You know you’re talking about an interesting show when the most straightforward episode to date culminates in an Inception-style group dream in which an obese demon creature stalks our heroes.
The third chapter of Legion continues the trajectory that started last week. The series, which began with one of the more insane pilots ever, has been stabilizing into something more closely resembling a normal TV show. The story is more streamlined, the direction slightly less cinematic. But none of this is necessarily a bad thing. The transition is an inevitable one for the format, and if tonight’s Legion is a preview for the future of the show, fans won’t be disappointed.
The action picks right back up where Chapter 2 left off. David is stuck at Summerland with the knowledge that out there, somewhere, his sister is in serious trouble. Even the briefest flash of what Amy is enduring at the hands of The Eye is enough to get across that something needs to be done soon. Frankly, someone so much as hints that they’re going to use leeches one me, and I’d tell them everything. Everything.
Naturally, David wants to go now — right now — to find her, but there’s still work to do. At least Melanie understands that there is some kind of ticking clock. She makes the decision to speed up the process. She and Ptonomy are jumping right to the good stuff, and by the good stuff, I mean the really, really bad stuff, the memories that David was keeping from them last week. Namely, they want to see the kitchen explosion.
For us, this means that we finally get the full picture of what happened that day, and it so happens that we were tipped off in the previous episode. Having successfully robbed his therapist, David enjoys some new vapors with Lenny, but that’s when Philly comes home. They’re expecting guests, and David is, at the moment, stoned out of his mind. This sequence of events — plus one smashed cake — lead us to the kitchen scene, except that throaty bastard, the Devil with the Yellow Eyes, is there. David does what he can to keep the creature away, which in this case means he blocks Ptonomy from changing the memory.
Among the many smart decisions made by Legion is how we and the rest of the mutants at Summerland — and David, for that matter — have been slowly clued in to his powers. The reveals have been so seamlessly woven into the story that discovering new aspects of his character has become an enormous hook within the structure of the show. For instance, David’s levitation act later in the episode, during his examination with Cary, is a plot point, a character detail, and a stunning visual. It reminded me of advice my mother always gave me: Find a show that does all three.
Speaking of finding someone, the budding relationship between David and Syd continues to be one of the most charming on TV. Syd sheds some light on her past growing up in the city and name-checks some of the different bodies that she has inhabited. I really enjoy watching Dan Stevens and Rachel Keller together. Their chemistry is undeniable. I’m usually screaming, “Don’t be evil! Don’t be evil!” about Syd too loudly to catch every word, but what I hear is pretty damn cute.
NEXT: A little light levitation
Syd and David’s levitation act brings them, at least within some plane of existence, to the room where The Eye is keeping Amy. We actually learn a bit about Melanie’s Jheri-curled nemesis over the course of the episode. Back in the day, Summerland was a horse farm, until Melanie’s husband, Oliver, inherited it. You know his voice from the recordings heard all over the compound, including the coffee machine that does a less catchy rendition of that Decemberists song. Melanie, Oliver, and Cary made it their mission to find others like them, including Walter, the guy sticking leeches to Amy.
The partial teleportation to Walter isn’t enough convince Melanie that they need to attack now. Doing that would just endanger David and possibly everyone living at Summerland. Instead, they’re going to take a more extreme approach to the Memory Work. Sedating David during the process will revert him to a simpler state. In the memory, he looks like a boy to Melanie, Ptonomy, and Syd, who tags along after David admits that he loves her. She doesn’t say it back, but it’s cool because — oh my God, please do not be evil!
It’s in this moment that we begin to glimpse some of the larger thematic magic that Noah Hawley is crafting here. Just like he smuggled absurdism into the second season of Fargo, the EP is exploring ideas about trauma and memory, how the past — especially a troubled one — is never really the past. It’s always a part of the person. A part of David is still being read The World’s Angriest Boy in the World. Watching Syd hug the young David is so much more meaningful than finally being able to have physical contact with him. When you love someone, as Syd does because she’s not actually evil, you love them through every moment — good or bad — that resulted in the person they are today. You love them through time.
And while that was sweet and all, Legion is moving on to much scarier things than unconditional love. The memory devolves just as others have before it, but this time, Syd is seeing everything that would have otherwise only been viewable to David, including creepy-as-s— life-size version of the Angriest Boy, whose mouth looks like a Hitler mustache, and every time he appears I have to tell myself that it isn’t supposed to be Hitler. Syd sticks with baby David, getting separated from Ptonomy and Melanie. She’s able to get out of the dream and wake up the architect, but Dr. Bird gets stuck. She finds the kids book and almost loses her hand to it, establishing the dream logic here as distinctly anti-Nightmare on Elm Street-ian.
The three visitors are all able to make it out more or less unharmed, but this week’s hour ends with David trapped in the most terrifying place of all — his own head.