“Well, we know where we’re going, but we don’t know where we’ve been….”
“We find your powers, we see your triggers. But what matters most: We make you whole.”
Accompanied by a voiceover that suggests this may already be a memory, David and his rescue team arrive at the impossibly lovely institute Dr. Bird runs to teach people like him and Syd to understand and master their powers. Noah Hawley has hinted that Legion takes place in an alternate universe, and Summerland appears to be this world’s School for Gifted Children, with Dr. Bird as its Professor X. By way of introduction she explains to David that humanity has begun to evolve, and that the government maintains “divisions” dedicated to tracking and studying people with superhuman abilities. Her people rescued him from Division Three. Bird goes on to explain that David’s “symptoms” are evidence not of mental illness but of telepathy and possibly telekinesis. She teaches him how to “turn down the volume” on the thoughts he’s been hearing all his life and promises that tomorrow the “memory work” will begin.
“Memory work” turns out to consist of revisiting actual memories in a plexiglass shed equipped with a kind of analog telepathic LAN table. David is accompanied by Dr. Bird and Ptonomy as the latter shepherds them through a series of memories that can’t seem to go long before turning odd, sinister, or outright frightening. The series continues to tease out the events that preceded David’s institutionalization and begins to expand on his childhood. David and Amy (and an adorably dumpy beagle) shared what appears to have been a happy rural youth, and his memories of her and their mother seem untainted. But a strangeness permeates recollections of his father, whose face is hidden in shadow. And whether he is reading a bedtime story about a matricidal boy or driving them out for some late-night stargazing, young David seems to regard his father with rather more awe – or fear – than anything resembling the ease he shows with Amy or his mother.
Legion’s characteristic quick cuts also give us glimpses of David’s life shortly before Clockworks, which in this episode alternated between counterproductive sessions with the ill-fated Dr. Poole and attempts to self-medicate. With Poole, as with Kissinger and Bird, David is uneasy and evasive, ducking questions with halting, clumsy deflections which may or may not include actual time jumps. He’s much more at ease with Lenny, whose friendship predated their concurrent hospitalizations. In this episode’s flashback she greets David after one of his appointments astride a stolen stove. They wheel it to The Greek (Eddie Jemison), and Lenny convinces him to accept the stove in exchange for a vial of blue liquid. A creepy amphibian humidifier transforms this liquid into the Vapor. As Lenny settles into her high, muttering “Red leather, yellow leather,” David looks over and sees her briefly replaced (possessed? transformed?) by the Devil with Yellow Eyes.
This time viewers move through David’s memories with Ptonomy and Dr. Bird, whose experience of them is as disjointed and disorienting as ours. Flummoxed by the tangle of his past, Dr. Bird arranges for David to undergo a neural scan to map his memories. The scan – an alt-universe MRI apparently assembled with spare parts from the Fallout universe – instead reveals a large amygdala and a pattern of neural activity that doesn’t correlate with typical memory recall. This activity culminates in a spike that sends Cary Loudermilk scurrying from the control room, leaving David trapped in the machine while the Devil with Yellow Eyes comes close enough to touch him. In his panic David teleports the entire machine out into the yard.
The neural activity spike Cary witnessed was David non-corporeally projecting himself to the source of the voice he’d heard calling him. It belonged to Amy, who was spelling his name for a recalcitrant administrator doggedly denying he’d ever been a patient at Clockworks. Amy seems to hear David call her name, but he’s powerless to intervene as The Eye finds her. Syd talks David out of his intended one-man rescue mission, promising that they’ll be better equipped to help once David has a grasp of his powers. That’s no comfort to Amy, who ends this episode in a grimy, decrepit room facing The Eye and an aquarium-like box filled with inky, eel-like slitherers.
Legion’s second chapter is preoccupied with wholeness. It’s a core tenet of Summerland, where Dr. Bird promises to make David whole by reconnecting him with the power everyone else wrote off as a dangerous delusion. By assimilating the events and emotions that accompanied its appearance, Bird believes all her charges can master their powers. (It remains to be seen, however, whether this mastery itself is Summerland’s ultimate goal; Ptonomy alludes to David’s possible value in the war but does not elaborate.) Ptonomy is trying to assemble David’s memories into something recognizably linear and coherent. Amy is tracking him down to make their family whole again. And Syd and David continue to build a romance out of the few intimacies possible when physical contact is out of the question.
David resists the call to wholeness, constrained by fear and circumstance. He lacks the resources and ability to confront The Eye and save Amy, and his power is just as likely to accidentally injure her as it is to take out Division Three. He has bifurcated his consciousness to avoid the Devil with Yellow Eyes: No matter how many times Ptonomy replays David’s time-jump memory glitches, there’s a greater-than-zero chance no single timeline exists to be reassembled. And however positive and well-intentioned it may be, Dr. Bird’s insistence that David has experienced no delusions, only unacknowledged manifestations of his powers, contains a terrifying implication: If Dr. Bird is right, the Devil with Yellow Eyes is real. David can no longer write off the apparition as a mere hallucination, and even Syd finds it difficult to speak of the creature she glimpsed while her consciousness was in David’s body. Fortunately, this does nothing to impede their nascent romance, whose incompleteness may be its security. Pieces are manageable, but anything still in one piece is just moments away from being shattered.
· “The human race is beginning to evolve.”
· “Why is it blue?”
“It’s always blue.”
· “How do I know they won’t kill her?”
“Because she’s bait.”
ODDS & ENDS
· David is munching on a Twizzler when he emerges from Dr. Poole’s office, the same candy he stole from Lenny last episode to flirt with Syd. In spite of this possible evidence to the contrary, I refuse to believe Lenny is just in his head.
· Lenny proposes a heist on Dr. Poole’s office, perhaps foreshadowing the unfortunate event referenced by Dr. Kissinger?
· When David and Lenny do the Vapor, there’s a birdcage in the living room. In later scenes the bird and the cage are missing.
· In rather disappointing news, The World’s Angriest Boy in the World is not a real book. Thepassage we hear is a great (if chilling) riff on how warped and violent children’s stories can be.
· “Snik-snak” is equal parts Wolverine and Vorpal Sword and my new favorite onomatopoeia.
· Both Cary Loudermilk’s computer and daughter share the name Kerry. (Paging Indiana Jones.)
· I’ll start calling them mutants when the show does.
· The lyrics sung over the opening scene are from The Talking Heads’ “Road to Nowhere,” whose video shares a certain aesthetic sensibility with Legion. Surreal animations, nested images, and time jumps play over a man who never stops running. David Byrne described the song as “a resigned, even joyful look at doom.”
FAN THEORIES, or WHAT THE HELL I THINK IS GOING ON
· I was wrong about Syd being unreal and I may be wrong about Lenny being real. Whoops.
· I’m much less confident this week about the significance of colors, although I continue to believe they indicate something, even if that turns out to be nothing more than Hawley adopting the comic book convention of a single outfit and/or signature shades.
· Nevertheless, this week’s Colorwatch: That weird bird in David’s vapor flashback was colored almost identically to the Clockworks orderlies’ uniforms. In both past and present tense Amy is wearing pastels, suggesting a childlike innocence or vulnerability. Summerland is dominated by fresh green, white light, and pale wood, with the exception of the sleeping quarters and lab. Dr. Bird dresses in neutral tones of cream, ivory, and beige. David’s father’s pickup is red and white, the same vivid red that recurred throughout the previous episode. As David ages through childhood, his clothes progress from primary colors to mostly yellow, perhaps alluding to the Devil’s imminent appearance. The stove Lenny steals is orange, a shade similar to the scarf Syd always wears. Lenny wears olive green, red, and black, and settles into her Vapor high muttering “Red leather, yellow leather.” Finally, while Chapter 1 dealt primarily in solids and the occasional stripe, Chapter 2 has introduced more complex patterns and textures, as the plot thickens and David begins to grapple with the complexity of his situation.