LEGION Review: 1.05 “Chapter Five”

David learns to play the banjo.

Looking back over my notes for this week’s Legion, I see the same thing written about four times across the pages: “Dave seems Bad”. David sure isn’t holding up well this episode – from the second we see him back at Summerland he seems somehow different. His demeanor has changed to something darker and unsettling as Lenny’s hold on him gets stronger. In fact, David doesn’t seem truly himself until the very end of the episode, and it’s not clear how much of what happens this week is David and how much is the devil with the yellow eyes.

David tells Melanie that he met her husband on the astral plane (“he looks good. Strong. He lives in an ice cube”), and I really dug the concept of the astral plane as a dangerous and addictive space. David seems excited about this pull, though – “he makes his own reality now,” he says excitedly. Given our current political climate, the concept sent some shivers down my spine.

After figuring out how to have brain-sex with Syd in the astral plane (and being about as subtle as two teenagers about it), David heads to Division 3 on his own – at Lenny’s urging. Syd wakes up Melanie and Ptonomy, and the whole gang follows to find a deeply disturbing scene. Soldiers have been sunken into solid concrete or torn completely apart; seeing David perform this for the security cameras is bloodcurdling. The sweet, twitchy David we’ve known for the past four episodes has been replaced by a theatrical, overly cheerful, violent menace. It’s not super clear how he can now hollow out space in the astral plane or control his powers all of a sudden, but I guess that’s what comes from very literally making a deal with the devil (who’s made it to the real world). They find the D3 villain who tortured Amy sans legs – saying “so much power… it wears a human face.” Yikes!!

I hardly had a second to wonder if David created the devil or if it was preying on him before Cary comes to the rest of the crew with a theory, after seeing the devil on David’s CT scan – “This monster isn’t David, it’s a parasite of some kind… burrowed into David’s brain.” Syd finds David in their astral plane playing the world’s saddest and creepiest version of “The Rainbow Connection” while the beagle and the angry boy loom in the bathroom. They head to David’s childhood home, knowing he’s brought his sister there, for the episode’s final, terrifying showdown. Earlier in the episode, Ptonomy says “we’re fighting a war, it’s bigger than some guy and his sister,” but that feels wrong, as does every other mention of a war in this show. Legion is exactly as big as David and Amy; they’re the heart of it.

This is the first time that the show’s title, Legion, really rang true, because D3 David acts like a man possessed. I understood the Biblical reference immediately – when Jesus asks the name of a demon-possessed man in the book of Mark, he replies “My name is Legion… for we are many.” Jesus casts the demons out into pigs, who promptly drown themselves. So far, Legion’s devil just seems like one entity with many faces (the beagle, the angriest boy, Lenny), but it seems like an exorcism might be in order for next episode. I usually hate demon stories, but Legion brings out the truth of what the devil does. He doesn’t seem evil, at first; he says, I can give you power if you just let me take over.

David does, and the show is reeling with the effects of it. The devil is, after all, a liar.

Okay, broader analyses. Legion is a collection of complex moving parts that have layered themselves really masterfully; a lot of my issues with the show’s pacing would have otherwise skewed the way that Legion allows you to keep track of all the balls in the air. It’s because of how everything has been introduced that we understand it, to some degree.

That includes character development – by this point in the show, I feel like I know the characters more closely, even though they themselves haven’t changed since the first episode. Going back and watching Ptonomy and Kerry in the pilot, you understand exactly who they are, even if you didn’t to begin with. Cary and Kerry are still a highlight for me. Their relationship is strange and intimate and beautiful –there’s something really lovely about the moment he pulls her carefully back into his body saying “it’s okay, I gotcha” as bruises bloom across his face. Bill Irwin was this episode’s MVP – his faces at the end of the episode were a delight. By placing the characters’ stories so close together, too, you wonder if David: Devil :: Cary : Kerry – is the devil as much a part of David as Kerry is a part of Cary? I really hope not.

David and Syd’s romance, for me, remains the most boring part of the series. I was glad to have Syd question the man that she’s fallen for this episode, but I still want to skip ahead to the more mind-bending plot points.

The aesthetic of Legion is still perfect – the costuming choices, from the gloves to David’s geometric t-shirts; the beetles crawling around in the bowl of strawberries in the astral plane; the dimensions of the screen changing so subtly you hardly notice it narrowing; the incredible, disorienting breaking of the 180 degree rule in the flickering blue light of D3’s hallway (a la Kubrick’s The Shining bathroom scene); and, of course, the handful of minutes without any sound (I’ve had that nightmare).

This was one heck of an episode – and whether your money’s on “it was all a dream” or something a little closer to The Magicians’ mental hospital episode, I’ll see you guys back at Clockworks next week.