Hello, and welcome to the latest installment of Legion of Spoilers, AKA Trish eats crow for last week’s predictions. I was so certain David was going to blast everyone into another timeline to get Amy back, but now that the initial shock has worn off, he seems to have snapped back to Exterminate Farouk mode.
David begins as he often does, by summoning Farouk to a psychic face-to-face meeting. Farouk suggests David bounced back so quickly because he secretly hated Amy all along. David doesn’t try to deny it, but defends his resentment as “just thoughts,” as though someone in possession of such prodigious psychic power can write off any ideas as “just thoughts.” “Remove your mask,” Farouk says, with that silky serpentine voice. “Show them your face. It could be beautiful.” David retorts that he doesn’t wear masks, and Farouk sniffs at his naivete: Everyone wears masks, even – perhaps especially – to themselves.
It is Future!Syd Farouk goes to see next, to find out why she has decided to help him recover his body. The air between them is electric with the mystery of her choice. Finally, she admits, “We need you. I need you. To stop the world from ending.” Although she tries to hedge, she cannot help but reveal who destroyed the world in her timeline. Farouk is so surprised to discover that the culprit is the boy he left at the “kiddie table” that he agrees to help. They will rule the world, he promises – or at least, they will save it. Together.
Back at D3, Present!Syd warns “Lenny” that she knows she’s only been sent to distract and unbalance David. “Lenny” herself seems too unbalanced and traumatized to answer this charge; Farouk may be using her, but refusal was never an option. Elsewhere in the compound Ptonomy’s night terrors nest into each other with false awakenings and visions of slavering jaws. When he is finally awake, he plants eggs on everyone’s nightstands, whispering into each some creeping dread. One by one the sleepers will awaken with the conviction that Fukuyama is a monster and the Vermilion its stalking minions.
Before they do, David sneaks out to the tank for another late-night visit with Future!Syd. He asks how she could have told him to help Farouk knowing what would happen to Amy, but she urges him to stay focused. Horrified, David answers, “You’re not Syd. Not my Syd.” In response, Future!Syd tries to seduce him, as though trying to break the ground rules Present!Syd laid down hours earlier. She manages to extract a lingering kiss, but no more: David will not help her. This may be the last time he comes to see her.
David returns from the tank to find the hallway littered with eggshells and the minds he expected to find in their beds mysteriously absent. While Syd and Clark stalked off to confront Fukuyama, Ptonomy and Kerry joined forces to keep an army of Vermilion from defending their admiral. But David has developed more control over his powers, and after locating Syd telepathically, he teleports just in time to stop Clark from murdering an unmasked (unbasketed?) Admiral Fukuyama. However, although he removes the larvae from Syd and Clark’s heads, David fails to notice the thing that has infected Ptonomy until it explodes from his body in a torrent of tar and malice. While the Vermilion attempt to salvage Ptonomy’s mind by uploading him into the mainframe, David pursues the creature.
David catches the Delusion Bug in the cafeteria and tries unsuccessfully to reason with it. He toys with it, letting it think it can attack him, before trapping it in a jar and – not without some dark pleasure – imploding it. Future!Syd looks on from a porthole in the transdimensional meeting room. David is developing a taste for the destructive side of his power. He is becoming dangerous.
This week’s White Room Sequence, as I’ve taken to calling them, was about moral panics. It presented them as a kind of conversion disorder whose symptoms are externalized rather than internalized. Whereas those suffering a conversion disorder develop symptoms that spread to others, individuals engaged in a moral panic produce angry mobs. Their response to cognitive dissonance is not to develop an involuntary twitch but to murder their neighbors. As a woman plucked from her daily business dies on gallows built for no one in particular, the narrator invites us to consider: “What’s more terrifying: Fear, or the frightened?”
Considering David’s behavior for the past season and a half, the answer is unquestionably The Frightened. When scared, David reacts blindly, with spectacular and often destructive results. His fear has destroyed equipment and endangered his teammates and trapped people in floors. If – or maybe the question is only when – David loses control, he can take the whole world with him. He very nearly did after discovering Amy’s fate. If that’s possible, what isn’t?
There’s a story in the apocryphal Gospels (basically ancient fanfic) about a kid who pissed Baby Jesus off. Baby Jesus throws a tantrum – totally normal, except that this tantrum ends with the offending child withering into a corpse. That is what Farouk tries to make David understand by marooning him at the “kiddie table.” David’s power IS godlike, and until he reckons with its gravitational pull on everyone and everything in his orbit, he will be Loose Cannon Baby Jesus. He cannot become anything, but he can destroy everything even without meaning to. This is what Future!Syd enlists Farouk’s help to prevent.
At least what Farouk destroys he destroys on purpose. That’s not to valorize or justify his cruelty, which has been in considerable evidence. But Legion has been signaling that the line between heroism and villainy may not be as neat as David, Summerland, or D3 wants to imagine. In their first meeting, Farouk pushed back on David’s use of the word “villain,” observing that in the original French, “villain” simply denoted one who lived in a village. When he meets with Future!Syd, Farouk muses on all those who called him a villain and sent their heroes against him. “Year after year they came. The heroes. With their blue eyes and white skin. They thought by killing me they would save the world. And now you are telling me that the opposite is true, that the villain is a hero and the hero is the villain?” A consummate polyglot and wordsmith, Farouk is not only amused by the concept of this inversion. He is poking at the etymological and conceptual edifices that undergird simplistic moral fables like the one David is telling himself when he weighs the morality and possibility of torturing Farouk.
And if David is considering torture, what kind of hero is he? What is a hero, anyway? Is it someone who annihilates the world while trying to save a single person? Or is it someone whose self-serving choices happen to prevent that annihilation? Future!Syd suggests that we are all villains as far as the planet is concerned. But however accurate it might be, this idea is too pat. It elides the moral complexities humans confront simply by existing, by co-existing. It certainly elides the additional moral burden that attends superhuman powers – a burden with which Syd is intimately familiar. She has faced the dark side of her power. She knows how it feels to use it to hurt people and seems disinclined to revisit the experience.
David, however, has not faced this dimension of his power. He’s convinced himself that he is motivated entirely by love and altruism, or at least that being motivated by love justifies anything. But the truth David hasn’t fully admitted even to himself, even though some people around him are beginning to recognize it, is that David likes his power. He likes having it. He likes using it. He seeks out encounters with Farouk because they are the only time he feels like he is facing an equal. He meets with Future!Syd because he thinks no one else can do it. He tells himself he uses his power solely in the service of the vulnerable. This is the mask Farouk urges him to shed.
Or maybe not. Farouk is a trickster god, so slippery and protean that only a fool would imagine he could pin him down. David may be that fool, and his overconfidence might cost him the world.
- “Ostensibly, on Legion…”
- “Whether or note the threat is real, the response certainly is, and it is often excessive. Ask yourself: What’s more terrifying? Fear, or the frightened?”
- “Amahl Farouk! Tapeworm, parasite, shit beetle! I’m calling you out!”
- “Remove your mask. Show them your face. It could be beautiful.”
- “I’m tired of the boo hoo. Do what you want. Take what you want. Gods make rules, they don’t follow them.”
- “I love you. …Are you gonna say it too?”
“Shut up. …I love you.”
- “We need you. I need you. To stop the world from ending.”
- “Year after year they came. The heroes. With their blue eyes and white skin. They thought by killing me they will save the world. And now you are telling me that the opposite is true. That the villain is a hero and the hero is the villain?”
- “You’re not Lenny. And you’re not Amy. You’re the song they play outside the hostage crisis to keep criminals from thinking clearly.”
- “Symptom alert: Fixating despair.”
- “Symptom alert: A growing sense of outrage.”
- “So what have we learned? That a delusion is an idea. That an idea can be contagious. That human beings are pattern-seeking animals, by which I mean that we prefer ideas that fit a pattern. In other words, we don’t believe what we see. We see what we believe. And when we are stressed or our beliefs are challenged, or when we feel threated, the ideas can become irrational, one delusion leading to another and another as the human mind struggles to maintain its identity. And when this occurs, what starts as an egg can become a monster.”
ODDS & ENDS
- Farouk meets David with two rare steaks, a diplomatic gesture intended to invite David to embrace his predatory tendencies.
- In addition to featuring The Devil with Yellow Eyes and drawings that appear to include David and Amy’s childhood memories, the comics in the moral panic sequence share a recurring motif: Dread, Fear, Loss, Outrage, and Terror. Put them all together and you’ve got yourself a good old-fashioned witch hunt.
- David is spending an awful lot of time in that tank.
- Syd reminds David that Farouk is trying to distract him, and damn, the women in this show know what’s up! LISTEN TO THEM.
- This show does detailed, creepy sound design better than any show that isn’t Twin Peaks.
- Poor Ptonomy! This won’t be the last we see of him – the old woman in that rocking chair also appeared in Admiral Fukuyama’s room, so this mainframe bit is clearly going somewhere – but his character always felt underused. RIP, super memory dude.
- White Room Sequences have included Chapters 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8. That leaves Chapters 1, 2, and 7 with four episodes to go in Season 2.
FAN THEORIES, OR WHAT THE HELL I THINK IS GOING ON
- What if the anxiety about Farouk is just a moral panic, one that David’s bio-dad bought into with multi-generational consequences?
- Delusion-infected Syd mimed putting on Fukuyama’s basket. Is there an admirality in her future? Is that why Future!Syd wears all those scarves covering the zone right about where Fukuyama’s posts are installed?
- I’m still not entirely convinced the Delusion Bug was an unrelated incursion. That red background is the same one that appears when the first cheerleader experiences the conversion disorder twitch. David’s conversion disorders could totally manifest as Delusion Bugs.
- Do Future!Syd’s appearances happen chronological order?
- The ending voiceover (the last quote above) recaps most of the White Room Sequences so far and foreshadows David’s ideas will become or be revealed as irrational, the product of a mind clinging to an identity it understands.