This Legion review contains spoilers.
Legion Episode 6
Primarily I’ve had nothing but positive things to say about Legion’s addictively disorienting first season, but I have criticized the show in the past for stalling the story. That ends tonight; this episode’s recess from the plot while David, Syd, and the Summerland crew are trapped inside David’s mind with The Devil with the Yellow Eyes is not only full of the stylistic flourishes that make the series great, but it’s also illuminating. This episode begs the viewer to look at the series from a different perspective while delivering key pieces of information and hints about where things might be heading.
Back in Clockworks, but not precisely in reality, Syd appears to be recast as the hero of the story. Not only do we learn during “Lenny’s” final evil monologue (more on that in a minute) that David’s love for Syd is impeding her control of David’s body, but Syd appears to be the only person acutely aware that what they are experiencing in Clockworks isn’t exactly real. David almost appears to actively fight against Syd, insisting that he needs the asylum and its routines. Trapped inside his own psyche, David repeatedly asserts that he feels at peace, in control, and a feeling of clarity, but it’s all a manipulation. David’s memories of himself and Syd are distorted; he believes that he’s only suffering from manic depression and that Syd is the one having delusional thoughts.
The way “Lenny” insistently tries to redirect and reoccupy Syd, it’s becoming clear that she’ll be the ticket to freeing the Summerland crew and David from the parasite’s grasp. Using a vivid and apt analogy, the Devil with the Yellow Eyes describes itself as a brain-destroying fungus that uses ants and their bodies to thrive, and inside David’s mind that fungus can appear as a Nurse Ratched version of David’s sister Amy or a seductive Aubrey Plaza, dancing her way through David’s memories like a Bond femme fatale. “I could give a shit about your mind,” Lenny tells David, “I need your body.” At this point, David’s the damsel in distress and Syd needs to figure out how to rescue him from the tower of his mind.
Let’s take a moment to talk about Aubrey Plaza and that final monologue. First of all, Plaza has been dynamite all season long as Lenny, but the dynamics of her performance tonight are truly impressive, shifting from professional psychiatrist to menacing villain, while finding time to be funny and sultry in between, can only be described as a tour de force performance. The final monologue, which ends with David locked inside of a dark, small place within his mind, was perfection, but it also contained a key detail. Lenny, the Devil with the Yellow Eyes, The Shadow King, whatever you want to call it, acknowledges that it knew David’s real father, even describing his personality as “holier than thou” while hinting that David’s father tried to hide David from The Shadow King because of David’s immense power. Together, The Shadow King posits, they could “give God a run for his money.” Surely that means more will be made of David’s famous comic book father and hopefully that person’s past experiences with The Shadow King will be explored.
Meanwhile, the other trapped Summerland characters experience their own tip-offs that all is not what it seems. While we learn new details about Ptonomy and are delivered some thrills by seeing Kerry stalked by an autonomous Walter, Melanie and Cary experience the most significant moments inside The Shadow King’s illusion. Both characters have brief, wordless interactions with Oliver. Whether Oliver is just a figment of their dreams and memories or a force that can dictate change through the astral plane, it looks like he’ll be a key component of the final two episodes.
On a technical level, Legion remains not only the best show on TV to look at, but to listen to as well. No show has ever made me want to look up the name of the sound editor before and personally thank him (my regards for whoever decided to include that “Oh! You Pretty Things” cover as well). I was particularly transfixed by the ways in which many scenes mirrored or played alternatively to scenes that took place in the pilot, as well as the sequence with Syd levitating through Clockworks and into David’s childhood bed.
I still have a million questions, like who exactly is Lenny and did she really die in Clockworks like tonight’s little flashback suggests, but I try to silence them like David blocking out the voices of others in his head. With season two of Legion now assured, I’ll just sit back, bask in the ambiguity, and enjoy the ride.