This Legion review contains spoilers.
Legion Season 2 Episode 4
If Legion wants to prove to its critics that its aiming to be more than just eye candy in Season 2, then it can immediately point to “Chapter 12” as a shining example. By echoing Season 1’s montage-heavy introduction to David with a deep-dive into the mind of Syd, “Chapter 12” gives us our shortest, yet emotionally compact episode of the new season. For the second week in a row, Legion doesn’t really push its story forward in any significant way, but I do feel like the show is better for examining Syd’s origin and how it relates to her relationship with David.
“Chapter 12” seems to directly address criticism aimed at David and Rachel’s shallow relationship. Syd may have spent a lot of time getting to know David inside of his head with the rest of us, but our information about Syd and what drives her has been lacking. Here, set to tunes by Bon Iver, The National, and a cover of Cream’s “White Room,” the show leans into that as we sit passenger side with David while he watches Syd grow up with her difficult to navigate powers. Finally, the show is able to use its jaw-dropping visual powers to tell a poignant story. Images of Syd’s mother (American Horror Story standout Lily Rabe) using a pillow as a buffer to comfort her daughter, or a young Syd using the coat room at her mother’s party to try on the identities of the guests are beautifully used to mix the isolation and loneliness that we all feel in our youth with something more alien.
Though the monk is dead and all of the teeth-chattering victims have awoken, Syd won’t leave the maze of her mind until David is able to decipher exactly what Syd is trying to tell them. Repeatedly, they return to a museum, which is sort of a fun nod to Syd’s power and predicament in life: a place to observe life and culture without being able to touch it. David is desperate to return to reality and, using last week’s trips into the minds of Ptonomy and Melanie, keeps assuming that Syd is trying to show him her true desire. However, he repeatedly guesses wrong, proving maybe that David and Syd’s bond isn’t as strong as he believed.
David is forced to repeat Syd’s life story until he gets it right, each time revealing new traumas and wrinkles. Syd crosses the line with a group of bullies and a pushy young man with a violent outburst, she self-harms, and travels to seedy punk clubs to mosh around, play with her power, and feel alive. David thinks that she’s hiding these traumas in layers because she’s afraid that David will love her less, but that isn’t the point. It takes Syd reliving the shower incident with her mother’s boyfriend, here shown in intimate detail, to highlight to David that the pain and trauma is the point.
After David rightly focuses on the book that young Syd is seen reading throughout the flashbacks, Syd finally lights up. In the upcoming war, the apocalyptic future that David has seen, Syd tells David that the lovers will not be the ones to survive, but the fighters, and throughout all of Syd’s hardships, troubling experiences, and pain, she’s become a hardened fighter. “God loves the sinners best because our fire burns bright,” she tells David. It’s almost like a rallying cry to David to embrace the painful parts of his past to use as armor. Love isn’t what will save them, it’s the thing worth fighting for – their pain is what will save them.
For the first time this season, it feels like David and Syd are back on the same wavelength. The episode ends with Lenny showing up at Division 3, perplexingly in the flesh, but after the dazzling, emotional 43-minute journey we’ve been on through Syd’s memories, the cliffhanger doesn’t hit as hard as it maybe should. That’s a credit to the truly moving, sublime nature of “Chapter 12.” Hopefully there are more standalone gems like this ahead in the show’s future.