This Legion review contains spoilers.
Legion Season 2 Episode 9
Be careful what you wish for. This could apply to several of the characters on Legion this week, but it also applies to myself. While I always admire Legion’s energy and oddities, I frequently admonish the show for skimping on character work. Beside the David-Syd-Future Syd love triangle and the drama it’s mining from that dynamic, Legion has left the rest of Division 3 mostly out in the wind, particularly Melanie Bird.
Sitting out most of the season in a drugged-out stupor, “Chapter 17” brings Melanie front and center to once again explore the psychological damage her relationship with the long-absent Oliver has done to her. I complained earlier this year about the lack of things to do for Jean Smart, and as I said I’m always harping on digging into these characters’ inner lives, but in episode nine of an 11-episode season, it’s too late in the game for me to care much about what Melanie has been up to for the last thirteen days. These sorts of narrative detours are why I imagine we’re getting this extra 11th episode in the first place.
Melanie’s screentime and story isn’t bad, I’d just rather we be getting into David’s master plan sooner. At least Smart gets to show off her chops, delivering a masterful, bitter monologue to Syd about the indignity of being forced to play the love interest to the “hero.” “Their absence distracts us from our lives,” she says, “but destiny calls.” Finally, Oliver does return to her, in the form of a dream, and though she tries to stay guarded, his ability to show her a glimpse of her younger self makes her immediately fall under his, and the Shadow King’s, spell. Briefly, young Melanie replaces Lenny in the Shadow King’s pool daydream, and the resentment Melanie was feeling toward Oliver, just like reality, begins slipping away.
In another fun scene with Kerry, the camera pans back and forth like Melanie’s ping-ponging ideas about what’s truly real and what could be a delusion. “There is no world to save, it’s all in my head,” she concludes, and from there she slips farther from comprehension and farther under Farouk’s thumb. Reunited, but only in her mind, Melanie should have been careful wishing for Oliver to return. Now she’s actively working against Division 3, but stumbling and mumbling to herself like “sick” David from season 1.
Speaking of Kerry, we also spend time with her and Cary this week as they begin to enact David’s plan. It feels like we haven’t explored their dynamic in weeks. For instance, when Kerry was failing to understand Cary’s figures of speech, I had to remind myself that Kerry is still a fish out of water adapting to being in the real world so often now. While Cary mostly serves as exposition to “guess” that David has a plan, he does have a great moment where he discusses his own mortality and worries aloud about Kerry adapting. She responds in typical naïve, aggressive fashion, and it’s a sweet moment of the two remembering that they like each other, while I remember that these two were once my favorite secondary characters on this show and they’ve been sitting on the back burner for too long.
Lastly, Queen Cornflake herself, Lenny returns to her old stomping grounds to indulge in some debauchery. The sex, drugs, and rock and roll harken back to Legion’s early episodes, but the punk vibe stops when Lenny begins seeing Amy. Amy wants her body back, and despite Lenny’s warnings about what she might witness as a passenger awaiting the return of the keys, Amy doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. She urges Lenny to follow the images that she’s ignoring in her head and help David, appealing to her by revealing her true feelings for David. Lenny being in love with David is an unexpected but welcome wrinkle, another fun way to take her away from all-out villain and more toward being a rogue. She may have Amy’s body, but it’s not really her fault and how would she know how to fix things? Inversely, she may be in love with David, but what problems is she going to cause for Syd?
So while David’s plan only inches along incrementally, there are some fun developments in the season’s shortest episode to date. We were also spared a delusion PowerPoint presentation, so that was a plus too. All and all a solid, if not outstanding, episode. Next week was supposed to be the season finale, let’s hope we still get something with some oomph.