LEGION 1.08 “Chapter 8”
In the vein of a true miniseries, we’ve already reached the season finale of Legion (I know). It’s the finale of a show that knows it’s gotten another season, which is fun – it’s answered most of our questions but left us with a whole bunch of loose ends (Marvel fans already know this, but make sure you stay tuned in after the credits). It also leaves this episode a little less climactic than expected – although things came to a head, a good chunk of it laid tracks for season two.
This episode did not start anywhere close to where I expected. We pick up where we left off, in a sense; remember that guy who questioned David at D3 in the pilot, and then got exploded by the pool? His name is Clark, forty percent of his body has been burned, and he is back in action. We spend almost the first ten minutes of the episode taking an intimate look at his recovery and his family life with his husband and son. It’s a really touching portrait, slow and ordinary. But Clark seems fixated on retaliation. He refuses to take desk duty, instead going to confront the mutants in Summerland. (Sidenote – take some desk duty, Clark! Your husband seems very worried about you!)
So thoroughly humanizing Clark – someone we thought was a villain – is a fascinating move. It muddies the waters of our own opinions and sets him up as a potential ally for the future. With snarks like “I think I hear my ride, does anyone see a warbird helicopter?” and “you two have a fight?” when he notices Kerry and Cary’s icy attitudes, he already fits perfectly into the dynamic of our other protagonists. I’m excited to see how he works his way into the team in season two.
The potential action that was set up last episode is almost immediately deflated as David whips up a solider tornado and takes Clark prisoner. That’s okay, though – Division 3 is a secondary problem and a secondary focus. We know the real climax has to take place in David’s mind, between him and the Shadow King.
David takes a real pacifist attitude this episode, trying to get Clark onto their side. When they talk about killing him or even just using him, David objects – “with that kind of thinking, wars would never end.” Now that he’s on the other side of the interrogation table, he doesn’t do unto Clark what Clark has done to him.
While Cary and company prepare the tech necessary to try to extract the Shadow King from David’s mind, Syd finds herself pulled into the white room in the astral plane, but not by David. Lenny is waiting for her there, in yet another iconic look; she’s become a zombie, disintegrating and trailing black sludge behind her. “Your Lenny mask is running,” Syd says. Lenny begins to tempt Syd with her biggest weakness: her love for David. She tells Syd that if they try to pull her out, David will die. “You ever try to unmake soup?” she asks.
Because Syd has gone into David’s mind via the astral plane, and Lenny has lived there for years, Lenny is right – “we’re connected, kid. You, David, and me.” This is her back door, the Shadow King’s way out – she just has to hope the Syd will take the bait.
When David faints, he’s hooked up to a machine to isolate the second set of brain waves and remove them; Oliver goes to the generator. It doesn’t work completely as planned, though; in an inverse of the opening images of the show, we see David’s life rewound before his eyes. His nose starts to bleed as he finally stares down the devil, face to face.
You realize here what it would really mean to share a body with someone for your entire life – and not like Kerry and Cary do in mutual support. Where the Loudermilks are symbiotic, Lenny is parasitic; David is the sun, a source of power that Lenny, the moon, can only harness and reflect. This whole show is, at its core, about other halves, the people who orbit one another – Lenny and David, David and Syd, Kerry and Cary, Melanie and Oliver. Isolated people come to rely so completely on one another that borders begin to blur, sharing minds and bodies.
David’s lines about mental illness were at their most poignant this episode, too; at the beginning, he says “the most dangerous thing [about schizophrenia] is believing you don’t have it,” suggesting that he still has doubts about what the Shadow King has left him with. But his line while facing Lenny in this scene is the one that really got to me. “Who am I without you?” he asks. Living with mental illness – or chronic illness – is scary; trying to figure out who you are without it is sometimes scarier, at first.
Lenny’s gamble ends up paying off; Syd, seeing the experiment going wrong, rushes to David and touches him – maybe to have the monster live inside of her and not him. But the swap doesn’t work the way it usually does. Lenny was right – they are connected, and Syd swaps with the Shadow King himself as he hops into her body, and then into Kerry’s. When David fights Kerry, the Shadow King seeks out another wildly powerful, reality-bending mutant: Oliver, seconds after he finally remembers who Melanie is to him. Lenny, strong again, gets a makeover for her next attempt. At least Kerry and Cary finally reconcile with a very sweet “I think you ruptured my spleen.” Their separation was killing me.
Melanie’s plotline has run increasingly thin over the course of the show; in earlier episodes, she took on a strong mentor role, but more recently she’s been mostly defined by her relationship to Oliver – missing him, finding him, losing him. This is also kind of a problem with Syd’s character, to some extent – driven by love – but she’s grown more as the show has progressed.
Legion is by no means a perfect show – I think one of its biggest issues is with uneven pacing, between and within episodes (the first half is always much slower than the second) – but it’s pretty close. It’s creative, innovative, and endlessly willing to take leaps and risks and to try new things. The acting is consistently good, and the cinematography blows me away every single time. It’s not like anything else that’s on TV right now, and that makes smaller issues easy to forgive; it’s got that earnestness and visceral joy for storytelling that sets all good TV apart. Legion never goes in exactly the direction you expect it to, but that’s what makes it so much fun.
It’s been one hell of a ride. See you all next season.