It’s a cute scene with both parties expressing vulnerabilities and ultimately coming out the other side stronger.
On the other side of the spectrum, Legion once again ventures into horror territory quite convincingly. In David’s memory of his childhood, he’s haunted by a disturbing bed time story “The Angriest Boy In the World.” The illustrations from the book and the manner in which the whole scene is shot ape The Babadook. We also get further glimpses of the hideous, rotund creature that haunts David’s mind, with one encounter happening while David is inside of an MRI machine. Like all of the best monster movies, it deals with an ordinary, yet isolated place where one least expects and desires to be left exposed.
The mystery of the beast may have cosmic origins. One of the main focuses of David’s retreat in his memory is his deceased father. David, and the viewer by proxy, can’t see his father’s face, but we’re informed that he was an astronomer, and during an earlier therapy session, David says the voices began speaking to him when his father first exposed him to the stars at night. David reveals that the stars would talk to him, but when David’s therapist asks what they said, an unsettling feeling washes over David and he says that he’s “not supposed to say.” Perhaps the devil with the yellow eyes is talking to David from some place far out in the galaxy?
Finally, we see David displaying powers made famous by his comic book Dad, Professor X, when he’s able to see and hear his sister in his mind from miles away. It turns out that Amy is actually in danger and is obtained by the Tom Waits-lookalike baddie. We still don’t know what White Afro’s deal is, but he intimidates Amy with some snakes, which would scare the pants off of this archeologist that I know.
Though I’ve been highly interested and entertained by Legion’s first two installments, it’s a little hard to comment on if the show is succeeding when I’m still largely unaware about where this is all heading. Sure, it’s got energy and style to spare, and someone on that crew is trying like mad to win the Emmy for best sound editing, but until I can get a firmer grip on the plot, I don’t know if I’m ready to say that Legion is an elite series on air. Hopefully I’ll be singing a different tune here soon.