Well, it’s official: David Haller is a double agent. Collusion is the name of the game, and he’s actually pretty good at it for a first-timer. It helps that he’s capable of multi-dimensional travel, telepathy, and basically anything else he can think of, but David is quickly learning that he may not be the one-of-a-kind demigod everyone wants him to be. In its second episode, Legion takes a moment to reassure viewers that season two won’t always be the phantasmagoric maze of incoherence that left everyone scratching their heads in 2017. “Chapter 10” is, in turns, Legion‘s most coherent episode, and sometimes its most entertaining, but never its most daring, and I’m actually kind of okay with that for now.
There’s a lot going on, and with the help of director Ana Lily Amirpour – who helmed the 2014 breakout hit, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, as well as last year’s The Bad Batch with Jason Momoa and Jim Carrey – writer and creator Noah Hawley is able to reorient viewers without sacrificing too much of what makes Legion worth tuning into week after week, despite the splitting headaches that may arrive in its wake. Still reeling from his first few days with Division 3, David is caught in a battle between good and evil, and he’s not 100% sure which side he belongs to. On the one hand, there’s the Summerland team, which is being torn apart at the seams by Amahl Farouk and his faithful but increasingly impatient sidekick, who’s looking to make her grand exit sooner than later.
However, the case against them is becoming increasingly more credible in David’s mind as he realizes how complex this whole “killing Farouk and saving the world” thing actually is. Legion has no trouble reminding us that the line between heroes and villains is often so thin, there might as well not be a line at all. And if there is, we shouldn’t be afraid to play a little jump rope with it if the circumstances permit. And in the case of David and Farouk – who meet face-to-face for the first time in an exhilarating sequence anchored by a performance from Navid Negahban that’s as terrifying as it is irresistibly enjoyable – the question may not be what they have in common, but what they don’t. David understands that helping Farouk is something he needs to do, but there’s the sense that it might also be something he actually wants to do. We’re always the heroes of our own stories, and it’s hard to accept that you’re almost certainly the villain in someone else’s, making morality completely relative and perhaps even useless.
There’s still an innate goodness in David, though, that, with each death, is being slowly chipped away. In a sequence set sometime in the future, Syd hints at the idea that the David we’ve come to know and love is not the person he’ll always be. But, as the episode reminds us, who is? Who can honestly say they’re the same person they were ten years, days, or even minutes ago? Furthermore, who wants to be? Change is integral to survival, and if we’re not evolving, we’re dying. In another sequence shepherded by a sultry voiceover from Jon Hamm – Chapter 4, to be specific – a description is given of a tick and a dog, each unaware of the other, doing what they know to be natural.
We’re told that Umwelt, or, “the world as it is experienced by a particular organism,” is the driving force behind these occurrences. A tick attaching itself to a bloodhound. A bloodhound using its 230 million scent receptors. These are all natural processes, and all biological and evolutionary responses. Humans, the voiceover posits, are the only animal whose drive is derived from the mind, and not the body. We’re able to form our own perceptions of reality. Therefore, we’re the only animals who are able to drive ourselves mad. With that in mind, are we to trust anything in Legion as unequivocal truth? The answer has always been no, but even the shred of reality Hawley has had us tethered to is quickly dissipating into yet another illusion.
There’s also the curious mention of the Shi’ar when Cary and Kerry, unceremoniously flipped so that the former ended up stuck inside of the latter, are working to undo the mess that Farouk created after casually attacking the Division 3 headquarters. The Cary/Kerry subplot is fantastic, if only because it gives Amber Midthunder a chance to shine in a way she hasn’t yet, but Cary’s mentions of the Shi’ar is no coincidence. According to a write-up in Gizmodo:
Of course, there’s one other thing Cary casually mentions that’s an even bigger deal than phantom legs: the Shi’ar. He tells Kerry, who at the time was still inside his body, that he originally thought the Shi’ar had made the orb, but he later realized it wasn’t true. Even if this is only a name-drop, it’s a huge deal, guys. In the X-Men universe, the Shi’ar are one of the three biggest alien empires, along with the Skrull and Kree (the latter of whom have made major appearances in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies and the Agents of SHIELD TV series). Yes, it might just be an Easter egg for comics fans, but come on, this is Legion—anyone who’s watching knows that everything means something on this show.
Legion is always dropping subtle hints at what’s to come. I’d be wholly unsurprised if Noah Hawley revealed that he wrote the entire show before the first episode went into production like Aaron Sorkin did with The Newsroom, but this definitely doesn’t seem like just an Easter egg. Especially as Legion begins to explore some of the deeper X-Men mythology, it’s almost a guarantee that the Shi’ar will show up in the near (or nearly distant) future.
Lastly, I just want to give a quick shoutout to Jean Smart, who’s been killing it this season as the heartbroken, drug-addicted Melanie Bird. Robbed of her passion for the world and everyone in it, Smart has embodied the role, and, frankly, made it her bitch. There’s no reason a character this secondary should be performed this well, but Smart uses every single second of her screen time as an opportunity to do the best work of her career, and I just can’t wait to see more of her this season. In a sense, Legion continues to be a much more conventional show than it was last year, but it’s undeniably a better one, too. At the risk of sacrificing what makes it unique, Legion has given itself and its stars some breathing room, and the results are nothing short of brilliant.
|Producer: Marvel • Network: FX • Rating: TV-MA • Release Date: 4/11/18|
David meets his oldest enemy.
|The Good||As usual, mostly everything.|
|The Bad||I could’ve done without the rehash of last week, but at least it wasn’t boring!|
|The Ugly||Who the hell are those monks and why are they so damn creepy?|
|Portal 13 reviews shows on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.|
Images: FX, Marvel