This Legion review contains spoilers.
Legion Season 2 Episode 2
Reality is in the eye of the beholder. Legion is trying to hammer that point like a nail between your eyes. If Season One was trying to condition you not to trust David’s memories, Season Two seems to be training us not trust anything at all; timelines, allegiances, appearances, none of it appears to be what it seems. Everyone must agree on what is real for something to be reality, and I don’t think David can even agree with himself, literally.
Because there are two Davids, right? There’s one with a scruffy head of hair that we’ve come to expect, just as lost as the rest of us, but now there appears to be another David, with a cleaned up, combed doo that’s running around, trying to deceive Cary and Melanie and hearing other voices in his head. Is this the same David, just different in appearance based on whether he’s being truthful or lying? Maybe David is still sick even though he’s rid of the Shadow King? Is this the same David from different timelines acting out different agendas? Because again, there are definitely multiple timelines taking place. Did the cold open with David talking to Lenny and Oliver on the carousel take place a year ago, when David was in the orb? No, I think it took place in the present, where David revisits future Syd, who he previously visited in the past. Are you following me?
Look, I know reviews are meant for clarity. I’m supposed to come with some semblance of answers, not dozens of more questions. I should be working this stuff out on my own, but with a show so dense, topsy-turvy, and puzzling, I find it more effective to open a word document after the credits roll and let my thoughts pour out, and hopefully I’ll have sorted through them by the time I watch the next episode. Otherwise, these reviews would be coming days after the episodes had aired, with harebrained theories about future Syd’s missing arm that aren’t any more likely to be accurate.
I think it’s better to react to the batshit visuals and layered complexities of the fairly simple plot as they happen. If I was capable of multidimensional perception, I’d probably be able to crack the code for everyone, but unfortunately my knock-off Cerebro full of strawberry-flavored goo is in the shop. That being said, the fish-eyed camera from that cold-open just added to the disorienting conversation; the open field with the Fortune Teller booth was gorgeous to look at; Aubrey Plaza is having an absolute ball once again, being a thing of nightmares; and the editing tricks, like playing with the ratios to shrink and expand David’s head or making things choppy as if the episode were buffering, are fun to weed through.
Most importantly, it feels like real character groundwork is being laid. Having David deal with Syd in two different timelines, if we can trust that future Syd is actually Syd, messes with their already shaky unity. David is keeping future Syd’s secrets from present Syd, and future Syd clearly has lost the version of David or their relationship that we currently know, which could seriously color David’s interactions with present-day Syd. They appear to get on the same page by episode’s end, but how long until David learns something else that he isn’t quite sure how to share?
More out of synch than David and Syd are Cary and Kerry. After establishing last week that things haven’t been exactly peachy between the pair, now they have the added strain of having their roles reversed against their will. In the Shadow King’s cartoonish, yet frightening attack on Division 3, he causes Cary to begin living the interior role previously inhabited by Kerry. Both parties seem uncomfortable. Couple their frustration with Melanie’s drug-addled melancholy, and the Division 3 gang are in pretty rough shape.
The crux of the episode is the uneasy alliance formed between David and Amahl Farouk. After lots of talk about being a god and quoting John Lennon, the pair are able to find an uneasy truce: David will promise to help locate the monk of the Mego (Migos?) Order, who’s hiding in plain sight at Division 3, and the Shadow King will promise to stop killing people. Now, trusting the Shadow King doesn’t seem like the smartest idea, but it will keep nameless henchmen from being turned into pigs or dust for the time being, and like future Syd has told David, the Shadow King has killed several people, but the new threat will kill everyone. Navid Negahban is bringing some playful, malicious energy to match Aubrey Plaza’s, and I look forward to watching him interact with more members of the cast.
As long as this attention to character is continually shown, Legion has the potential to top last season, with Noah Hawley almost singly focused on dreaming up eye candy now that Fargo is on hiatus. With a cooperative Shadow King, the new dynamic could power Legion beyond its style over substance leanings, which would be truly the most mind-bending feat.