What’s Going On with Legion Season 2’s Strange, Circuitous Journey?

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Every episode of Legion has the same basic arc in terms of my viewing experience. Step 1: “Wait, what happened in the last episode? How did we get here? What’s going on?” *annoyed grumbling*. Step 2: Fascination with the magic of cinematography. Eager to see how this mini-mystery will be explored. Step 3: Growing irritation at pile-up of information with no context and the lack of even the smallest bit of resolution. Step 4: Boredom *scrolls aimlessly through twitter or tumblr*. Step 5: Someone finally does something cool to re-hook my interest. Step 6: “Wait, what just happened? Is it really over? I don’t know what’s going on.”

You can take that path as a positive (it is, in a weird way), or a negative—either way, I have thoughts about the last few episodes of Legion that cannot be contained. And hopefully if Legion confuses you as much as me, we can find some answers together.

[Spoilers for all episodes of Legion to date]

The second episode is more straightforward than the first, which is simultaneously a relief and a disappointment. David, now taking orders from Future Syd, meets with Lenny and Oliver and agrees to send Division 3 on a wild goose chase so that the Shadow King can rummage through the building. Oliver and Lenny, still being controlled by Farouk, slaughter guards, taunt child soldiers, and steal a device from Cary’s R&D lab. On top of that, Farouk uses his powers to sever the connection between Cary and Kerry. David and Farouk finally meet on the psychic plane and spar. David wants a modicum of control over Farouk, while Farouk enjoys the challenge of dealing with a near equal. Later, Lenny begs the Shadow King to set her free. David finally reveals the truth to Syd and their mutual trust is reaffirmed.

SO MUCH happens in the third episode. Jon Hamm, acting as this season’s narrator, opens with a discussion on the “nocebo effect,” the opposite of the placebo effect. From there we see a flashback in which David’s father defeated the Shadow King, sealed the body in an egg-shaped coffin, and left it with the monks of Mi-Go, who were slowly driven mad by him. In the present, that oily mutant chick from the premiere crawls into Ptonomy’s ear while he’s sleeping and he later wakes up somewhere else with no memory of how he got there. In a bit of levity, Cary teaches Kerry how to deal with the messiness of being human. Chaos explodes when the monk, who has been hiding with the teeth chatterers all this time, escapes.

David calls on Farouk and, after Lenny’s unsuccessful bid to get David to free her, the men talk about the past. Farouk sees himself as a refugee and David’s father as a colonist who imposed his supremacy over Farouk’s kingdom. As suave as Farouk is, these are the ravings of a violent narcissist—but that’s not to say he’s entirely wrong, either. He also hints that if David and Future Syd stop the coming evil, her timeline will be erased. Lastly, he reveals that the monk caused the teeth-chattering, not himself. When David returns to Division 3, Cary is the only one unaffected. They enter Ptonomy’s psychic plane first, then Melanie’s, and manage, not without great effort, to yank them out of their mental mazes. David squares off with the monk. In contrast to Future Syd, the monk tells David that helping Farouk will destroy the world then hurls himself off the roof to his death. David finds Syd, teeth chattering, and enters her mind to save her.

The fourth episode is largely spent in Syd’s maze (…or is it?). Unlike Ptonomy and Melanie, Syd isn’t trapped by the nocebo but knows exactly where she is. She won’t leave until he solves her riddle, and each guess he makes is wrong. She makes him watch her life, from birth to adulthood, again and again and again, waiting for him to see what she thinks is so obvious. With each cycle we see more of how she came into her powers, of the shame and isolation and strength she found in her touch. Finally he understands that she’s fighting for love, drawing strength from all the damage she’s survived, and they leave together. When they awake in the real world, Lenny has returned and is imprisoned by Division 3.

Clark kicks off the fifth episode interrogating Lenny, who only wants two things: drugs and David. She insists she’s free of Farouk and says he found the body in the desert. Next comes Ptonomy, who is shocked to realize her eyes are now blue instead of their former brown. Something about her resurrection makes it hard for him to see into her memories. Instead he gets glimpses of two distinct sets of memories—her traumatic childhood and bloody sunflowers—which become a nightmarish vision of an evil Fukuyama that turns Ptonomy violent; he comes back to his senses to find his hands around Lenny’s throat.

Cut to Oliver and Farouk driving around in the desert. Like Lenny, Oliver is imprisoned by Farouk (remember that pool scene from the premiere?), and is determined to kill the Shadow King. Farouk once more plays the mutant god card, but Oliver isn’t buying it. Lenny admits to David that Farouk sent her to Division 3, because it wasn’t Farouk’s body Oliver uncovered but Lenny’s. He and Oliver peel off some skin from her corpse and place it in the device they stole from Cary, then launch an attack on the hideaway home Amy (David’s sister, who has been AWOL up until this point in the season) has been living in. They use the device to swap Lenny and Amy—although the device transforms Amy’s body into Lenny’s at the same time it forces her consciousness back into this physical form—meaning that maybe it’s not Lenny we see waking up bloody and naked in the desert at the end of the episode but Amy?

The sixth episode is multiverse party exploring various alternate realities of David’s life with two basic themes. The David that embraces his power becomes a Shadow King-esque asshole, while the ones that resist are driven mad by it (or by the pills that keep it at bay) until it literally explodes out of them. There are two Davids who are seemingly powerless, one happy and carefree, the other obsessed with things he cannot understand. It’s as if David can either accept his god-like powers and rule over all or let his powers destroy him and everyone he loves. Amy is present in almost all of these realities, but in the end, David has to return to face his current reality, in which Farouk has victimized and possibly murdered his beloved sister.

The seventh episode opens with Jon Hamm giving a lesson on moral panic and fear using the Salem Witch Trials and the 1954 Senate Subcommittee hearings on comic books as examples. David and Syd have a tense conversation about Future Syd and what David wants/needs from her. Again, David challenges the Shadow King to a battle of psychic wits, and again he loses, but this time Farouk is less obliging. Farouk jury-rigs a psychic time travelling device not dissimilar to Cary’s proto-Cerebro and drops in on Future Syd, who he calls “the goddess.”

Turns out the world-destroying monster Future Syd is trying to stop is actually David, and she backstabs him to team up with the Shadow King. Our Syd visits Lenny, who isn’t doing so hot, in her jail cell. Their conversation is short and unpleasant, and is left unresolved. Back in Ptonomy’s room, the thing possessing him takes control and sends him off to leave mutant chick eggs in everyone’s rooms. David is spared because he’s cheating on Syd with Future Syd. The eggs hatch and Kerry, Syd, Ptonomy, and Clark fight Vermillion to get to Fukuyama, who’s revealed to just be an older Japanese dude (and not some demon-chicken-creature, after all). David reappears in time to yank the mutant chicks out of Syd and Clark’s brains but not before the queen bursts out from Ptonomy’s body, mortally wounding him. Eventually David pops it like a zit, then Vermillion hook Ptonomy’s brain up to the mainframe.

This season is dominated by David’s lies and manipulations. He misdirects Division 3 at the cost of at least a dozen lives. Afterward, he demands Farouk refrain from killing throughout the duration of their shaky alliance, he never expresses real guilt or shame over his role in these initial deaths. After all, they’re faceless, nameless people. No one interacts with them, they don’t take breaks in the fancy automated diner, they only exist as cannon fodder, right? They’re the hapless stormtroopers of Legion, NPCs who are there just to be killed off. David lies to his friends, too. He uses Cary/Kerry to talk to Future Syd and run his scam. Hell, we get a whole episode where a multiverse of David Hallers manipulate, abuse, and exploit those around him for his own benefit. He even becomes a milder version of the Shadow King as he lords over his cityscape view and coldly hurts those who are forced cling to him.

In fact, there are only three instances where his lies are rejected, and only once where he comes out of it worse off than he was before. Clark straight up calls David out on his lies, as do Fukuyama and Vermillion. But they can’t do anything about it. Even if he admitted what he was up to, he’s far too powerful to resist, if what we saw of the multiverse Davids is any indication of his abilities. But Syd isn’t so easily pushed around. She stops him—physically with her car in the multiverse and psychically in her maze—and there’s nothing he can do about it…if he wants her to continue to be his girlfriend, that is. He could force her compliance, but she wouldn’t simply quietly resent him like at least one version of multiverse Amy or Laura Mercer (his boss-turned-lackey in one reality). Syd’s powerful enough in her own way to force her will over his (and Farouk’s). If he pushed back too hard, everything they have—the trust, the love, their bond—would end like that. When she says no, he listens.

So far this season has been fairly strong, although the weakest episodes were 2 and 5, for obvious reasons. Syd’s maze worked for me all the way up to the point where her life’s meaning came down to “love is all we need” and I rolled my eyes so hard I nearly got a sprain. But she redeemed herself in Episode 7, starting with the bedroom scene. Director Charlie McDowell frames it so David and Syd keep turning toward and away from each other as they sort out their relationship with Future Syd. They end the conversation facing each other, but with her eyes closed and his gazing naively, a nice set-up for the reveal about David in the next scene between Future Syd and the Shadow King.

My favorite part of the season thus far has to be Episode 6. I love me a good multiverse story—if I had the word count to derail this review into a full-fledged squee over Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers, I totally would. So trippy and discomfiting and unrelentingly disjointed. This is Legion at it’s best, visually, aurally, musically, and narratively. Dan Stevens has his Emmy nomination in the bag with this one. My one complaint with this ep would be the pretty dire representation of homeless people. Old Homeless Man David and Drug Addict in a Shelter David are walking caricatures veering toward offensive. Punching down ain’t a great look, Legion.

Final Thoughts

  • “Just remember: we see everything.”
  • “If the idea of illness can become illness, what else about our society is actually a disorder?”
  • “You think ghosts like living in a haunted house?”
  • “Ask yourself: what’s more terrifying, fear or the frightened?”
  • Hindu Milk Miracle, the Dancing Plague of 1518, the Tanganyika laughter epidemic, and the teen tic epidemic of Le Roy NY.
  • Farouk takes his sunglasses off with Future Syd, an act of respect.
  • That scene is also interesting in contrast to David’s. Farouk’s connection is jerky, but way stronger than David’s. He’s powerful enough to control the “reality” of Future Syd’s plane, where David is not. David thinks he’s more powerful than he is, mostly because his only real competition thus far are those weaker than him.
  • It sorta feels like Noah Hawley is setting up David and the Shadow King as Professor X and Magneto. And not just because Farouk keeps talking about homo superior or because they posed a bald old man multiverse version of David in a wheelchair.
  • I love that Hawley is Easter egg-ing eggs all over this whole season.
  • The diversity/representation is much improved over last season.
  • Did they ever explain the cow?

Alright, y’all. See you after the finale.

Alex Brown is a YA librarian by day, local historian by night, pop culture critic/reviewer by passion, and QWoC all the time. Keep up with her every move on Twitter, check out her endless barrage of cute rat pics on Instagram, or follow along with her reading adventures on her blog.

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