LEGION Review 1.04 “Chapter 4”

Wednesday is karaoke night.

Last week, I said that something had to give plot-wise for Legion to start moving forward – well, this week, Legion was the gift that kept on giving, and giving, and giving. It’s like they’re inside my head.

Wait.

This is a tight episode, the kind that makes you say “OH” when you watch it again and realize that every single shot is there for a reason. They’ve been doing this all along, but the pieces really came together this week in a glorious, symphonic kind of way. The plot delivered in spades, keeping a whole lot of balls in the air at once. Back at the ranch, Cary and Kerry (who are and who aren’t the same person) split up. Cary stays at Summerland with Melanie and two unconscious men: David and her husband Oliver (played flawlessly by Jemaine Clement), who’s been trapped in the astral plane for a few decades. Kerry joins Ptonomy and Syd to go track down David’s ex-girlfriend after Syd realizes that David’s memories aren’t what they seem. “He’s so powerful,” Syd tells Ptonomy. “Maybe he’s hidden his real memories behind fake ones.” Detective Syd is right, and we finally figure out what happened to David’s old therapist, Dr. Poole. It’s not pretty.

Along with all of this, David’s sister is still in the clutches of the guy with the ugly perm. She comes across David’s Clockworks therapist, Kissinger, in the cell next door to hers. And finally, halfway through the episode, we find David: he’s made his way to the astral plane where he finds Oliver, resulting in the funniest scene to come out of this show so far. (“It’s definitely… bras are back…”) Oliver tips so perfectly between bizarre, oracular, and earnest, which is exactly the kind of person you’d probably be after spending two decades alone in an ice cube.

This was an episode for answers, or for hinting toward answers, about what’s really lurking in David’s mind. We finally get some concrete revelations – but only because we spend so much time apart from our unreliable protagonist. Syd asks, “who are we if not the stories we tell ourselves,” and David’s entire history seems to be a story he’s told himself often enough to make it true. It’s only by looking inside of Philly’s and Amy’s thoughts that we start to piece together new information. We learn that David’s beagle, the one who followed him everywhere in his childhood, doesn’t exist at all – the Hallers never had a dog. The fact that this dog’s name is King had me a little more convinced of the theories that The Shadow King is going to play a major role in everything, along with all the dog references (Oliver says David is “like a dog trying to chew off its own tail”). And Lenny… well, that might be too good to spoil here.

Putting David on another plane of existence for most of the episode also allowed the minor characters to really come into their own this week. It was a chance for the characters to be fleshed out in their relationships with each other and in their own rights, not just in relation to David. Syd shone this episode, using her power (albeit in a way that didn’t ultimately matter to the plot) and making discoveries about David. We also got the complete, and wildly confusing, account of Cary and Kerry Loudermilk, two people who usually share one body. “He does the boring stuff,” Kerry explains, “I get all the action.” Kerry’s constantly DTF (Down to Fight), unlike her more mild-mannered counterpart.

I didn’t fully realize until this episode how linked everyone’s powers are, and I appreciate the consistency in the way that all of them fit together. Legion is a show about the mind that burrows so deeply into David’s, so it’s only fitting that everyone’s abilities are mental – Kerry and Cary share a body, Syd can switch consciousnesses and bodies, and Ptonomy can access memory. Each power questions and unsettles the stability of identity, broadening what it means to be yourself. It’s a welcome change from the flashy, city-levelling destruction of so many superhero movies and shows (cough, Man of Steel, cough). It’s personal in a way that we’ve never seen before, and television gives it the room it needs to breathe, to experiment with storytelling formats, effects, and nonlinear narrative.

I haven’t talked about visuals much since the pilot, but I think it’s worth another, very honorable mention. The colors in this episode were perfect, the astral plane kicking everything up a notch – Oliver’s iceberg in pale blue, David’s room in sickening yellow-green. The circle motif, as production designer Michael Wylie pointed out, is in full force too, from the diving helmet to the Lemony Snicket-esque lighthouse window. And the choreography between Cary, Kerry, and Oliver was weirdly beautiful.

I didn’t really have any issues with this episode, other than the fact that Syd’s dramatic, expository voiceovers didn’t exactly thrill me. (I’m not counting Jemaine Clement’s introductory soliloquy in this, because I’m interested in the fairy tale angle and I’d watch him in just about any role.)

This episode was jam-packed from start to finish, and judging from next week’s teaser, it’s only going to amp up from here as David deconstructs his own past. “You’re a card trick,” Ptonomy said to Syd this week. “He’s a bomb.” And it seems like David Haller is seconds away from exploding.

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