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Well, that was quite the episode. After slowing things down a bit with the exposition-laden “Chapter Two,” Legion jumped right back on the high speed train to strange with “Chapter Three.” I was a bit worried last week that the series wouldn’t be able to consistently sustain the strong visual style of the Noah Hawley’s pilot, but this episode showed that the series can continue its strong storytelling along while continuing to keep things weird and visually engaging.
As the show takes us further down the rabbit hole that is David’s mind, it’s becoming more and more clear that there’s something wrong with him that goes beyond a mutant who doesn’t have control over his incredibly strong powers. There are at least three personalities living within his psyche (Lenny, the Angriest Boy in the World, and the Devil with the Yellow Eyes) who appear at various times both in his memories and while he’s wide awake. The obvious assumption would be that each of the personalities is there to protect David from something within his mind he doesn’t want to deal with (we’ve seen that Lenny’s main role in the present is to try and convince David that Melanie and company don’t really want to help him). The question “Chapter Three” raises is why can’t Melanie and Ptonomy see these manifestations in the memories, while Syd can? And why can’t Syd see them in the real world, if she can see them in the memories? (My guess: because of the body swap, Syd has some connection within David’s memories that she doesn’t have in the real world.)
A tip of the hat this week goes out to Dan Stevens, who is doing some really strong work here as David. As someone who only knew Stevens from his time on Downton Abbey, it’s been interesting to see him take on such a dark and complex role and really dig into it. While we still don’t know much about David (due to the slow burn reveals baked into the story), Stevens has been successful in making us care about a character whose history and motivations remain a jumble of confusion and lies. And that is no small feat.
I also remain impressed with Rachel Keller (Syd), who has been responsible for carrying the bulk of the story thus far, acting as the anchor for the audience in our investment within the David-Syd romance and as our surrogate within David’s mind this week. Those of us who watched Keller’s excellent work on season two of Fargo already knew she would be up to the challenge, but it’s great to see her in a true breakout role here in Legion. While the bad guy chasing the hero through dreams isn’t exactly a new horror trope, I was genuinely worried for Syd while she was crawling through those vents. Excellent work from Keller throughout the episode, coupled with strong writing and directing from Peter Calloway and Michael Uppendahl respectively, made that sequence work.
Buying into a series with an unreliable protagonist isn’t easy. It takes strong work both in front of and behind the camera to create characters and a story that the audience can trust and believe in, despite knowing that what they are seeing might not be the whole truth and nothing but the truth. After three episodes, I’m officially on board Legion for the long haul. While the latest craze within these types of series is to hit the audience with various reveals and twists, I like that Legion isn’t relying on surprise to carry the day. Rather, the series is taking the time to build the supporting cast up while continuing to slowly reveal more about David bit by bit. It’s always a gamble to make the lead someone we can’t fully trust, but so far, it’s paying off.
— It’s looking like Cary and Kerry Loudermilk are actually one in the same person. Or, at least, Kerry is contained within Cary when she isn’t around. I would really like to get a better understanding of the mutations within the other core characters (the Loudermilks, Syd, Ptonomy) a bit more as we continue to learn about David and all that is going on with him.
— Speaking of learning more about characters, I want to better understand Division Three. I get why the series is slowly doling out the information (nothing can kill a show like too much exposition, after all), but until we know what Division Three wants (and who its players are), it’s hard to really get invested in a shadowy government organization. There are clearly mutants within their ranks (the Eye being the most prominent), but what is the political situation that led to the war Melanie mentioned? Is it just a “we’re scared of mutants and want them under control” situation, a la the usual problem within the X-Men universe, or is it something more than that?
— It looks like Melanie doesn’t have a mutant power, but it sounds like her departed husband might have been a mutant, since he teamed up with Cary to found the institute (which has to have some X-Men connection with all those Xs on the windows). As her husband was voiced by Jermaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords), one assumes this isn’t the last we’ve heard from him.