On this week’s episode of Legion, David’s still having a weird time at Camp Delve-Into-Your-Psyche. This time, Syd joins Melanie and Ptonomy (the memory guy whose name I just had to look up) inside David’s head. Side note – I’m still shocked that I’m this invested in a TV show whose summary could literally be “welcome to my twisted mind.” His sister’s been kidnapped, but that honestly didn’t have the bearing on this week’s plotline that I wanted it to have.
They access David’s explosive kitchen memory first, learning that he used to be a junkie, but only David can see that the devil with the yellow eyes is interfering. As visually arresting as this scene was the first time, though, I’m not sure I wanted to see it again. Three episodes in, Legion is still deconstructing and repeating everything we’ve seen in the pilot, and I’m wondering how sustainable that is in the long run. Repetition can be a great storytelling tool, but I’m getting antsy (what about his sister?). Melanie’s exposition and realization that David is telekinetic falls flat, too; we already know that he can move items and shift reality itself from episode one. When he does it again in this episode, the characters are far more surprised than we are.
While last week’s episode was heavy on the “you aren’t actually mentally ill” front, this week David has his doubts. “Everybody here keeps saying that I’m sane,” he says to Syd. “What if they’re wrong?” For a show that focuses so heavily on David’s mind – on essentially showing us a Joycean portrait of an entire man, from childhood to the present – I appreciated the ambiguity around his actual mental state. David even refers to Melanie’s memory work as ‘therapy’ in this episode. It was nice to see it portrayed positively, to show therapy as something that can help you ‘control your powers.’
Later, Lenny comes back to berate David during a brain scan, telling him his sister is being raped and triggering another projection from him. She also calls the summer camp crew’s loyalties into question. “You think Melanie’s on your side?” she asks. “That bitch’s secrets have secrets.” I’d love to have some characters we aren’t sure we can trust, and Lenny suggests that there’s another agenda with Melanie, although we don’t see any proof of that in the episode itself.
I’m also dying for more from Syd than the supportive girlfriend role. I enjoyed her brief backstory, but her character has a lot more potential than bathroom-floor talks with David where she asks if he loves her. We get a hint of it when she takes charge at the end of the episode, but I’m still hoping they flip the script, in some way. I’d love for Syd to be a character we can’t quite trust – for her to surprise me.
In all honesty, it was almost three quarters of the way through the episode before I was really invested – I couldn’t quite bring myself to care when Melanie referenced a war and declared that David “might be the most powerful mutant alive” – but the last twelve or so minutes packed a punch that was the strongest of the episode by far. Legion is an uneven show, but when it’s good, it’s good enough to make you want to forgive the rest of its flaws.
Melanie decides to sedate David in order to more fully explore his memories, which means that the version of David that joins Melanie, Ptonomy, and Syd is six or seven years old. The team gets separated inside David’s mind, and Syd realizes something is wrong before anyone else, chasing after young David. She can see everything he’s been seeing, too, from the devil with the yellow eyes to the angriest boy in the world. The resulting romp is like a horror movie, detail-rich and pulse-poundingly terrifying: we get flashes of David eating his therapist’s tapes of him, hands reaching through a blood-red fissure, and Melanie (who has clearly never seen The Babadook) flipping through The World’s Angriest Boy in the World. There are some serious ‘if you die in the dream, you die in real life’ vibes, but all of them wake up in the nick of time, avoiding David’s nightmare monsters. Well, all of them except for David, who doesn’t wake up at all.
I’m glad that this is where this episode leaves us, because the unanswered questions – what are the devil with the yellow eyes and the world’s angriest boy? What happened to David’s last therapist? Is David the crane in robot Jemaine Clement’s obscure fairy tale, who shouldn’t really be unmasked? Is he making enough progress to control his powers in time to rescue his sister? – seem to be coming to a head. And it’s about time – I’m hungry for more plot.