LEGION Review: “Chapter 16”
In Legion’s “Chapter 16,” a grab-bag of ideas arranged into something that looks like an episode, Noah Hawley & Co. certainly push things forward without making any definitive statements. There’s the glimpse into Fukyama’s origin many of us have been waiting for; an evolutionary step in the relationship between David and Syd; hints of an actual plan from David; and even some new material from the Narrator.
The search for Farouk’s body isn’t all that interesting, but what it brings out in the characters can be. My biggest takeaway from this episode was a question that was probably obvious to many people weeks ago: “What if this is really a breakup story?”
As Syd and David catch up on the steps outside Division 3, David reveals that he and Future Syd are more or less done with whatever relationship they had in the first place. In three stages – that conversation, a discussion between Syd and Clark, then a later interaction between Syd and David –we’re shown at least the outline of Syd falling out of love with David.
Where Legion’s first season could be seen as an oblique love story between the mutant couple, this season looks a lot more like current Syd trying to figure out if she’s still into David as her future self gets what little she can out of him.
In case any of that is unclear, Syd pretty much puts it all on the table for Clark, explaining that she was caught up in the romance of meeting him, and is struggling with how it’s all different now. “I love what we were,” she says, “I’m just not sure we’re that anymore.” Has anyone ever heard a line like that when a breakup isn’t imminent?
Leave it to Clark to make things weird and oddly topical with the smarmy insinuation that Syd staying with David might prevent an apocalypse. “David is an extremely powerful mutant who could destroy the world if he wanted to,” he notes, “or if, say, you hurt his feelings real bad.”
That tees up a lot. Whatever David might do is not Syd’s fault. If Syd dumps David, and he loses control, how will that interact with Future Syd (perhaps armless thanks to David) manipulating David into engineering a defense against himself? This being Legion, it’s impossible to say with certainty that the next few episodes will play out like that, but right now it looks plausible enough.
Meanwhile, entertaining details dangle like cables in search of a connection. Ptonomy’s exploration of the Division 3 server leads to Fukyama’s backstory. Turns out the basket-wearing enigma is a sort of mental Wolverine. Which is to say he’s a mutant healer who has been surgically altered to become “the secret keeper,” a mind that cannot be read.
We don’t yet know what that means, but it seems likely to pay off sooner rather than later. And since we’ve also seen David compartmentalizing his own thought process to keep a prying Farouk from knowing his plans, there’s a connection between Fukyama and David that could be essential in the next couple hours. Who will be better at keeping secrets?
The visualization of David creating a plan to take Farouk’s body, which looks like he’s setting up an elaborate tabletop battle game, is pretty neat, even if it already seems doomed to fail. One of Legion’s most relatable concepts is that the vastly powerful David shouldn’t have to struggle to make things happen but can’t help getting in his own way. Conceivably, he could just blink away so many problems. He’s limited by his own nature; he overthinks and explores strategic dead ends. He’s his own worst enemy in many ways – as we all are.
So while David is laying out his own battle plan, Farouk uses Oliver to counter his plans. Throughout the last few episodes you would have been right to wonder where Melanie Bird has been, and this episode brings her back into the story, even if she’s not acting of her own accord. While David has been recruiting Cary, Clark, Syd and Ptonomy for his plan to capture Farouk’s body, Oliver uses long-distance mind-control to turn Melanie into his puppet. It’s a simple concept that could cut right through David’s more elaborate setup. I love it, even as I’m sad that Melanie is being puppeted around Division 3 right now.
And yet; how effective all this will be, for either side, is open to question. This episode ends with an appearance by Melanie’s minotaur, which suggests there’s a lot more going on with her than this episode shows. Perhaps Oliver’s control isn’t as strong as he thinks; we’ve already seen Melanie bitterly dissatisfied with “our men” this season, and looking for a way to write her own story. The payoff here could well be that she ends up being an effective double-agent against Farouk.
Finally, the Narrator occupies a long interlude with a speech – more like a lecture – about people ignoring the validity of others, with a pointed note about how we’ve all isolated our perspective thanks to phones and devices. It’s could be a big picture indictment of fans and/or critics, but comes off as such a broad lambast that it fails to land.
That said, the Narrator does voice the idea that “the most alarming delusion of all” is the idea “that other people don’t matter.” That seems like Farouk’s mindset, and in the end, when push comes to shove, might also be David’s. Syd has the counter: “love is what we have to save if we’re gonna save the world.” This episode deliberately calls her romantic ties to David into question, but that just means Syd will have to save the world from David in some other way.