Are you ready for another week of confusion? Well, too bad, because Legion makes a little more sense this week. After last week’s brain-twister I can’t imagine the show doing more to confuse (and enthrall) the audience. Though to be sure it avoids making complete sense. I have a feeling Legion wouldn’t be Legion if you understood everything on the screen at once.
This week we get a little more history and a better understanding of how David ended up in his current predicament and why, so let’s dive in. Legion didn’t keep me up for an hour-and-a-half this time but there’s still a lot to cover.
Spoilers for 1×02 “Chapter 2” below. Legion is most definitely a show where you should beware of them.
The second episode picks up right where the first left off, with David and the other mutants on the run from his captors. We learn that the man with the white-guy afro is called “The Eye.” He leads the special-forces through a forest in chase of the mutants.
David is brought to Summerland, another hospital-like facility where Melanie seems to bring mutants in order to unlock their potential. She tells David about mutants in general while David acclimates. She believes him to be a powerful telepath and potential telekinetic. Divisions were created to track and control mutants, or kill those they can’t control. Division 3 was the they rescued David from.
His training begins right away as Melanie teaches him how to focus his telepathy so it doesn’t overwhelm him. Love the visual of David using a giant volume knob like on a radio.
The next day he starts “memory training” with Melanie and Ptonomy. Melanie says she can show David that his powers are real and not an illness. She will use his memories to figure out what triggers his power and help heal his mind, a process called memory work. They do this with Ptonomy at a table with rods they grab onto a lot like e-meters.
First up is a memory of a young David and his sister Amy in a field. David, Ptonomy, and Melanie actively stand within David’s memory Bran-style. This is possible because of Ptonomy’s power. Excuse me while I resist the urge to dislike this simply because of Game of Thrones. Okay, good to go.
David asks if he can talk to his memories, and Ptonomy says he can but it will change the memories. Melanie will take him through memories where his powers began to express in order to show him they are real. When asked if they can follow the younger him and Amy, Ptonomy tells David he can take them to whatever memories he wants.
They visit a memory of his mother and then of his father reading him a really disturbing bedtime story. David says his father was an astronomer. During the memory his father’s face remains shadowed. The memory starts shaking violently at the end of the story and David leaves it.
Sydney tries to calm him by relating to his experience but fails, so Ptonomy puts him to sleep with a wave of his hand.
Presumably while David is unconscious, we see another memory of a much younger David in a therapist’s office. They talk about the book and his recent life, including a break-up with his girlfriend. The memory skips forward when David talks about it. He talks about a vapor and how he and his girlfriend fight and make up constantly.
Lenny waits for him outside the therapist’s office afterwards. She stole a stove (?) from a girl she had sex with and they go off to sell it.
David wakes up next to Ptonomy back in Summerland. He tells David about Sydney vomiting during her first memory session, and describes the Summerland routine; everyone follows memory work by talking to Melanie to figure out what it means. Place sounds a lot like another mental health hospital, right?
Apparently Melanie thinks David is the key to “winning the war,” which sounds awful Magneto-ish. I’ll just sit over here hoping that eventual tie-in happens. Ptonomy describes how the memories are his power, and how he has a perfect memory. His father’s memory was impaired by shrapnel during a war, but Ptonomy remembers everything. He gives a fascinating description of remembering the womb before birth. I am not the least bit jealous.
He tries to get David to talk about the book his father read, but since it’s not his job he doesn’t press.
Sydney later finds David at a swing set and shares her similar initial skepticism of the memory work. She talks about her experience during their body switch, and how overwhelming the sensation was. She also saw the yellow-eyed demon. It was after that when she killed Lenny and walled over all the doors. David immediately forgives her for it.
It was this incident which understandably brought Melanie and Division 3 to Clockworks. Also, the body switch is not cleared up at all here. Apparently David’s body turned back into Sydney’s, right in front of everyone in Melanie’s car. Just like her body turned into David’s. So I guess the bodies found the minds rather than the other way around. This has to be someone’s power they don’t know about.
David wants to hug her after the story but is shut down. Sydney explains her discomfort with physical contact: it’s like ants under her skin that make her want to scream. David insists she not apologize for it because they’re having a romance of the mind. These two are pretty adorable.
Next up is every claustrophobic’s nightmare, an MRI! We meet Cary Loudermilk, whose relation to Kerry from the first episode I’m not sure about. He seems to talk to himself but says he wasn’t, he was talking to Kerry. David is understandably confused about this.
Cary tells him to stay still and think about someone he loves, and he loses himself in a memory of his sister Amy. They talk about the differing paths of their relationships. Amy wants her brother to find the same happiness she has.
I really like her.
David transitions to a memory of Lenny selling the stove. I really like her description of the stove as a baseball “utility player” with uses from cooking to killing yourself. Interesting sales tactic. Turns out she is selling the stove to land some drugs. They take the drug back to an apartment, a blue liquid they turn into a vapor. Which is what David accidentally mentioned in his therapist’s office earlier.
Lenny also asks about the therapists office because she thinks robbing the place could be a retirement score. While they lay back high on the vapor, David hallucinates Lenny as the yellow-eyed demon and it turns out this particular memory was part of memory work. Melanie asks what he saw in that moment. When David plays it off as part of his illness, she tells him not to think that way because he has powers and everything he sees is real.
Ptonomy returns them to the earlier therapist memory to figure out the skip while talking about his girlfriend. During the skip he briefly remembers the kitchen incident seen last episode. Ptonomy tries to bring them to the memory but David is too strong. They end up back in the bedroom memory from earlier, where something frightens David.
Later, David loses himself in a memory of blowing bubbles as a child. Sydney interrupts it to check on him. She wants to know what the memory that day was because Melanie won’t say, and wants to be sure David’s okay being at Summerland. She also assures him they are safe for now from Division 3. David hears her thoughts, and she briefly teases him about it.
Again, adorable. I just wish I could shake the suspicion I have of Sydney.
Another trip in the MRI is used to find out where David’s memories originate in his brain. He thinks of the therapist’s office again. He talks about hallucinations he has experienced since 10 or 11-years old and lies about the vapor drug when asked about it. His therapist asks about the hallucinations, and David talks about watching constellations with his father. The constellations would talk to him. His father said they talked to him, too.
David thinks this was a metaphor. Considering his father was Charles Xavier, I’m wondering if this was him and the stars were Cerebro. That’s a huge stretch, I know, but it might explain the stars talking to him? I don’t know, is this at all possible?
He is then distracted by a closet door opening and low whispers. When his therapist moves to close the door David wants to stop him. Nothing happens when the door closes.
The memory is interrupted by a woman’s voice saying his name, and he returns to attention in the MRI. David focuses on the voice and sees his sister Amy trying to find him at Clockworks. Much like Sydney before, there is no record of David at the hospital and also no record of Dr. Kissinger.
David calls out to her and she hears him, but The Eye finds and takes her. The MRI shows his neural activity increases drastically and Cary leaves the room. The power goes out and David starts to panic. He hears a growling noise, and when he eventually looks down the yellow-eyed demon stands at his feet. When he wakes up the MRI machine is gone.
Melanie follows her astounded employees to find it transported outside the facility.
Next we see David lying awake in bed while a presumably earlier conversation with Melanie occurs about Division 3 taking his sister. We see someone taking tapes with David’s name on them out of a drawer, and a close up of his former therapist’s face all bloodied up.
David tries to leave to rescue his sister but Sydney stops him. She asks if he wants to leave because of her and offers to hold hands. He explains about his sister, but Sydney convinces him to stay and finish the work. She tells him Amy is bait. Staying and figuring out his powers will make him more capable of rescuing her.
And speaking of, the episode ends with The Eye sitting across from a captured Amy in a dank, dark room, where he says, “let’s begin.”
Begin what? I’m worried to find out.
Legion was a bit easier to follow this week, right? This will probably be the trend: as David works through his memories and grasps his reality more firmly, the show will become more coherent. We saw so this week. David still struggles with the reality of his powers but with Melanie focusing him, things ran a little more smoothly than last week.
I hope the process remains this fascinating all season.
Much of this episode focused on Melanie and Ptonomy erasing the beliefs hammered into David’s head throughout his life. They seem to have a process which has worked with others. They work through memories and offer therapy. Sydney talked about having the same experience and the same questions.
David clearly presents a tougher challenge for various reasons. His powers and the nature of it top the list. Convincing someone whose powers involve physical touch or some demonstrable display is one thing, but David’s powers are purely mental. How do you convince someone that the voices they hear are not manifested by an illness? Especially when David has been told for years now he is not mentally healthy?
Those years did take their own mental toll separate from his powers. Simply convincing him of his powers will not be enough. Melanie, Ptonomy, and whoever else helps David have a lot of work to do regarding years of negative reinforcement telling him his powers do not exist and he needs help.
Now, they succeeded to a point in “Summerland Blues” but it’s clear just how much work remains. Melanie will need to fine tune her methods to help David reach his full potential. If that’s at all possible.
It is interesting to see just how similarly Summerland comes across as yet another psychiatric hospital. Treatment revolves around literally facing past experiences and trying to talk through them. One thing some worried about after David’s escape last week was Legion moving on from the fascinating mental content. With David basically living in another hospital, those fears should vanish.
He’s also not the only one who she has treated, which is very interesting. It makes you wonder why Melanie seeks these particular mutants out. Summerland revolves around psychiatric help. Is this simply showrunner Noah Hawley’s interpretation of the X-Men universe, where he wants to show mutants coming mentally to grips with their powers, or does Melanie seek out these types of mutants for a reason?
Melanie is said to have specifically sought out David because he is the key to “winning the war.” Sydney talked about not wanting to go through memory work because she wanted to find David. I still think Sydney’s manipulating David, even if I believe in the feelings between the two. You have to wonder about the goal here. Melanie has a plan.
Ptonomy’s powers involve mentally entering the mind. Sydney can apparently switch her mind into another’s body. I won’t be surprised if more of the mutants we meet also have similar abilities. If so, Melanie has a reason for gathering these mutants specifically.
(“Winning the war” is a very Magneto thing to say. I would squeal if Melanie somehow tied to Magneto somewhere down the line. Unlikely, but keep it in mind like the “stars” which might have been Cerebro.)
Outside of the character work, Legion also gave the audience plenty of plot to chew on. The naming of Divison 3, Summerland, Amy’s kidnapping, and the look at some new David memories all gave plenty of plot movement. The Division is what it is: big bad government is nothing new in X-Men or superheroes in general. I do think The Eye is interesting. He seems something more than human. He’s probably a mutant who cooperates.
I don’t think anyone would argue that the most fascinating plot in the episode involved David’s memories. We got a “look” at his father that led to the constellation conversation, and also established a deep resentment David holds for him. Everyone can agree that the book means something, right? “The Angriest Little Boy in the World,” where the story ends with the boy beheading his mother? No way that doesn’t play into David’s resentment and foreshadow something terrible he did or will do.
We also saw that he knew Lenny before Clockworks, which raises all kinds of questions about just how long they knew each other and how exactly they ended up in Clockworks together. In fact, if not for Sydney knowing she killed Lenny, I would question her existence altogether. There is very much more to her than we’ve seen so far.
The yellow-eyed demon also played a substantial role in the episode despite only appearing twice. Fans of the Legion comics have many theories about the demon’s identity. I know nothing about this; from what I see the demon ties directly into the manifestation of David’s mental powers. The revisit of him as a child in bed implied the demon’s presence, as did the closet in the therapist’s office. In both scenes David was terrified of it, as he was in the first episode.
Melanie is right about one thing, which is that moments like these not being hallucinations. They are real and tie to his power. Sydney confirmed as much when she mentioned seeing it right before killing Lenny. David tells his therapist he has seen “another world” since he was 10 or 11-years-old. So what role does this demon play in David’s power?
I only know one thing for sure, and that’s how gripped I am right now. Legion has a fun plot, a great protagonist, incredible visuals and sound (the awful noises the demon makes are horrifying), and is if nothing else a real pleasure to watch.
There does remain the issue of knowing what exactly is real and how much is in David’s head. This came up often in both seasons of Mr. Robot. In that show you spent a lot of time wondering how much of Elliot’s world actually exists. Legion might have this problem on an even greater scale. We don’t just see David’s present, we see a past that David actively hides.
How much of that past really happened? What exactly happened? What is currently happening? Keeping track of chronology proves difficult sometimes and is not revealed until the end of scenes. As I said last week, not everyone likes this constant questioning of what Legion shows them. I also can’t help but worry about Hawley’s ability to bring it all together.
I don’t doubt his abilities as a showrunner. It’s hard for anyone to make a plot like this work without complaints. And I’m sure further complaints will rise as the season continues, regardless of how well Legion handles things.
Right now I am a very happy new fan. Maybe I should check out the Legion comics. Maybe some fans can let me know in the comments whether the source will make this better or worse.