Syd learns about David's past, present, and future in 'Chapter 18'
It’s never safe to assume things are as they appear on Legion, but it’s safe to say that by the end of “Chapter 18,” things appear to be pretty bad. Farouk has achieved everything he’s been after all season, and all of David’s plans are in shambles. Syd turns against David, David turns against himself, Oliver is gravely injured, Melanie is down, Clark’s task force is disabled, and most importantly, Farouk has retrieved his body. There’s a distinct possibility that this is all an alternate reality manufactured by Le Désolé, but if the events of this episode remain canonical in the series’ main timeline, the course of the story is set to take a radical turn.
Le Désolé, as David and Syd discovered when they found their own skeletons in a tent in “Chapter 16,” is a crossroads of possibilities. “Chapter 18” opens with a glimpse at one darker version of events before returning to David and Syd’s previous predicament. In this shadowy reality, David is seated at a bone-strewn throne in the tent, and an apparently pregnant Lenny lies below. In a nod to the appearance of the character in the comics, David’s hair stands straight up in a column. A quick scene transition brings the episode back to a more familiar world, in which Syd wakes up by David’s side.
Except for David’s rapid descent into sadistic madness, the action of this week’s episode is primarily female-centric. Syd ventures outside the tent to find a deep pit next to an oversized bathtub stopper. When she gets too close to the hole, she’s baited to the edge by a white rabbit on a hook, then quickly pierced through the hand and dragged down below.
Reeled into the maze underneath the desert, Syd comes across Melanie, who is now, unbeknown to Syd, fully under Farouk’s control. Melanie begins making her case to Syd that David doesn’t love her and that he is a danger that needs to be stopped. At first, Syd is resistant to the same argument Melanie has been making since David returned in the season premiere.
“I get it,” Syd says when Melanie begins her explanation. “Oliver left, and you’re pissed. But that’s not what’s happening to me, and honestly, I’m kinda sick of talking about it.”
But Farouk excels at sowing delusion and distrust, and with full control of Melanie he’s able to make a much more convincing case, to which Syd is forced to stay and listen. Using a room full of viewing pedestals to watch Davids past and present, Farouk/Melanie shows Syd that David may very well be a psychopath.
Farouk’s brand of exaggerated man-hating here, which he delivers in Melanie’s voice, is made up of the type of delusions he loves to spread. It’s a girls-rule-and-boys-drool philosophy that people who are afraid of women’s equality might dream up in a 4Chan thread as an anti-feminist straw man. That is the nature of Farouk as a villain: delusion embodied. Farouk doesn’t espouse unjust causes, he perpetuates the ideas that turn fearful people against justice. By becoming a sort of vengeful-woman stereotype, he makes real an example of the negative perceptions that keep progressive ideas from taking hold.
Maybe it’s wishful thinking to assume that Farouk’s character in season 2 is some sort of meta-commentary on backward perceptions and societal resistance toward concepts like feminism and racial equality. But Legion is a show that already requires a great deal of mental gymnastics, and this particular trick doesn’t seem like too much for Noah Hawley to ask, comparatively speaking. The alternative is that the writers have written their villain to include occasional hollow-ringing satire of political-correctness overreach.
In any case, what Melanie shows Syd is David crossing a line into gruesome violence. David, in his search for the abducted Syd, finds Oliver at the monastery. Believing him to be Farouk in disguise, David subjects Oliver to bloody psychic torture to try to learn where Syd has been taken. Seeing the joy David derives from causing Oliver pain, Syd comes to the begrudging conclusion that David has the potential to become “Legion, the World Killer,” and needs to be stopped.
Meanwhile, Cary and Kerry arrive in the desert with a few Division 3 soldiers and find the hole where Syd was taken. As they investigate the area, a contingent of men dressed in blue climb out and attack. Continuing the female-forward motif of the episode, Kerry is the only one who is able to stand up to the onslaught. The attackers’ choice of weapon, pairs of swinging balls on ropes, also hardly seems coincidental in the context of a battle of the sexes. While Cary and the other soldiers are incapacitated by some sort of energy emitted by the balls, Kerry fights through the crowd until Lenny provides some cover fire with her Division 3 sniper rifle. In the fray, Cary is taken by one of the attackers and pulled into the maze.
Elsewhere, Farouk sets the minotaur, formerly of Melanie’s maze, loose. His instructions for it are to kill “the weak.” The minotaur kills Cary’s captor and a few of the Vermillion, but Cary escapes to where David has been torturing Oliver. Kerry, searching for Cary, finds Syd instead. The minotaur approaches the two women, who proceed to fight the monster, but as the scene fades out, it appears that they’ve been bested by the beast.
The final shots of the episode involve Farouk attacking Clark and disabling the choke, a device David brought to render psychic powers unusable for a short time. As Farouk surveys the desert, David recites a passage from the disturbing children’s book that terrorized him in his youth. David has become the World’s Angriest Boy in the World, consumed by his rage and ready to take it out on Farouk.
Knowing Legion, most of the world-altering events of this penultimate episode could easily be undone in the finale, but even if the reality of “Chapter 18” is completely different from where the season ends, these events could have lasting consequences. If Syd knows what David can become under the wrong circumstances, it could be difficult for her to look at him the same way, even if he repents or the darkness within him is revealed to be misdirection orchestrated by Farouk. Likewise, David, who is still learning who he is without his parasite, may have an even more difficult time trusting himself with his immense power if he doesn’t become an outright villain.