What is reality made of? How much of its fabric is choice, how much circumstance, how much willful self-delusion? Can you make a thing real by looking for it? Can you make a thing unreal by looking away? What happens when an observer can no longer distinguish between imagined and objective worlds?
David Haller is an unreliable narrator. For all its superhuman power, his mind never learned to distinguish between the unreal and the real, to ground itself in the relationships between experience, thought, action, and memory. After a lifetime of parasitic manipulation of his perceptions, David literally cannot know if he is telling the truth. Once he grasped who had been warping his reality and to what ends, it seemed like David might learn to connect with the world the rest of us experience as real. But this week, David decided to skip getting acquainted with reality and go straight to improving it instead.
This will end well.
This week’s episode of Legion opens with David – still convinced of Future Syd’s veracity – agreeing to stage a diversion so Farouk can break into Division 3. While David leads a unit to a vacant fortune teller’s booth in the desert, Lenny/Oliver re-enacts David’s Season 1 invasion. One guard after another falls to ash, until the thing wearing Oliver finds itself facing Cary. Kerry steps out to defend him but both are transfixed, helpless, as Lenny taps a spoon and reality shivers: Cary and Kerry have been turned inside out, their power recalibrated beyond their control. Melanie, however, regains control of her faculties as Oliver passes. Sprawled in a Vapor-induced stupor, she hears talk of a monk at D3. Her eyes fly open as she grasps the terrible significance of Lenny/Oliver/Farouk’s thoughts.
Melanie has David and Syd accompany her to Admiral Fukuyama’s creepy sitting room. We learn that Farouk’s defeat (by David’s bio-dad) separated mind from body, and that the Mi-Go Monks received Farouk’s body for safekeeping. All the monks were believed dead at the hand of Miser Sunday, but one may have survived – and with him, knowledge of the body’s whereabouts.
After absorbing this information, Fukuyama and the androids (known as Vermilion) accuse David of mounting a diversion for Farouk, implying he cannot be trusted. Then Fukuyama dismisses the Summerland crew, flicking through a panopticon view of the compound as they depart. David may believe D3 is unaware of his plan, but Fukuyama is watching Cary’s lab well before David arrives.
There he finds Kerry, still clearly discomfited and unable to send Cary back out into the world. David asks Cary and Kerry her to modify the psychic amplification bandshell tub to allow multi-dimensional perception – ostensibly to spy on Farouk. Instead, he summons Future Syd: He trusted her, and people died. Why should he help a monster like Farouk? “He killed a few,” she replies. “This thing kills everyone.” When David asks why she reached back through time to tell him to help his enemy, Future Syd replies, enigmatically: “It started like any other idea, as an egg.” You know, like the egg that hatched a slimy black chimera into the tabula rasa of David’s mind.
And just as you’re remembering that line from last week’s faux documentary aside, Legion launches a disquisition on the nature of reality and lived experience. The Narrator compares the umwelt of a tick, a bloodhound, and finally a human, characterizing us as the only species that thinks about our interactions with the universe. He reminds us that reality is manufactured, a collection of sensory experiences mediated through our primate sentience. Given a big enough rift between perception and understanding, he observes, humans can lose their minds.
Having issued this casual aside on semiotics, Legion returns us to Division 3, where Clark takes the opportunity of an apparently chance encounter to let David know he’s on to him. For the first time since their reacquaintance, Clark has startled David. David parries with a retort about Farouk’s duplicity, but Clark has a bead on him and David is at a loss to understand how.
Resolved to shake Clark’s accusations and perhaps assuage his own insecurity, David contacts Farouk. Teleported into the desert, he sits down at the fortune-telling booth and rings the bell. It takes David a beat to realize he’s facing his former parasite. Farouk appeals to David’s sense that his power elevates and isolates him from ordinary folk. He asks David why men like them should be accountable to ordinary mortals mired in the tedious tangible muck of reality. And David, who knows no one else who can comprehend the nature and reach of his abilities, thrills to this appeal to his will to power. Before long, David’s smile mirrors Farouk’s across the booth. Witness your future, its sign says. Witness. Like a shadow in the window, a bystander at a tragedy. Witness, silently, the future that is already out of your hands. Witness – unless, of course, you happen to be a god. A god could save Syd from the timeline that takes her youth, her arm, and her love. A god could even take on the famed and feared Amahl Farouk.
As their confrontation shifts from verbal to physical to conceptual, Farouk lets David think he’s in control. After David appears to triumph in their little scuffle, Farouk snaps him back to the booth in the desert. “I don’t need you to trust me,” he says. “But you will respect me.” He appears to agree, reluctantly, not to kill anyone else if David helps him recover his body. “I’ll find your monk if he’s at Division 3,” David promises. “Wait for my signal.”
This blew my mind. Does David really believe he was in control of that situation? Does he really think he can outmaneuver a creature that has survived for two centuries on wits and malice and spent the last twenty years growing fat off David’s power and ignorance? Farouk is just as likely to be setting him up to destroy Syd while trying to save her, or worse, to destroy the world while trying to save her. The expression that plays on his lips as his serpent’s promises dance between tongues is a predator’s smile. What has David’s promise set into motion?
Back at D3, David has gone to see Melanie. She’s talking – about life and loss and regret – but David isn’t listening. This is a shame, because Melanie is, to date, the only one with a strategic and intuitive grasp of current events. She figured out what Lenny!Oliver wanted and that David wouldn’t help D3 if they antagonized him too much. She warned Syd against letting David exploit her trust and her patience as Oliver exploited Melanie’s. And she observes with bitter, pained pragmatism that preventing death is no reason for David and Syd not to enjoy life while they can.
For all his telepathy David is pretty bad at seeing what the people in front of him want to show him. Although he’s polite enough to wait until Melanie’s done talking, he’s more interested in turning over Farouk’s words in his mind. A god, he decides, can break his promise to Future Syd. Present Syd agrees to share David’s reality, to help him reunite Farouk’s mind with his body.
The chase is on, and the quarry is too close for comfort.
- “But you remember, right? Fake, real, you remember it! So it happened!”
- “Chance the object is explosive in nature: 27%”
- “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Just your asshole parasite messing with my head.”
- “Maybe don’t piss off our only hope of killing the monster.”
- “Cary said that it might be too dangerous and that you could explode.”
- “Am I dead in the future?”
- “Human beings are the only animal that forms ideas about their world. We perceive it, not through our bodies, but through our minds. We must agree on what is real. Because of this, we are the only animal on earth that goes mad.”
- “You were the bad guy.”
“That’s funny, I thought you were the bad guy.”
- “You’re strong, very strong. But you’re playing the wrong game.”
- “You decide what is real and what is not. You. Your will.”
- “I’m not complaining, it’s been a shitblast, really, but all that haunted house stuff…do you know how long it’s been since I got laid, man?”
ODDS & ENDS
- Watch Lenny’s face when David explains why he’s helping Farouk and tell me this isn’t how Farouk gets the whole damn idea.
- Ptonomy is carrying the halo Cary built in Season 1 to suppress Lenny!Farouk. Summerland still thinks they can save Oliver.
- Fukuyama’s channel-surfing echoes David’s the first time he goes into the psychic amplification chamber.
- The wise man quoted on the nature of reality is none other than Philip K. Dick.
- Kerry has a lovely singing voice.
- That shape-shifting face-off was right out of the tale of The Fourteenth Night of the Thousand and One Nights.
- Props to Syd for confronting David about the music box. She sees that he’s at risk of thinking like The Shadow King, and she’ll be damned if he pulls any of that shit on her watch.
- In David’s meetings with Future Syd, time and language move in much the same way as in Twin Peaks’ lodges.
- No good can come of cooperating with someone who introduces himself, proudly, as The Tapeworm.
- Cat!Syd plays with a dead pigeon and then licks her hand. Isn’t that how you get worms?
- That monk looks distinctively unwell.
FAN THEORIES, OR WHAT THE HELL I THINK IS GOING ON
- Melanie gets high to hide her mind from Oliver and keep everyone safe, like the cop in Sens8.
- The sound given off by the spoon disrupted the resonance that allows Cary and Kerry to merge and separate at will. Their molecules vibrate in some kind of harmony – or at least, they did.
- I remain convinced each scene’s aspect ratio indicates something about its relationship to objective reality.
- Lenny may wind up being the dark horse Gollum hero of this whole operation.
- Kerry has gone Rogue! What if this reversal accelerates her aging, bringing her closer to Cary?
- Present Syd is wearing yellow!
- David is in prison bars of dark blue and green.
- The Vapor is blue. It’s always blue.
- Vermilion is (are?) dapper and sleek in geometric black.
- Clark is still in burgundy.