Legion announced itself as a new kind of superhero show with its pilot episode and the third episode continues to run with that torch. Here is an hour of comic book-inspired television that feels like it was mined from the bizarre, niche corners of the X-Men universe, sidestepping every obvious choice to really dig into the addictive weirdness of fringe superhero stories. Here is an hour of television that spends the bulk of its running time literally exploring the mind of its lead character, with the cast wandering through one psychic horror show after another. After “Chapter 2” paused to catch its breath, “Chapter 3” plunges us straight into the abyss once again.
So let’s talk about it.
Before we get into the meat of what “Chapter 3” has to offer, let’s bask in some of the episode’s weirder touches, smaller revelations, and fun details. Legion‘s world-building tends to happen in the background, with the story at the forefront only pausing long enough to explain what is absolutely necessary. That means incredible and odd things fly through the frame because everyone has more important things on their mind…and Dan Stevens‘ David Haller is rightfully too concerned about his kidnapped sister to dwell on the world around him.
The show has yet to really explain what’s going on with Cary and Kerry Loudermilk (played by Bill Irwin and Amber Midthunder), two Summerland staff members who share the name, albeit spelled differently. We know that he’s a researcher, the guy using good ol’ fashioned science to probe David’s brain, and that she’s one of the team’s heavy-hitters, having been involved in David’s rescue and frequently seen brushing up on her combat skills. And while they look nothing alike and have entirely different skill sets, they also seem like they could be the same person. Or, at the very least, some kind of superhero version of conjoined twins, two separate people with separate personalities who seem tethered to one another, capable of combining themselves into one person. It’s such a weird and specific thing power, unlike anything we have seen in other live-action X-Men stories. The great thing about the X-Men is that not every superpower has to be immediately useful or cool.
The other bizarre (and bizarrely touching) detail that stands out in “Chapter 3” is the fate of Dr. Melanie Bird’s husband. The founder of Summerland, who transformed an inherited ranch into a refuge for mutants decades earlier, has seemingly passed away, but he lives on as the voice of the complex’s elevator…and its coffee machine. Right now, it’s not clear if it’s just a recording or a rudimentary artificial intelligence or something more, but watching Jean Smart deliberately dump her coffee just so she can hear his voice once again is the kind peculiar but all-too-human touch that keeps me coming back to Legion.
What Does Summerland Really Want?
One of the side effects of David not having time to ask any real questions about his new allies and residence means that Summerland itself remains very much a mystery. Last week, I wrote about how their techniques seemed to deliberately resemble Scientology. This week doubled down on that organization’s specific philosophies, with Dr. Bird and her team insisting that David’s mental illness doesn’t exist at all – it’s just a side effect of his powerful mutant abilities. And it can be fixed, controlled, by a rigorous audit and self-examination. Considering what we see inside his mind (more on that soon enough), their process may not be up to the challenge.
Those echoes of Scientology, along with Dr. Bird’s admission that she fully intends to utilize David’s powers for Summerland’s benefit once he’s been “helped,” continue to make this group look like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. If it smells like a dangerous cult with dangerous philosophies that ignore reality, it could easily be a dangerous cult with dangerous philosophies that ignore reality. This wouldn’t be the first superhero story to position a troubled hero between two organizations, each with equally nefarious plans for him.
Frankly, it feels downright irresponsible for Legion to sweep David’s schizophrenia under the rug and say it’s only a superpower after nailing the agonies of mental illness over these past three episodes. For this reason, it’s becoming increasingly easy to distrust Summerland. At the very least, it’s becoming increasingly easy to think that they have no idea what they’re actually dealing with.
The Villains Step Up
After taking a backseat last week, Legion‘s villains stepped back up in “Chapter 3” and brought with them a few noteworthy revelations. First of all, that mute henchman, the guy who looks like Tom Waits with a perm (actually Mackenzie Grey) and goes by The Eye, is a mutant himself. While the episode doesn’t dwell on the specific details of his powers, he does manage to see the astral forms of David and Syd in the interrogation room, which suggests that his codename is literal – he can see things that others cannot see. And since he’s leading the search for David (as glimpsed in “Chapter 2”), it probably won’t be long before he tracks down Summerland.
And there must be some reason why he can’t lead members of Division 3 (hey, the government baddies have a name now!) straight to Summerland. After all, Dr. Bird explains that The Eye was once known as Walter and that he once counted himself among Summerland’s numbers…before he expressed an interest in hurting people and found that his particular set of skills would be useful elsewhere. Does this mean Summerland is under some kind of psychic protection to keep Walter/The Eye from just finding it again?