by Josie Kafka
Before reading this review, please make sure you’ve watched the post-credits sequence, because all things must have one of those now, and it’s totally not annoying.
Last week, I said that “this isn’t just a show about David. It is, increasingly, a show about a plucky band of superheroes working together to achieve a common goal.” I stand by that statement, but with an addition: Legion is a show that has a false center. David’s struggle takes up the most time on screen, but it is also a pivot point for a variety of other characters.
We can think about that in terms of primary and secondary characters. Ptonomy, for instance, is a secondary character: he has attributes but no struggle. Kerry and Cary were, until last week, secondary characters. Only once Kerry felt abandoned did they develop an arc, one that was pleasantly resolved this week. (Pleasant, that is, aside from the ruptured spleen.)
Melanie seemed to be a secondary character at first. She was the noble leader of our plucky band. But her story was happening in the margins and hidden moments: Wondering if David might be the key to getting her husband back. Getting her husband back. Waiting for him to remember her. Her arc is bittersweet. We know that Oliver Bird remembered her, finally, but moments later he was overtaken by the Shadow King.
Syd, I thought, was a secondary character who deserved more. But this episode also revealed her arc: afflicted with a superpower that precludes touch, she found someone to love who would love her on her own terms. Back in “Chapter Five,” I was surprised at Syd’s vehement defense of her “man.” That wasn’t fleeting. This episode showed just how much he matters to her: she was willing to sacrifice herself to save him.
And then there are the characters we’d almost forgotten, like the Division Three guy who reappeared at the end of “Chapter Seven.” The decision to open this episode with his story was beautiful. We learn that his name is Clark. We see how his injuries affected not just him but his family. We learn that his husband cried himself to sleep, and that their son tried to be strong for his father, even though he’s way too young to have to carry that burden. At first, Clark wasn’t even a secondary character, just an obstacle in “Chapter One.” Now he’s a member of the team and a vibrant addition.
Next season, I would like to see Legion do more with those concepts. This show is already a fascinating character study of David, but as the lives of these people intertwine, I’d like to see those side-stories intersect more or come into more focus. Noah Hawley does that beautifully in his TV series Fargo, so I know he can do it here.
That’s not to complain about what Legion is, though. The acting is wonderful, the aesthetic is rapturous, and the willingness to play with film conventions—as with the dance sequences and silent-film scene from last week—are virtuosic. But all those fancy trappings are nothing compared to the look on Jean Smart’s face, the shot of Clark and his husband watching TV, or Syd’s happy smile on the balcony with David in the post-credits sequence.
That’s a lot of words that don’t address the meat of this episode, perhaps because, although I can find nothing to complain about, not much that happened was unexpected or jaw-dropping. David struggled to contain the Shadow King, Syd body swapped, there was a small battle with Kerry and a bigger one between David and the King (which visually evoked last week’s chalkboard narrative). The Shadow King escaped in Oliver’s body, and they are headed south.
What will that mean? We have no way of knowing. As has become clear in both these episodes and the comments from all of you, we don’t really know David yet. And he doesn’t really know himself: “What am I without you?” he asks. “What is Legion with this new version of David?” is what we might say.
Well, that’s what we could say if we hadn’t watched the end credits, in which Syd and David get a brief balcony scene before he is scanned and uploaded into a floating orb thingamabob. (It reminded me of what happened to Mike Teavee in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.) David is trapped, which is horrible for him.
And Syd has lost her boyfriend, which is horrible for her. In the early part of this season, when I was still trying to get a handle on what was real and what wasn’t, I briefly entertained the idea that Syd and Melanie were the same person. They have the same hair, although Melanie is quite a bit taller. (People do grow!) But now they have a similar struggle: Syd must find her “man,” just as Melanie had to do for all those years. And Melanie loves a man who is infected with the Shadow King parasite, just as Syd has done for the past six weeks. I want to see more of those stories—more of all of these stories—and I look forward to reviewing them when the show returns in 2018.
Without the Meds, It’s Really Hard to Keep Things Straight:
• At the risk of sounding like a Dan Stevens fangirl (I’m really not), I will admit that I saw Beauty and the Beast today. Stevens is buried under a few inches of CGI fur for most of the film, but they managed to capture one or two mannerisms that were quite similar to David’s. It was uncanny.
• I am so happy that, by the end of this episode, Syd had changed out of that horrible orange skirt.
• And I am so enraptured by how they film Kerry walking. It’s like she has her own invisible wind machine, all flowing hair and billowing coat.
• The music on this show is delightful. The T. Rex song over the credits might be my favorite so far.
• Oh, wait, no: my favorite is still this:
Four out of four hideous orange skirts.
Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)