What did David’s father set into motion when he challenged and defeated Amahl Farouk? After this week, his victory seems less heroic and more tragic, an act of hubris that threatens his child, his kind, and the foundations of the world. As Legion ponders mass hysteria and unintended consequences, the series seems less an origin story than the final arc of a tragedy that began a generation ago.
Legion’s eleventh chapter opens with the Narrator reflecting on placebo/nocebo effects, conversion disorders, and a malady’s ability to metastasize across a population. The sequence’s Patient Zero is a young cheerleader, but the Danforth Dunes Ditch Devils’ affliction did not begin with her. It began with her parents, whose absorption in their own conflict blinded them to its impact on their child. And thus the sins of the parents are visited upon an entire community.
Our current state of affairs began in another community, the monastery that received Farouk’s body after his defeat. The monks seal his futuristic white casket beneath their chapterhouse floor and the years pass in relative silence. Until the pounding begins: thunderous, irregular beats that seem to originate beneath the floor and within the hearer’s mind. One monk goes mad, then another, then another. One day, the monastery is transported from its mountaintop to a flat desert plain. The lone survivor emerges from his cohorts’ tomb, surveys the alien landscape, and starts walking.
Legion weaves this flashback through the present action at D3 HQ. When the flashback pounding echoes into the present, Ptonomy dreams of a hatching egg, and an oily creeping black something takes root in his brain.
Meanwhile, back in the comic relief department, Cary is teaching Kerry “the boring stuff” attendant about being a living human body out in the world. It’s a roller coaster: She finds eating pointless and revolting. Cream soda improves her outlook considerably – until several hours later, when she discovers an experience even more pointless and revolting than consuming the food in the first place.
While Kerry and Cary bicker about digestion, Cat!Syd prowls D3’s halls for intelligence to share with David. When Clark discovers the bloody handprint and the jailbreak from D3’s quarantine room, David glimpses Future!Syd. She is spelling out a desperate message. D3 goes into lockdown and David demands another audience with Farouk.
He arrives to find Lenny scratching out an exit sign in chalk along the edge of a pool, her suit the same prison bar colors as the cabana and deck chairs. Little better than furniture in this gilded cage, she begs David to “talk to the king” about setting her free, or at least letting her consciousness die. Sudden and silent as an unbidden thought, the man himself is there, offering David a drink.
Farouk accuses David’s biological father of meddling in the affairs of a kingdom that neither required nor desired his intervention. By his account, David’s father cast himself as the savior of a story he could not be bothered to read before reducing its pages to a palimpsest for his own agenda. He made Farouk a refugee, who (claims he) wants only to return to his body and enjoy corporeal pleasures. He goes on to warn David that helping him will destroy the future. “You’re doing this for a woman you love in a future you will destroy if you help me,” he says. “You are helping her to commit suicide.” Then Farouk explains the origin of the chattering affliction. “It’s him,” he says of the monk. “He’s toxic.”
At this parting shot, David snaps himself back to consciousness. Outside the deserted lab, D3 personnel are dead or chattering in the remains of an improvised barricade. There is also a cow, and there is also no cow. (Maybe she knows what’s up. Ask her if you see her, before you don’t.) David finds Cary in the cafeteria, alone, terrified, and armed with a bottle of aggressively lemony household cleaner. David tries to SETI the Summerland gang, but there’s no response and he and Cary must search the old-fashioned way.
They find Ptonomy first, chattering in Syd and David’s quarters. David takes Cary into Ptonomy’s mind. There they discover that The Malady transforms a person’s deepest fantasy into a labyrinthine pocket universe – in Ptonomy’s case, a world in which he remembers nothing. Cary steps in a trail of black slime but never gets around to mentioning this to anyone before David returns everyone to normal operating consciousness.
On the way back to Cary’s lab, the trio find Melanie has also been infected. Her labyrinth is a text-based game haunted by a minotaur. Melanie’s maze is poignant in its starkness: After spending her life navigating people through their own labyrinths, she literally does not appear in her own. She wants someone, for once, to have to play the game on her terms.
It turns out David was listening to her last week, because after some thought, he leans over the keyboard. Gingerly, David tells Melanie’s broken fairy tale. She buried her dream of freedom to care for others, and now she is neither free nor cared for. This recognition brings Melanie out of the maze, and the four are greeted by the cow.
Spurred by another vision of Future!Syd, David divides the four into two teams, one to find Syd and the other Fukuyama. Melanie and Ptonomy head for The Pedestal, where they find the Vermilion felled around a slumped Admiral Fukuyama. Dangling from the ceiling like a horror movie creature, the monk demands “the weapon to kill the monster.” Fukuyama answers D3 just…never got around to making one, y’know? but Melanie connects the dots: David is the weapon, the only thing in existence that can destroy Farouk’s body.
Of course, at this moment David arrives sans Cary, because those two literally could not Buddy System to save their lives. After leaving Cary’s lab, David got stunned and carried off by children hypnotized by the Pied Mi-Go of Hamlin. As David awakens in the monk’s memories and witnesses the calamity that wiped out the Mi-Go order, Cary turns a corner and finds Kerry frozen in her fighting stance. Stunned and heartbroken, he touches his forehead to hers and fades away.
Before the monk can announce that David is compromised, David teleports the two of them to the roof to speak privately. David has a final vision of Future!Syd, who spells out HURRY before disappearing into a sandy black pit. The monk accuses David of lying and D3 of concealing the danger of Farouk’s body. He refuses all of David’s entreaties to reveal the location of the monastery – and Farouk’s body – before throwing himself from the roof. Stunned and defeated, David heads for the door. Syd is there, his compass around her neck, her eyes vacant, her teeth chattering. To get her out he will have to break the promise he made in Season 1. The mind her promised never to enter greets him with a howling blizzard.
- “Your mind has the power to create its own physical reality.”
- “If the idea of illness can become illness, what else about our reality is actually a disorder?”
- “Reminder: A loss of meaning is not normal.”
- “Reminder: Avoid words with multiple meanings.”
- “’I’m Lenny, of the great escape!’ – says every girl she ever banged.”
- “Shit, what is that? It’s so — lemony.”
- “What is it?”
“I don’t know. Should I -?”
- “That was a minotaur, yes. Why was it in a doggy wheelchair? I don’t know.”
- “Should I hug you?”
- “You did ‘a thing’ in my head?!”
- “I don’t think I want a cow in my lab.”
- “Don’t touch anything.”
ODDS & ENDS
- Reality is beginning to fragment: This chapter called itself Part Contagion | Five
- D3 actually arms their child soldiers. There is nothing remotely acceptable about that sentence.
- Triads were a recurring visual theme in this episode. Compare the composition of the first coffin scene, Cary and David finding Ptonomy, and text fork in Melanie’s maze.
- Farouk is not wrong about the words we choose defining our realities.
- Full disclosure: I am very susceptible to narratives that reframe villainy as postcolonial resistance.
FAN THEORIES, OR WHAT THE HELL I THINK IS GOING ON
- The chattering illness is a conversion disorder, a retreat into fantasy precipitated by utter despair.
- That fade didn’t look or sound like their previous reunions. Kerry might have been his animating force, and Cary may not be coming back.
- Lenny’s desperation seems just far enough beneath Farouk’s notice to undo him.
- The cow appears every time someone emerges from the labyrinth, so someone must have emerged the very first time David saw the cow. Who was it, and how did they get out?
- Elements of this episode felt very similar to The Oresteia, an ancient Greek dramatic trilogy about a family whose ancestors’ actions lock their descendants in a multigenerational cycle of violence.
- The Mi-Go monks wear black and orange, a color combination previously worn only by Season 1 Syd.
- There is a lot of blue this season, and in this episode. Cary, Ptonomy, David, and Kerry all wore blue, and many scenes were shot with a blue cast.
- Red has historically accompanied revelations, reveries, and reversals. It featured prominently on Labyrinth!Melanie and suffuses D3’s lockdown.