‘Legion’ Spoiler Review: Thoughts on “Chapter 2”

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The Unreliable Brain

While “Chapter 2” dials back the overall nuttiness of the pilot, it ramps up the mysteries. Ptonomy’s memory work sessions with David prove that his own mind is something of an unreliable narrator – nothing lurking in the crevices of his brain can be trusted. Melanie Bird may insist that David’s schizophrenia isn’t real, that his problems are just powers that have yet to be defined, but the man’s own psychic interior begs to differ.

David’s memories contain a number of mysteries: Who is his father and why can’t we see his face? Did his parents actually read him a traumatizing children’s book full of violent imagery or is that another delusion? When his “astronomer” father took young David out to look at the stars and the stars “spoke” to him, what did they say? These answers have been blocked, deliberately hidden by David’s own psyche. Since the mind can bury trauma deep into the recesses of the subconscious to protect someone from further harm, it looks like the Summerland crew will have to dig deep into a troubled mind that has gone out of its way to mask its secrets if they want to learn more about their newest recruit.

It is these scenes that work the best in “Chapter 2,” mainly because they’re where the show is able to really cut loose with storytelling and abandon traditional narrative form. Familiar cinematic techniques become literal visualizations of abstract concepts, like a jump cut in David’s memory of a psychiatric session standing in for a repressed memory. And then there’s David’s father, his face masked by artificial shadows  that would feel out of place in any scene striving for “realism.” In a memory, in a place where dream logic can apply, those very specific shadows stop being a familiar cinematic artifice representing a hidden identity and start being evidence that memories of David’s father have been blocked for reasons that have yet to be explored. Someone, whether it was David or an outside force, doesn’t want him knowing anything about the man who raised him (and possibly traumatized him). And then there’s the way Legion shifts aspect ratios for certain scenes, although it’s not quite clear why that’s happening just yet.

It should be noted that a brief Google search will reveal the identity of David Haller’s comic book father in a matter of seconds. If Legion is preparing for a similar relation, they’re going a fine job of building up to it. If you want to stay fresh, I’d recommend not reading any X-Men Wikipedia pages for a few weeks.

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Lenny and the Devil With the Yellow Eyes

While we’ve certainly heard the many voices living inside David’s mind, we’ve only made contact with two of them: Aubrey Plaza‘s Lenny, who joined his psychic interior after her accidental death in “Chapter 1,” and the terrifying Devil with Yellow Eyes, who continues to show up at inopportune and startling moments in “Chapter 2.” It’s telling that the Devil arrived moments before David’s powers were used to seal those walls in Clockworks and that he arrived again right before David transported that MRI machine outside of the Summerland. Legion has yet to explore the true nature of this thing and its intentions for David, but it has a definite connection to his abilities and seemingly allows him to perform the most impressive and impossible of his feats.

But what about Lenny? What’s her deal? It’s still not clear how the personality of a dead Clockworks patient has wormed her way into David’s mind. Since his brain has previously been established as unreliable and filled with deceptions, it’s not even clear if his memories of hanging out with her and scoring drugs are even real. Did he actually know Lenny before they were committed at the same time? It’s telling that the show hasn’t fully defined their relationship – the last thing David can trust at this point is his own mind.

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David and Syd Are Adorable

In a show that is mostly about grim super powers and mental illness and internal monsters manifesting themselves in literal ways, every single scene between Dan Stevens‘ David and Rachel Keller‘s Syd Barrett comes as a welcome reprieve. These two are adorable together, with Stevens and Keller showcasing a goofy chemistry that is sweet and odd in ways that ring true, even as they’re surrounded by telekinesis and body-swapping. Their “romance of the mind,” devoid of physical contact but filled with just enough accidental mind-reading and flirtatious dialogue, is a refreshing after-dinner mint in the midst of Legion’s steak dinner of a core plot.

Going forward, it’s easy to imagine Legion falling further down the rabbit hole of psychosis and dread and psychic misery. Knowing that the series can always retreat to these when necessary to give us a breather feels like a promise I hope the show keeps.

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