'Legion' Spoiler Review: Thoughts On ''Chapter 6''

After last week's barnburner of an episode, it was probably necessary for Legion to tap the brakes with "Chapter 6." But did FX's X-Men series tap the brakes just a little too much? Let's dive right in.

A Deep Breath and a Pause

After last week's hour of pure, unrelenting nightmare fuel, Legion decided to pause to take a deep breath this week. The results were mixed. While not every episode of this series can be as intense and unsettling as "Chapter 5," so much of "Chapter 6" feels like wheel-spinning, which is not something you want to see in a season that runs only eight episodes. This is the first time Legion has delivered a mediocre episode, as even the "slower" episodes from earlier in the season advanced the story and characters in significant ways, using the calm between storms to maneuver the plot into new positions.

In comparison, not much happens in "Chapter 6." Our cast are prisoners in David's mind when the episode begins and they're still prisoners when the credits roll, with only a few of them having learned anything at all about their predicament. As is the case with every other episode of the series, every individual scene is perfectly entertaining or compelling or capable of offering up something of interest, but there's a monotony here that we haven't seen before. That may be part of the design, to lull us into the current worldview of these characters and show how they've been imprisoned in a single moment with no tangible momentum, but it doesn't make for particularly gripping television. "Chapter 6" is a rare misfire from a show that has otherwise showcased so much confidence and so much unwillingness to pad out its story.

A Familiar TV Trope

Perhaps one of the reasons "Chapter 6" feels a little stale compared to the rest of the season is the fact that we've seen this template before. Maybe calling it a "trope" is unfair, but the "episode of the genre television show where the cast ends up in a real or imagined hospital and is told that their actual adventures are delusions" is something we've seen before. Buffy the Vampire Slayer did it exceptionally well in its sixth season, delivering a chilling episode that demanded you question the reality of the show you've been watching for so long.

The problem with Legion's take on this concept is that we're about ten steps ahead of the characters at all times. There's no mystery here – we know from the outset that this Clockworks is a psychic prison built by Lenny (or rather, the devil with the yellow eyes) to hold our cast prisoner while time has slowed down back in the real world. The bulk of the hour, as well-acted as it is, involves us sitting around, waiting for the cast to catch up to us. Eventually, a few of them discover that something's wrong, but it's too little, too late for an episode that moves at a crawl. It certainly doesn't help that those introspective conversations don't actually reveal much about anyone. Even with their minds laid bare, "Chapter 6" offers little new information about David Haller, his enemies, and his allies.

Again With the Aspect Ratios

I've written before about how Legion manipulates cinematic languages to make its abstract points more literal, so one of the nicer touches in "Chapter 6" is that the group delusion feels like reality. Sure, the walls occasionally pulsate and bugs appear in pies and doors appear and disappear, but there's a reason why David, Syd, and the rest of the crew don't realize they're living in a dreamscape cooked up by a mental parasite: the aspect ratio is at its widest. This is the rare psychic interior/dream/fantasy sequence in Legion to not narrow its aspect ratio and careful watchers of the show will note its intended effect. By not shifting accordingly, the people on screen are not aware they have stepped out of the real world and this illusion lives on.

Of course, when Syd flashes back to reality and starts to piece things together, the aspect ratio slowly narrows, representing her understanding that everything is not quite right...before snapping back into place again.

The Return of Oliver Bird

Oliver Bird is back! Or rather, he's visiting from the astral plane, still wearing that diving suit. It seems that this psychic Clockworks has a backdoor to that mysterious realm where the Summerland founder lives in a giant ice cube and breaks the fourth wall...and he's here to help. However, he's not here to speak, presumably because Jemaine Clement was only paid for a specific number of episodes. Heck, "Chapter 6," with its reused hospital set, is the closest Legion has gotten to a bottle episode.

Still, the image of that diving suit is great and it seems to have granted Cary some kind of power over, or at least resistance to, Lenny's machinations. Call it the Inception rule (although it's existed in genre fiction for much longer than that): if you can imagine it in the a dream world, you can do it. And in this case, the time-displaced hipster from an alternate dimension can lend the scientist who is actually two people his magic diving suit so he can withstand psychic domination at the hands of a mental fungus. Look, even in its weakest moments, the fact that Legion inspires sentences like that confirms that there's nothing else quite like it on television.

Oh! You Pretty Things

"Chapter 6" concludes with one hell of a cheeky song choice: a morose (medicated?) cover of David Bowie's pop classic "Oh! You Pretty Things." Look at the lyrics: "All the nightmares came today, and it looks as though they're here to stay." That pretty much sums up David's daily life as a superhero with a monster in his brain, which means it also does a fine job of summing up the burden of mental illness.

But there's more going on in the song that can directly apply to Legion: "The earth is a bitch, we've finished our news, Homo Sapiens have outgrown their use." I'll take glam-rock lyrics that could have been written by Magneto for a thousand, Alex.

This could also be the theme song for Lenny, the psychic parasite known as the devil with yellow eyes, that has camped out in David's brain and made itself cozy. "Chapter 6" introduced a few interesting developments on this front: this thing (was it once a person?) knew David's real father, and they did not get along. Once again, the comic book identity of David's father is a quick Google search away, if you want spoilers. It seems that David's real dad was aware of thing, but it still managed to slip into his son's consciousness anyway. This is the biggest revelation in an episode otherwise devoid of them and we'll surely learn more in the near future.

But for now, it's just a pleasure to watch Aubrey Plaza cut loose. Freed from any constraints and in total control, Lenny is having a ball with her new body. Using the secret exit out of the Clockworks she has cooked up, she literally vamps through her host's empty memories, transforming reality into her own stylish music video. It's not clear if this thing has any motivations beyond attaching itself to something powerful, but we do know this much: it's having a great time. In fact, it's having such a great time that it's tired of humoring David and taking care of his friends and maintaining a place where he can be "happy" alongside some familiar faces. So it puts David in a tiny box. It puts him in timeout for wanting to exist.

Also having a great time: Aubrey Plaza. If Dan Stevens and Rachel Keller are the vital organs of Legion, Plaza is the sticky, nicotine-infused tar flowing through them. She's so wrong and she's poisoning everything, but man, she makes every moment better. There's an inherent mischievousness to Plaza as a performer and it can be endearing (see: Parks and Recreation). Legion proves that it can also be terrifying – she's a mad court jester sitting on the throne, a lunatic in charge of the asylum, Donald Trump with the nuclear codes. There's no better villain on television right now.

As "Oh! You Pretty Things" repeats at the end of its chorus: "You gotta make way for the Homo Superior." Hopefully, someone will be able to stand in Lenny's way. Because otherwise, everyone is doomed.