This Legion review contains spoilers.
Legion Season 3 Episode 4
Time travel is in vogue. Not only did it serve as a major plot device in the summer’s biggest hit film, it’s also rumored to be where Stranger Things is headed in Season 4, and could possibly be a factor in wrapping up the Star Wars Skywalker saga. Time travel has always been a nifty narrative device for waving away story complications, staging important meetings between two characters that aren’t contemporaries, and generally reveling in a fictional universe’s own mythology. It’s a hallmark of science fiction stories for a reason.
“Chapter 23” of Legion gets all timey-wimey for many of the reasons stated above, and it’s something of a mixed bag. When David’s insistence on returning to the past to prevent the Shadow King from entering his body as a baby unleashes “Time Demons,” the grinning, Blue Meanie-looking scoundrels wreak havoc for everyone. Legion is always good for at least one confounding head-fuck of an episode, and “Chapter 23” appears to be it. But amongst the horror movie vibes and German Expressionist influences, there are some tender and revealing moments to be had.
Chief among them is Syd’s hangout with the 16-year-old version of herself. While this meeting technically appears to be a cruel joke played on Syd by the Time Demons, Syd has a heart to heart with a younger, troubled version of herself and a key moment in Syd’s backstory is revisited. All season long, in comment sections across the internet on anything Legion related, so-called “fans” have been giving Syd the Skyler White treatment, i.e. blaming her character for being “mean” and “turning” on David despite David’s obvious misdeeds and character flaws. In the eyes of these “fans,” it doesn’t matter that David manipulated Syd and sexually assaulted her because, beside the fact that Farouk “turned Syd against David,” we know that Syd once used her powers to enter her mother’s body and have sex with her partner, which landed the partner in jail. The rationale is that since Syd committed a sex crime using her powers, we shouldn’t vilify David for doing the same to her.
Besides that being a horrible point on the basis of “two wrongs don’t make a right,” and just a horrific train of thought in general, we get to hear 16-year-old Syd explain what happened in her own words. Teenage Syd wasn’t trying to “seduce” her mother’s partner; she was a lonely girl seeking human connection and did so in a foolish way, acting impulsively and not thinking through her actions, as teenagers do. Teenage Syd was then subjected to forceful sex from behind, something that scared and confused her. She made a poor choice and lost her virginity in an awful, frightening way. I don’t really need to explain why teenage Syd’s actions are different from that of a grown man using his powers to protect his fragile ego, a twisted ego that is demonstrated time and time again in this episode by David saying things like “Nothing that hurts me is real, no one that hates me is real.” It really should be the end of the anti-Syd argument.
Elsewhere, the Time Demons trick David into thinking that he’s meeting with his mother while she’s in a concentration camp. Seeing David reaching for his mother, desperately trying to explain to her how she can stop Farouk from destroying his life, is the closest thing to compassion that I’ve felt for the character all season. Her complete defeat juxtaposed with David’s never-say-die attitude feels powerful, and it’s gutting when the whole thing is revealed to be the Time Demons toying with David. Only worse is what happens to Lenny, who in a short, yet emotionally devastating montage is forced to watch her daughter’s life pass before her eyes. It’s a stellar, heartbreaking performance from Aubrey Plaza, and with Lenny already talking about leaving David’s side earlier in the episode, it could signal the end of the Breakfast Queen’s reign and her shift to Division 3’s side.
However, the main plot development in the episode is the shift time erasing David’s brainwashing of Cary. With his mind clear, he helps Switch escape, using the Alice in Wonderland-esque tunnel from the premiere. When David uses his “God-like abilities” to do away with the threat of the Time Demons, he returns to his home base to find Switch gone. Devastated that he can no longer use her powers to go back, he declares war on Division 3, setting up what is sure to be an eventful next episode.
While certain aspects of “Chapter 23” felt silly (I like a Dr. Caligari reference as much as the next guy, but Farouk and Co.’s journey to “the time between time” got an eye roll out of me), other moments, like Kerry lamenting the fact that the “fun” is gone and everyone has changed, land perfectly. Legion still indulges itself a little too much, but as long as there are solid moments like that to keep the balance, I’ll allow it.
Nick Harley is a tortured Cleveland sports fan, thinks Douglas Sirk would have made a killer Batman movie, Spider-Man should be a big-budget HBO series, and Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson should direct a script written by one another. For more thoughts like these, read Nick’s work here at Den of Geek or follow him on Twitter.