This Legion review contains spoilers.
Legion Season 3 Episode 6
Though I’m happy to see Jean Smart and Jemaine Clement back in the world of Legion, I wish their reappearance wasn’t packaged within the momentum-killing, too cute by half “Chapter 25.” I know this episode will likely have its fans, and as always, I appreciate the audacious ambition of trying to flesh-out the world of the astral plane, but everything is cloaked in a coat of whimsy so thick that it feels suffocating.
The entire episode seems to be trying to teach Syd the lesson that empathy can only go so far and that some people don’t want to be saved or are beyond saving, using a fairy tale framework, two great comedic actors in Clement and surprise guest star Jason Mantzoukas, and an inexplicable rap battle to drive the point home. It’s also a meditation on nature vs nurture, which fits into the series fascination with upbringing, but only the episode’s final five minutes has any consequence on the season’s plot. I’m not against diversions; “Chapter 22,” which explored David’s parents’ story, was my favorite episode of the season, but it also gave us new information about David’s backstory and helped establish the loose rules of time travel in this universe. By contrast, “Chapter 25” really doesn’t tell us anything new about Syd and it seems to be teaching her a lesson that I had assumed that she already believed, that perhaps David cannot be saved.
Maybe I would have been more receptive to this episode’s Three Little Pigs charms had I not just traveled on a 6-hour, sleepless flight in coach, but I was turned off right away by the appearance of Mantzoukas. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a huge fan of the actor’s work and find him to be a compelling screen presence, but hearing his familiar voice as the Wolf immediately took me right out of the episode and the world in which it was trying to build. Our trips to the astral plane on Legion have always been a bit silly, but this felt like overload.
The astral plane is described as a magnet for lost things and it’s where Syd finds herself after her encounter with Legion inside of David’s mind. For unknown reasons, Syd is aged down to a baby and found by a scavenging Oliver. Cynthia has also newly arrived to the astral plane after having “lost her innocence” which we’re led to believe is because of drug addiction. The wolf and Oliver struggle over the stewardship of both girls, but both end up living with Melanie and Oliver and together they create a makeshift family, with the parental figures teaching lessons and helping both girls escape the knowledge of “the real world.” However, the wolf is eventually able to lure Cynthia to the dark side with the help of drugs and manipulation. When Syd encounters Cynthia again as a teenager, she’s determined to help her and bring her back into the fold, away from the wolf, but Cynthia chooses to stay with the corrupting influence.
However, before Cynthia makes her final choice, there’s a rap battle. Clement has proven himself to be an effective and funny MC through his work with the Flight of the Conchords, and Legion has made these left-field musical interludes land in the past, but this one sinks like a lead balloon. Perhaps a better beat could have made some of these cringe-worthy lines work. Things only start to click once the beat drops out and Oliver starts zeroing in on the wolf’s insecurity, sadness, and love in his life, and his emotional response is enough to trick Cynthia into staying by his side. There’s a lesson in here about bad guys using vulnerability to help pull the wool, but it’s surrounded by some clunky rhyming.
Eventually, the Syd raised in the astral plane realizes that she needs to head back to the real world and face the challenges that are waiting for her there. Syd, Cary, and Kerry decide to use the still open time door before the Time Demons return, but not before Cary uses his powers to absorb the damage that Kerry suffered at the hands of David’s followers. Out of all of the emotional moments this episode tries to have, this is the only one that had any sort of resonance in my eyes. Together the trio travel through the time door right in the nick of time, determined to stop David from erasing them from the timeline.
“Chapter 25” is going to make a certain type of Legion fan very happy, just not this one. One person’s delightful experiment is another’s fanciful slog. To each their own. I thought “Chapter 24” turned the action and urgency of the season up to 11, and this episode halted that momentum dead in its tracks with a self-satisfied detour filled with metaphor and little else. At least like the foot looks to be back on the pedal next week.
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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.