“You’re inside the maze now. You cannot escape. Welcome to madness.”
The casual viewer could be forgiven for mistaking Legion’s season opener for an episode of The Twilight Zone. But any reservations I had about Jon Hamm’s monologue being a bit on the nose were obliterated by the sensory roller coaster that followed it. If any TV show deserves to be described as a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind, it’s Legion, which roared back to FX this week.
After showing us Oliver Bird still deep in The Shadow King’s thrall, Chapter 9 begins with a leap in time and allegiances. Since the events of Season 1, Summerland has allied itself with onetime enemy Division 3 to thwart Amahl Farouk (AKA The Shadow King, FKA The Devil with Yellow Eyes, AKA malevolent captain of the HMS Ambush). Ptonomy has joined Clark on the Investigations team, Cary has a lab in the Research wing, Kerry trains with Tactical, and Syd and (until recently) Melanie sit on the Strategic committee. The only team member missing is David, who turns up stunned and motionless in an apparently abandoned nightclub.
David returns to consciousness while Division 3 argues over whether he might be “infected.” Seemingly unhurt and still wearing the same shirt from the night the mysterious orb vacuumed him up in the Season 1 finale, he insists to mystified (Summerland) and suspicious (Division 3) personnel that he’s only been gone for one night. As it turns out, David has been gone for nearly a year. Syd delivers the precise count – 362 days – with worse news: While tracking TSK-possessed Oliver, Division 3 discovered in his wake victims of The Catalyst, a psychic affliction that reduces victims to tooth-chattering catatonia. Yet more troubling and inexplicable are David’s appearances alongside Oliver, including an encounter some time ago at the nightclub where Division 3 later found a dazed and solitary David. When prodded to remember this meeting (with a little help from Cary’s psychic sensory amplification tank), David recalls a three-way dance off between Oliver, TSK, and himself. As the dancing memory reaches a fever pitch, David teleports himself out of the tank, reappearing just outside the room where the Catalyst-afflicted chatter in vacant unison.
While characters and viewers struggle to figure out what happened and for how long, Legion serves up characteristically oblique exposition about Summerland’s new allies. Headed by a basket-headed admiral who speaks through mustachioed androgynous clones, Division 3 studies, engages, and – when necessary – terminates mutants. Admiral Fukuyama probes David for memories and assistance, and the latter agrees to help the former neutralize The Shadow King before he can reunite his parasitic mental form with Amahl Farouk’s body. A successful Farouk would be unstoppable; short of finding David’s biological father (who defeated him once before), Division 3’s best chance is to find Farouk’s body before Oliver does. (Oddly, no one suggests they try to find David’s bio-dad; it’s unclear whether this omission is a strategic choice by Division 3 or a narrative one by Hawley.)
The dance-off, however, will not be the most troubling memory David recovers. After settling into the quarters Syd has waited nearly a year to share with him, David flashes back to his time in the orb that carried him off at the end of Season 1. When his captor emerges from the darkness, David finds himself facing Syd – but older, sadder, and missing an arm. With her remaining hand she sketches out a plea for David to help Farouk reunite with his body. Before she can explain why, Syd turns back into the darkness, leaving a mystified David in tears. He promised present-Syd no more secrets, but that was before he remembered future-Syd asked him to do the exact opposite as present-Syd. How can he begin to tell her about this?
With nods to everything from The Twilight Zone to Twin Peaks, Legion remains bold, complex, ambitious, and very pretty. Once again, Hawley combines obsessively precise cinematography with vertiginous, non-linear cuts, all saturated with colors so vivid even near-silent scenes threaten a kind of sensory overload. The soundtrack still defies attempts to place Legion in a recognizable era even as the series serves up new riddles (wrapped in mysteries, inside enigmas). With its new questions, alien landscapes, and high-stakes cat-and-mouse chase, Legion’s second season promises to be as stylish and mystifying as its first. I’m looking forward to seeing how this goes.
- “This is a conversation about time. I try never to have conversations about time.”
- “Reminder: Beware of ideas that are not your own.”
- “Do you have any waffles?”
- “Any shift in reality may signal an attack. If you feel something, say something.”
- “You know what the saddest words are in the English language? ‘Vacant lot.’”
- “I make people uncomfortable? You spent Wednesday walking around without pants!”
- “You still trust him?”
“He’s my man.”
ODDS & ENDS
- Melanie’s on The Vapor. Poor Melanie. No good ever comes of marrying lounge lizards.
- Props to Syd for calling David out on his more Oliver-like tendencies.
- Giving your beloved a compass calibrated with you as true north seems just a touch self-involved – but then maybe I’m just a heartless monster. (Hi, honey!)
- It seemed like the chattering accelerated when David teleported near the infected.
- David describes the infected as being “in the maze” – presumably the same maze the narrator references in the opening scenes. His slurred speech sounded very much like the backwards-talk in Twin Peaks’ Lodge sequences.
- Syd is practicing her body-swapping power with a surprisingly cooperative cat.
- The Divisions were created in response to an unexplained Lazarus Affair; theories on what this could be are very, very welcome.
- Given the resemblance between their voices and GLaDOS, it was very disappointing to learn the androgynous creepytriplets were not voiced by Ellen McLain.
- That shot of David in the tank definitely teased the hair that was promised.
FAN THEORIES, OR WHAT THE HELL I THINK IS GOING ON
- The Shadow King is using the infected as a kind of psychic Tor network, dispersing his psychic signature so he can both avoid and monitor David.
- That dance-off could only happen if all three of Oliver, David, and TSK were using their powers to marionette their unwitting backup dancers.
- That sinister bespectacled man sitting in a Parisian loft overlooking the Eiffel Tower could only be Amahl Farouk.
- Farouk has some kind of cult following, and the bald dude wearing the saffron scarf is one of the cult’s priests, dispatched to help Farouk reunite with his physical form.
- Melanie has exchanged her placid cream and ivory for despondent black, but Syd and Kerry have kept their distinctive orange and black (Syd) and deep blue (Kerry).
- Future Syd bears an unsettling resemblance to present Melanie in weariness and in palette (gray and black). She wears the David-compass around her neck.
- The Shadow King still likes yellow.