by Josie Kafka
Legion’s fourth episode—the halfway point—shows our protagonist, finally, starting to act rather than react while giving us a glimpse into a totally groovy astral plane.
But first: Syd. Leaving aside Oliver Bird’s direct address to the viewer, Syd once again opened the narrative with the lead quote, which is also our Theme of the Week. Last week, David asked if he might be crazy, not just a mutant. This week, Ptonomy realized that David’s memories were lies, which might be a different sort of crazy than the type David was worried about.
For example, David didn’t know Lenny before the institution (he knew the much rougher Benny), and King the dog didn’t exist. But his presence might indicate an absence: did King replace a specific threat, such as the Devil with the Yellow Eyes? Or did David’s subconscious create a dog to cover up a lonely childhood? Did David beat his therapist that badly? Was he looking for drugs or looking for tapes that might accidentally reveal the truth? The truth—what happened, what didn’t—is interesting enough. But what’s more interesting is what all those lies, all those repressions, reveal.
For Syd, though, the question might be simpler: is she in love with a lie of a man? What does it mean to fall in love with someone whose self is so unstable that they have altered their own reality? That’s an odd challenge, and one that contrasts nicely with Syd’s superpower: she can swap bodies but is always herself. David is stuck in one body, but is not always himself. There might not even be a stable “him” for him to be. (If you know what I mean.)
That body-swapping power came in handy in the final fight with the Eye, who has got some impressive powers of his own. It was a delight to see Syd use her superpower, since she’s been rather passive and supportive of late, even in the pool scene from the series premiere. She may not be sure of whom she is falling in love with, but she knows that she loves him enough to undergo what must have been a wildly unpleasant experience.
That question of bodily stability is pertinent to Cary and Kerry, too. Their story is so touching: they are like Plato’s idea of the two matched souls who complete each other. They are unique, but they are also more cohesive than David could possibly ever be. Cary’s movements during Kerry’s fight scene were beautiful, and his scream was sublime. Despite what looks like a grim end, I still hope that Cary and Kerry are going to survive. Together, of course, since I don’t think they can survive apart.
David might be able to help with that, since he has begun to use and understand his powers (even if no one has fully begun to understand how his mind works). That he was able to wake himself up and teleport to Syd, Ptonomy, and Kerry is a good thing. That it took Lenny, whose hand looked briefly like the Devil’s hand, to make him do so is terrifying. After all, to say “David has begun to use and understand his powers” is a complex statement, given the instability of David’s self.
And that brings me to Oliver Bird (played by Jermaine Clement), Melanie’s husband. His body is in a basement level of Summerland; his mind is on the astral plane. Is that what gives him the power to narrate these events? Because he is outside of reality, he can discern that he isn’t real at all, but just a character in a cable TV show?
It’s a postmodern question for a show that hasn’t told us yet whether it is postmodern (which would mean it reminds us that there is no truth) or modernist (which assumes there is truth, but it is often unrelated to subjective experience). Does it matter that Syd’s glimpse of David eating tape had the show’s title graphic overlaid?
If it does matter, welcome to the beautiful mindmess that is meta postmodernism. If it doesn’t matter, I think I’d like some resolution soon. It’s hard to tell tricks from meaning on this show. Truth from lies.
Without the Meds, It’s Really Hard to Keep Things Straight:
• All of David’s allies have names that end in –y or –ie: Melanie, Sydney, Lenny, Benny, Philly, Amy, Ptonomy, Cary, and Kerry. Significant?
• Speaking of Philly: she knows David is being watched. I wonder what her story is, how she feels about David, and so on. Sometimes it’s the small characters who are the most thought-provoking.
• Last week, Melanie’s husband, via the espresso maker, told us a fable about not looking a gift horse in the mouth. This week, he told us that there are two stories: those that evoke empathy and those that evoke fear. I wonder which sort of story this is supposed to be?
• I’m not sure what I loved more: David trying to get his powers to work by holding his head in the classic Charles Xavier pose, or his reaction to Oliver’s jazz.
Three out of four empathy-evoking bunny rabbits named Frizzy Top. (Hey, that's another name that ends in -y!)
Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, Game of Thrones, and various other things that take her fancy. She is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)