“To create fear, hold up a mirror.”
Ugh, David, you idiot.
David may be massively powerful, but he’s not terribly bright. Actually, that’s generous: David is trivially easy to manipulate. Once again Farouk has goaded him into charging headlong into danger, and once again David has played right into his hands. Dude’s a disembodied mind! He doesn’t even HAVE hands! And yet, here we are. What David imagines as a war will likely turn out be, at best, a trap that will produce a force whose very existence will threaten the fabric of reality or, at worst, a massacre. But you do you, David. It’s not like the fate of humanity hangs in the balance or anything. You go and show Farouk who’s boss! You prove Future!Syd wrong!
Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.
Before David charged half-cocked into the desert, he and Syd were brainstorming ways to find Farouk’s body. When she suggests he visit Future!Syd, David stutters noncommittally that he and Future!Syd are no longer seeing eye-to-eye. He confirms that they disagreed about whether to help Farouk. He omits the part about kissing her good-bye in express violation of Present!Syd’s ground rules.
Ugh, David, you ass.
Although I want to believe this is what Ptonomy was thinking as he watched this exchange on Basket-Vision, he’s probably too focused on figuring out how to stop Farouk. As he wanders binary halls, trying to orient himself in this strange new world, Ptonomy encounters a slumped faceless form he recognizes as what remains of Fukuyama-as-human. Mainframe!Fukuyama grabs his arm, and Ptonomy witnesses the genesis of “the machine that bleeds.”
At the tender age of 17, Fukuyama received some alarming news and a tantalizing proposition: Brubaker (who ended last season buried alive in a concrete floor) claimed there were people afoot in the world who could penetrate the secrecy of the human mind. However, there were also people whose powers which could be turned to protect humanity – people like Fukuyama, whose healing power makes him the perfect candidate for a procedure that will hide his mind from even the most powerful psychics. Framing this new world order as a kind of mental arms race, Brubaker asks Fukuyama to become the secret-keeper of the world. He does want to serve his country, doesn’t he?
While Fukuyama recovers from some grisly cerebral tweaking, the woman whose cautionary gesture greeted Ptonomy last week reads from The Phantom Tollbooth. As the Princess of Pure Reason expounds on chaos theory and the weight and value of knowledge, Ptonomy catches sight of a burning circuit. The spark leads him to the monk, from whom the Mainframe extracted the location of Farouk’s body. Ptonomy hijacks a Vermilion droid to tell David: Farouk’s body is in Le Désolé, a lifeless geographical anomaly on which the monastery dances through space. After a spirited discussion with himself, David decides sharing this information with anyone could expose it to Farouk. He develops a (stylishly filmed but likely incomplete) plan that places Clark, Cary, Kerry, and Lenny at various strategic points, implants some kind of timed-release .zip file in their minds, and takes off.
Farouk, however, isn’t waiting around to read anyone’s mind – at least, not anyone at D3. He has Oliver drive him to the retirement home that houses the D3 operative who hid his body and persuades her to share the location of the monastery. By the time David teleports to the edge of Le Désolé and starts walking, Farouk and Oliver will be traveling in relative comfort courtesy of an apparently tireless rickshaw operator. When he senses David in pursuit, Farouk is unconcerned: David is a day behind and could wander for the rest of his life without solving the riddle that protects the monastery.
David did do one more thing before he teleported into the desert: He left Syd a note. “Gone to kill the monster,” it proclaimed, casually eliding that David has once again broken his promise not to leave without her. Syd invites Clark over for a drink, as much to confide this latest betrayal as to request transport to wherever David is. After they exchange touching (and ominous) accounts of failed romances, Syd confides that she’s not sure David’s motivations are altruistic. How can he save love when he can’t even respect his own love enough to keep one simple promise? What David wants is to win. At any cost. Syd goes after him to make sure that cost is not too high.
She parachutes into the desert and delivers a well-earned earful (and at least one well-aimed kick to the shins). I don’t like to condone hitting people, but if The Untouchable Syd Barrett is mad enough to do it, it’s safe to say you worked long and hard to deserve that kick to the shins. Following these preliminaries, they walk. And walk. And walk. And walk. After nightfall, the weather takes a turn for the serious and David and Syd seek shelter in an apparently abandoned campsite. There is a strange time hiccup shortly after they enter, and they appear to discover – twice – their own skeletons in the tent’s camp bed, scoured clean by time or sand.
Other plans are afoot back at D3: “Lenny” escapes from D3. As she takes off for parts unknown, it’s unclear whether David’s download overrode whatever programming Farouk left there first. Clark startles awake as his dreaming mind extracts the file David implanted there earlier in the evening: “Find the clock of the long now,” a device apparently recognizable by its large tuning fork. And Melanie, who eavesdropped unseen on Clark and Syd’s “girl talk,” prepares to thwart Clark before he can launch this mission. Farouk!Oliver is calling her, and the lamed minotaur creaks through the labyrinth of her mind. She is going to help Farouk – or is she? Time loops again, and it’s unclear what happened now or before or again.
The wind howls through their tent, extinguishing their lamp, and Syd tells David what we’re all thinking: He goddamn better have a plan.
I’m not sure he does.
Sure, he blocked out the final battle and downloaded encrypted .zip files into the players’ minds before he left, but David did this both without seeking the consent of the governed or even consulting any actual tacticians. He starts from the assumption that David Knows Best – implicitly, the assumption that David Should Get What He Wants – and goes from there. It’s no coincidence that this week’s White Room Sequence is about the delusion that other people don’t matter, or that the excerpt the nurse reads from The Phantom Tollbooth describes the impact of our thoughts and actions on others. For David, other people – even Syd and Amy, two people he ostensibly truly loves – are shadows projected on the wall of his imagination. I claimed repeatedly (and apparently incorrectly) last season that nothing we saw was real. In my defense, the persistent sense of unreality that dogs Legion squares with David’s narcissistic perspective: Nothing outside of himself is really real. He’s playing chess with actual people’s lives, and the only substantive difference between how he uses people and how Farouk does is that Farouk owns what he’s doing.
Last season David got pulled through the looking glass, but this season is the first time he’s actually had to face himself. Farouk’s face could be his own. Not because of his parasitism, but because Farouk is the only other person David knows in possession of comparable powers. He is the terrifying answer to “Who teaches us to be normal when we’re one of a kind?” David got one glimpse of this reflection and now he can’t stop running. He thinks if he can destroy Farouk he can destroy the shadow self that tantalizes and scares him. This refusal is what traps him in Le Désolé. The mystery that protects the monastery is that the desert is a mirror held up to create fear. It does not bind Farouk because Farouk knows himself; however despicable he may be, he doesn’t lie to himself about it. But David survives on lies. He lies to himself about his memories, his fidelity, and the ramifications of his powers. He has lied to Syd so much that she is reduced to asking him to promise only that he will not disappoint her (again). From the way Future!Syd looked at David at their first meeting, I suspect he’ll break this one too. If not even Present!Syd could make other people real for David, the question is not whether D3 can triumph over Farouk. It is only: How many others will David take down with him?
- “Are you alive?”
“I exist in the machine, preserved. Is that alive?”
- “Don’t do that!”
“Look at me like I’m in a zoo.”
- “I’m on your side! Asshole!”
- “Do something for me:”
“When the time comes, prove me wrong.”
ODDS & ENDS
- That passage from The Phantom Tollbooth, in its entirety: “You may not see it now,” said the Princess of Pure Reason, looking knowingly at Milo’s puzzled face, “but whatever we learn has a purpose and whatever we do affects everything and everyone else, if even in the tiniest way. Why, when a housefly flaps his wings, a breeze goes round the world; when a speck of dust falls to the ground, the entire planet weighs a little more; and when you stamp your foot, the earth moves slightly off its course. Whenever you laugh, gladness spreads like the ripples in a pond; and whenever you’re sad, no one anywhere can be really happy. And it’s much the same thing with knowledge, for whenever you learn something new, the whole world becomes that much richer.”
- The poem Oliver recites as he and Farouk cross the wastes is “America,” written by (who else?) Allen Ginsberg.
- The Freud essay young Fukuyama was reading when Brubaker approached him was “Das Unheimliche.” Brubaker describes Das Unheimliche as “that which ought to have remained secret and hidden…coming to life.” Wikipedia says Freud was describing how, by combining the familiar and the strange, the uncanny awakens unconscious impulses. The phrase also translates to “The Uncanny,” or, “Noah Hawley really likes teasing comic book fans.”
- Fun fact: In French, “Le Désolé” means “the desolate.” It is also the word used to apologize: “Je suis désolé(e)” means “I am sorry.” Maybe if David could learn to be sorry he will make it to the monastery in time.
- Considering how often Farouk has used sound to mess with people, is there any way attacking him with a giant tuning fork won’t backfire spectacularly?
- Can we talk about how neither David nor Syd brought any supplies for a trek through the desert? Water? Sunblock? A hat?
- When she gets his note, Syd is waiting for the kettle to boil, just as she did all through David’s lost year.
- No, Clark, Syd does not have to stay with David to avert the end of the world. Especially when Farouk might have the power to do that soon anyway.
- That retirement home is called “Chez d’Rest Retirement Living.” Sure, sounds legit.
- Poor Ptonomy. He was so dedicated to the mission, and for his trouble he’s been murdered by a delusion and trapped in the Mainframe. Binary in peace, dude.
- Where’s Clark’s husband and kid? Are they off-site for Classified Military reasons (even though Clark’s husband also worked for D3 and HQ clearly has school facilities) or did Clark’s work break up their marriage?
FAN THEORIES, OR WHAT THE HELL I THINK IS GOING ON
- Future!Syd isn’t angry with David. She’s just so, so disappointed. Her existence does point to them surviving their ill-advised, unprovisioned jaunt to the desert though.
- Farouk reaching the monastery first and tricking David into showing up in time for a bio-forming surprise party is still looking like the most likely outcome.
- I’m not even gonna to pretend to have any theories about what’s going on with Melanie. Poor Melanie.