We’ve already made it to the penultimate episode of this season of Legion (good thing it’s already been renewed!) and, to tell the truth, this was probably one of my least favorite episodes thus far. Don’t get me wrong, Legion always delivers. There was definite plot movement and a bucketload of revelations, but in some moments, it felt like we were treading water until next week’s finale.
Okay, let’s recap. At the start of this episode, we actually backtrack to find out what Oliver and Cary talked about before Cary went back to find Syd. Kerry’s been left behind in a newly refurbished Clockworks – and by newly refurbished, I mean pulsing with red and blue lights, crumbling into ruin, and teeming with zombie-like inmates. Lenny corners Amy (in the Boston Mapparium…?) and pulls out the memory of the day David came to them, piling on more evidence that Professor X is, in fact, David’s biological father (we saw the wheelchair!).
After Oliver and Cary reunite and let us all know – as suspected – that Lenny is the Shadow King, Cary brings Syd into the astral plane to give her some (convenient) pairs of glasses that Oliver invented. Then, Cary and Oliver head back to the frozen room in David’s childhood home, where Melanie finally gets to see her long-lost husband again. 25 years apart from each other, and Oliver opens with a dirty limerick – which seems pretty on-brand. There was something really lovely and quietly heartbreaking about their re-acquaintance; Oliver recognizes some part of her, but his time in the astral plane has wiped most of his memories. “Don’t tell me,” he says, after asking her name. “I’ll remember.”
Oliver starts orchestrating the objects in the room in order to move the bullets’ trajectories and allow Cary to get his device to David, but they’re interrupted by the devil / Lenny / the Shadow King, who flits between dimensions. Meanwhile, Syd and Kerry face down Lenny at Clockworks, saved by that one telekinetic red shirt that I seem to have face blindness toward. (Red shirt dies at the end – rest in peace, buddy. I still don’t know who you are.)
This showdown was the highlight of the episode – completely black and white, all dialogue was presented on silent movie-style cards, the movements of the actors sharp and stagey. Lenny grins, tilting her head, as “OKAY KIDS, PREPARE TO DIE!” flashes across the screen. It’s honestly perfect.
Before this, though, we find out that if you die at imaginary Clockworks, you do die in real life – since Lenny crushes The Eye like a soda can and the crew in the real world watch him bleed out. Adios, Bad Perm. We probably won’t miss you.
David’s been trapped in his “mental coffin” this whole episode, having a nice heart to heart with his British “rational mind” that takes him to a classroom to explain his own history in drawings. A whole lot of explanations later, we get the delightful experience of hearing a British actor play an American character doing a bad British accent.
I was disappointed, though, to hear David declare, “Melanie was wrong. I was sick. But I’m not sick anymore.” Plot-wise, this makes some sense, but sharing your head with a demonic mutant is bound to leave some lasting mental repercussions. Besides this, the metaphor is strong – when you’re mentally ill, the thing you’re sharing your head with makes life really hard. It’s your brain, but intrusive thoughts aren’t you. Therapy and medication can actually be the things that help lock these intrusive thoughts away and control them.
With Oliver’s help, Cary does manage to put his device onto David’s head, bringing everyone back into their own bodies. The imagery is ancient, almost Biblical. When the enemy is the Shadow King, the only thing to do is to crown a champion of your own – a King David.
A lot of this episode seemed a little too convenient. Oliver gets away with a lot because of how powerful he is, but he usually shows up to get our heroes out of hot water. It isn’t totally clear how he manages to find his way back from the astral plane – did he need a being like the Shadow King to create an adjacent plane, or could he have come home this whole time if he’d only remembered who he was? We’ve also got a pair of Very Fortunate Devices here – Cary’s crown locks Lenny up, for the time being, and Oliver’s glasses allow the wearer to see past manipulations.
And what frustrated me most: not one, but two exposition sessions. I’m more willing to forgive the latter because of how creatively it’s presented – there’s something charming about David coaxing David into explaining his past with cartoons on a blackboard. But Oliver and Cary seem to know immediately that they’re dealing with the Shadow King (why didn’t Cary say something as soon as he found out the name of David’s dog?).
Laying out the details of who Farouk is and how exactly he left his body after being defeated by David’s father in order to possess David was an info-dump – and it feels out of character for the show. Part of why Legion works so well is because of what it withholds from the viewer. Of course, you have to show your hand at some point; I just wish it’d been done more organically (especially since we kind of already knew these revelations). I’d also loved that, while Legion is an X-Men character, I never felt like the show was bound to the source material, or that you had to know the comics to understand the show. Dropping so many mentions of mutants was probably exciting for a lot of fans, but it took me out of the world Hawley has so carefully constructed.
Although it wasn’t as strong as some of the other episodes this season, Chapter 7 lays the groundwork for next week’s final showdown. I can’t wait.