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After I spent last week talking about how Legion often values style over substance (and the style is often so spectacular that the lack of major plot and character developments don’t really matter all that much), “Chapter 12” comes around and completely flips the script in terms of creating key character moments and driving the plot with another visually smart episode. As the credits rolled at the end, I actually said, “That was so cool.” Because it really was.
I’ve gotten to a place with Legion where I don’t try to dive too deep into why certain visuals are used at certain times. Such was the case with the Igloo standing in for the womb (Is it because it was isolating? Or because it allowed for a strange juxtaposition with the fake flames of the fire? Who knows.), but it certainly made an impression. We’ve heard Syd talk about her past, but seeing it unspool time and again allowed us the best look at how Syd sees herself and how that version contrasts greatly with the perfect girl on a pedestal that David shows us each week (because, lest we forget, in a show so tied to the mental state of a single character, almost everything we see is through David’s eyes in one way or another). Hearing Syd tell us about the shower incident with her mother’s boyfriend sanitized it in a way that watching the incident unfold could not. We all knew Syd wasn’t as perfect and innocent as David believed, but boy, was that a shocking sequence of events to witness.
And it’s wonderful that we did see it. And that we saw David process it and accept it (after all, he’s got plenty skeletons of his own in his past, as Syd was privy to last season). For David to defeat the Shadow King (and/or work with him to get his body back, if that’s still the plan with the Monk dead), he needed to realize that everyone around him has been through their own shit and made it out the other side (jury’s still out on Melanie, but she seems to be doing a bit better). David may be special, but he’s not alone in his pain. He has people around him who understand and who he can lean on (instead of keeping major secrets and trying to do everything on his own). Even his golden girlfriend made some really awful choices that messed up some people in a major way. She’s human, despite being a mutant. They all are.
Grounding these exceptional characters as human is something many superhero shows and films try to do. Most only just give it basic lip service (think sad Superman going off to become a crab fisherman because he can’t cope with things). An episode like this actually succeeds. Flawed heroes are always more interesting than perfect ones (or even heroes who have a single defining trauma that gets brought up constantly as the impetus for their existence), especially on a television show where the character needs to change over time. Giving us a chance to see Syd’s big past mistakes is crucial to better understand her and her relationship with David (and altering how David will interact with her moving forward, for the better). This isn’t some innocent little flower. She’s a fully-formed adult. And she’s ready to fight alongside David in the coming battle.
— Not much time spent with the other cast members this week, but it was good to see Melanie taking charge of the team again.
— Lenny is back. In the flesh. I’m so happy we aren’t losing Aubrey Plaza. But if Farouk managed to build her a new body, what does that mean? Why can’t he do that for himself? Just how powerful is he?
— Rachel Keller (Syd) gave a heck of a performance this week, managing to make Syd accessible even when she was at her most obtuse. Also great was Pearl Amanda Dickson as Teenage Syd.
— If Syd’s mom looked familiar, that’s because she was played by Lily Rabe (American Horror Story).