'Legion' Spoiler Review: Thoughts On ''Chapter 3''

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.

X-Citing Details

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.

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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?

The Haunted House of David's Brain

The bulk of "Chapter 3" is spent exploring David's brain, with Dr. Bird, Ptonomy, and Syd attempting to unblock those repressed memories by literally wandering through them. While the interior world of David Haller was creepy last week, it's gone full-blown horror movie this week, feeling more like a haunted house than anything else. And that's certainly appropriate, isn't it? For the mind of a haunted man to be transformed into a literal haunted landscape for psychic visitors?

This is an area where Legion continues to excel. The show uses cinematic language and familiar concepts to make the abstract come to life in a way that is quickly and easily understood. Memories within memories are depicted as hazy projections on top of other images. Characters command their surroundings, allowing them to closely investigate a memory after "pausing" the action. As the action grows more intense, as the characters find themselves under assault by the possibly literal demons within David's brain, the show's aspect ratio shifts, tightening up and closing in on the characters, lending the events an unexpected and subtle claustrophobia. In its third episode, Legion is still very much a comic book show, but it's also one of the most inventive horror shows on television, an endlessly creepy tour through a personal hell.

And when it's not being unsettling, Legion's literal depictions of abstract concepts can be beautiful, like how David and Syd's psychic teleportation into the lake next to Summerland is depicted as two billowing drops of colorful ink spreading through crystal clear water. The series has carved out a clear visual identity – nothing on TV feels quite like this.

The Ghosts of David Haller

When "Chapter 3" concludes, David is still sedated and still trapped within his own mind, surrounded by countless anonymous figure pointing accusing fingers. These are the voices that have plagued him his entire life. They are the personification of his illness (or his powers, depending on your point of view). They are terrifying and horrible and maybe...they mean well. Remember what David said back in "Chapter 1," when he discussed his suicide attempt. The voices didn't encourage him to end his life – they asked him to not kill himself.

While there are seemingly countless voices within David's mind, we've come face-to-face with a few of them: the hideous Devil With Yellow Eyes, the World's Angriest Boy in the World, and Aubrey Plaza's Lenny. Anyone not ready to trust Summerland or its methods may pay special attention to Lenny's words of warning: they cannot help him and it's amusing that they think they can.

What if there is truth to Lenny's words? What if the monsters that torment David's interior and attack other visitors aren't malicious, but simply acting in the manner they see as appropriate? They could be defending his repressed memories for good reason. They could see Summerland as intruders bent on using David's abilities for their own, nefarious purposes. These creatures, these beings, are not memories or figments. They have agency and do not follow the passive dream rules Ptonomy and Dr. Bird were expecting. They're real enough...and anything that's real has to have a reason to exist and a need to fulfill.

And that brings us to the conflict brewing at the heart of Legion: is David ill or is he just the most powerful mutant on the face of the Earth? Summerland thinks the latter, while David's own inner demons suggest differently (with Lenny just coming out and saying it). Those monsters, those voices, those defenses Dr. Bird was not prepared to battle, suggest a harsh truth: David Haller is the most powerful mutant on Earth and he's also mentally ill and those two concepts are intertwined. Would David be able to manifest his powers at all if there weren't literal monsters living in his head? That sounds like a good question to ponder as we move forward.

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Today in David and Syd Being Adorable...

Like with the past two chapters, the weight of Legion's various horrors and mysteries allow every scene between Rachel Keller's Syd and Dan Stevens' David to sing, with their oddball romance providing a beating heart for the disconcerting show orbiting it. This week's delightful revelation: Syd can touch David while visiting his mind, allowing the two of them to actually make physical contact for the first time without causing complete and total mayhem. And because Legion has never seen an ordinary moment it didn't want to turn inside out, Syd's first embrace with David comes after he's sedated, meaning he's presented as a young child. It's a little weird, but it's also adorable – their embrace manages to exist outside of sexuality, transformed by psychic weirdness into a moment of pure affection rather than desire.