This Legion review contains spoilers.
Legion Episode 5
Legion is unreal. No other show on air is taking narrative and stylistic risks like this, and who would have ever thought such invention was possible with a Marvel property? Certainly an almost 80 year history of amazing fantasies, cosmic adventures, and elaborate science fiction in the comics proves that there’s a wealth of mind-bending source material available, but for all intents and purposes it would be much easier and safer to make a series like Netflix’s new, bland Iron Fist than to create something as challenging and visionary as Legion. Kudos to Noah Hawley and the kind folks at FX, take a bow.
Anyway, Legion is also unreal because nothing that happens on the show is actually real. Tonight we got further confirmation that everything is all just an illusion to David. Nothing is to be trusted or taken as fact – repeat as necessary. Tonight, Lenny, Benny, King, the Devil with the Yellow Eyes (The Shadow King?) , they’re all shown to be one in the same malevolent consciousness in David’s head and they’ve finally pulled a coup. Now in control of David, they’ve decimated Division 3 and if I’m interpreting the twist ending correctly, have captured the Summerland crew and have placed them deep inside of David’s psyche.
We should have known something was off from the opening minute of the episode. David is returned from the astral plane changed. He’s confident, magnetic, “the magic man,” but this sudden shift from fragile with anxious energy to aloof and swaggering is a disorienting and unearned shift. Even in his intimate moments with Syd inside of the white room, David’s new charisma is unsettling. Before we’re made aware that something else pulling the strings, it feels like we’re finally watching the origin story of a supervillain, the moment of metamorphosis.
But this new David isn’t really David. I’m not even convinced that we’ve met the real David yet. If your memories and life experiences inform your personality, but David isn’t sure if any of those memories or experiences ever happened (and now due to new information from Amy, he’s not even sure who is real parents are) then how does he, or anyone else, know who he truly is? At least we know who the villain is.
Besides being terrifying, and when played by Aubrey Plaza captivating and amazing, The Devil with the Yellow Eyes certainly seems like he could be someone like Oliver. Melanie says that the astral plane’s ability to make Oliver a creator and a ruler is what eventually made him make the place his home. The Devil with the Yellow Eyes, the parasite, whatever he is, seems to have found that same sort of space in David’s mind. Wearing a tattered business suit on his grotesque body, how do we know that the Devil with the Yellow Eyes wasn’t once just a curious explorer like Oliver?
There’s brilliant character development littered throughout “Chapter 5.” Syd’s harrowing story of her first sexual experience adds new dimension to her fears of her power. Watching Cary care for and worry about his and Kerry’s “delicate ecosystem” is sublimely sweet. Seeing Melanie throw rationality to the wind just because it might lead to a reunion with Oliver provides Jean Smart fantastic moments to display an arsenal of complex expressions. The whole cast is really utilized wonderfully.
The technical aspects of the hour are divine as well. Legion is the best horror series in years without even claiming the genre. The silent sequence, David’s CTV-captured assault, the goddamn tainting of the “Rainbow Connection,” they’re all out-there choices that go over like gangbusters. You can see David Lynch in the bowl of strawberries and bugs, a warped version of the Wizard of Oz conclusion in that ending, and a well-placed Radiohead tune evokes plenty of heavy hitting scenes throughout pop culture. Even if we’re unable to determine if anything on Legion is real, we can at least concede that it’s really incredible.