If every decision is a branch on a path that creates a web of realities, what’s it like to be able to see every choice other people are making? And if you could manipulate reality on a fundamental level, what then? You might spend a life exploring not only your own web of possibilities, but those of everyone around you – an infinite, madness-inducing fractal universe in every moment.
Legion’s “Chapter 14” continues the recent set of episodes focused on specific characters. (Syd and Lenny got the spotlight over the last two weeks.) This season established a narrative frame and a pattern of sorts in its first third, and has now spent three hours diverting into individual portraits, to good, often great effect.
In “Chapter 14” it’s David’s turn – and Amy’s. This entire episode seems to take place in a flash, as David processes the death of his sister Amy. We saw her violently, fatally transformed into a new body for Lenny in “Chapter 13,” and as this latest episode comes full circle, the moment of understanding that information contains a multitude of existences for David, and ultimately makes him grasp a core truth.
This is something akin to Legion’s own Holy Motors, with David taking on a multitude of incarnations that have different effects on the world. In one, he’s a wild-haired homeless man who becomes a demon of sorts to a street gang right out of Clockwork Orange. He’s also a menial worker at a dairy, a drone for the IRS, a legal clerk who becomes one of the most powerful men in the world – with the Shadow King still living inside him, a happy suburban dad, and more.
As we wind through these lives with a cover of Ten Years After’s song ‘I’d Love to Change The World’ as an umbrella over all of them, Amy might be the one the song is really for. Throughout these fractured reflections of David’s “real” life as we know it, Amy is there, caring for him. She’s the only constant, and often the only buffer between him and a total downward spiral.
Amusing ideas glimmer through some of David’s alternate lives. In one timeline David uses his powers to scorch a deal his firm is making, and for a moment the episode feels like the CBS version of Legion. There are two very visceral moments of gore, one of which is a very Twin Peaks-worthy moment of human destruction. IRS David is so bored he entertains himself by making a mouse sing and dance – or imagining doing so.
This episode is a challenge for Dan Stevens and he embraces it, creating an entire suite of variations on his character. Stevens gets to linger on all the tones of sadness, desperation, and joy that David might actually experience in any given moment of every day if he allows himself to be open to it – but why would he?
Because when it all hammers home, as we see him understand his role in Amy’s death at the same time he really understands the true role she played in his life, the weight is unbearable. One version of Amy leads a fairly stable-seeming David to Clockworks, and we realize this is our David, and just how profound his sense of loss will be.
A cover of Clique’s ‘Superman’ plays (a song made famous when REM recorded a version) so that the lyric “I am Superman and I can do anything” is ironically filtered through a recap of Legion’s overarching story so far. It ends with Amy’s death – a death ultimately set in motion by her hopes for David’s future, and one his own preoccupations prevented him from predicting or preventing.
Like the song says, David Haller is basically all-powerful; he can almost do anything. He can bend and shape reality, and see down alternate branches of existence. But he couldn’t save the most important person in his life from the demon who used to live in his head. This episode invites us to wonder about all the branching decisions it would take to come to the future version of Syd we’ve seen in previous episodes, and to a future where their battles are manageable. Now that David is beginning to understand the full shape of his life, maybe he can get out of his head long enough to change the world for the better.