As it turns out, security guard at a facility dedicated to hunting nigh-omnipotent murderers who can kill people by thinking about them is not the safest of career choices. How many unexploded, non-farm animal, mentally sound soldiers could Division 3 have left? More to the point, can Division 3 still exist with Fukuyama having been hijacked and tampered with? This week’s Legion revolves around a devastating attack on Division 3 for the second time in as many episodes, although this time, the assailant is the Mi-Go monk instead of Farouk, and the damage left behind is more mental than physical. The episode revolves around the attack, rather than starting with it or building to it, because nothing in Legion — corporeal, astral, temporal or otherwise — can ever be linear. Hallways in Division 3 are curved, minds are labyrinths, and time skips from past to future to fill in exposition and resolution at once.
The theme for this week’s part of the story, as introduced in one of this season’s narrator asides, is “contagion.” Beginning with real world examples like the nocebo effect (the opposite of the placebo effect, in which the mind convinces the body that a harmless substance is harmful) the Dancing Plague of 1518 and the Tanganyika Laughing Epidemicm and moving on to a hypothetical demonstration of group of teenage cheerleaders developing a shared tick, the narrator establishes that mental stressors can manifest as physical ailments.
“If the idea of illness can become illness,” the narrator asks as a segue into the episode proper, “what else about our society is actually a disorder?”
The episode then shifts to a wordless flashback of Farouk’s defeat and separation from his body. Following an unglamorous psychic duel with David’s father, reflected in his shades as the chalk animation from season 1, Farouk plops face first into his extravagant plate of couscous. His body is sealed in an ovular, white coffin and entrusted to an order of monks, who bury him under their remote monastery only to hear him start bumping in the night soon after. The monks’ nightmares are just beginning, and so too, it seems, are Ptonomy’s.
In the present timeline, one of those slimy demon chicken delusions crawls into Ptonomy’s ear while he sleeps and causes him to wake up in a part of the D3 compound he doesn’t seem to recognize. Before much can come of that, though, Fukuyama, who has been watching on security monitors, turns his attention to Cary, who is teaching Kerry how to eat and use the bathroom, so she can become a stronger, more independent woman.
Meanwhile, the monk who had been in with the teeth-chattering infected wakes up and disappears, much to the dismay of Clark and the rest of D3 management. It’s intriguing to see, in this episode, the return of the light horror elements that defined much of Legion’s first season. In the absence of the haunting Devil with Yellow Eyes, the sense of dread that accompanied the sense of confusion in the show’s early episodes never quite materialized in season 2, until this week. The first indication that the monk has escaped is a bloody handprint on the window of the infected room. That discovery leads Fukuyama’s androids to place the facility on lockdown. Before David goes to hunt the monk himself, he decides to go to Farouk for answers.
Continuing in the show’s newly rediscovered macabre streak, David’s interaction with Lenny in the Astral Plane as he searches for Farouk runs the gamut of Legion emotions, from silly to genuinely unsettling. Lenny begins at a sort of manic desperation that degrades over the course of about two minutes into abject hopelessness as she first asks David for drugs, then help to escape, and finally for assisted suicide. David, for his part, seems only moderately less disinterested in her plight than Farouk does.
Throughout David and Farouk’s sunlit, poolside conversation, Lenny provides a grim reminder of Farouk’s capacity for evil with a backdrop of repeated, tantalian suicides. Conspicuously missing from this scene is Oliver. Lenny’s consciousness still exists inside of Farouk as an unhappy “pet,” but Oliver is now nowhere to be seen.
Even as Lenny’s troubles go on behind them, Farouk attempts to convince David that he was the victim of David’s father’s colonialism. Farouk claims that he was a just king in his own country, but David’s father, a white man unfamiliar with his nation’s customs, had made an unwarranted decision that Farouk’s people should have something better and had condemned Farouk to life as a refugee.
There could be an interesting future plotline here, if it’s true that David’s father wasn’t acting out of virtue alone (Professor X is generally a good guy, but he’s not without his flaws), but it’s difficult to believe that Farouk was as blameless in the conflict as he claims. It is also difficult to believe that Farouk will settle into a quiet life in the south of France and avoid all that “supervillain, destroy-the-world bulls–t” that David is concerned about once he had his body back.
One thing Farouk says to David that does seem fully believable is that Future Syd will cease to exist if David is successful in his plan to stop whatever threat is coming to wipe out humanity. Destroying one Syd to potentially save the other is something David will have to reconcile as his plot moves forward. Farouk also mentions, as a parting thought to David before he returns to his physical body, that it’s not him that’s causing the teeth-chattering illness, but the monk.
David returns to D3 to find that this is the case. The halls are dark and empty, save for the occasional teeth chatterer, and the monk is still on the loose. There is also, intermittently, a cow. The presence of the cow is not explained, and I am not too proud to admit that I’m too feeble-minded to parse out what its significance could be.
The first familiar face David encounters within D3 is Cary, who has not been infected by the monk. Together, the two of them come across Ptonomy, who is chattering away on the floor of his bedroom. David takes Cary inside Ptonomy’s mind to diagnose the problem and the two find themselves in a maze of neatly trimmed flower gardens. This is the first of the mental mazes, which he’s been referencing since the first episode of the season, that David has actually seen.
Inside, a Ptonomy in a sharp floral suit is trimming roses and forgetting what he’s up to after each flower. This tight loop of forgetfulness is a fantasy for Ptonomy, since one of his mutant powers is an inability to forget anything. He is lost in a brief moment of bliss, so much so that Cary seems hesitant to free him from it.
David does manage to set Ptonomy right, and then he, Ptonomy and Cary continue on through the building. The next chatterer they find is Melanie. Her maze is a Zork-ish text-based game. In total darkness, the trio is pursued through a maze by a skull-headed minotaur in a “doggie wheelchair,” until David can correctly guess Melanie’s fantasy. Before Melanie met Oliver and became the leader of Summerland, her dream was to be “carefree.” Hence, the manifestation of her maze as a game she could control completely. Seeing David articulate this realization is enough to free Melanie from her maze.
David’s priority after helping Melanie is to find Syd, since he’s been plagued with visions of her screaming for help and spelling out the word “HURRY.” But before he finds her, he’s abducted by the monk and the child soldiers he’s brainwashed with a pied piper chant.
The monk shows David a vision of the demise of his order. Farouk’s body, sealed under the monastery, caused the monks to go mad or commit suicide, until eventually none were left to guard it.
Meanwhile Cary finds a chattering Kerry and fades away as he puts his head against hers. It’s not clear if he manages to get inside her, or if something new and upsetting has happened to the two of them.
The episode closes out with the physical meeting between David and the Mi-Go monk whose memories he has experienced. First, the monk indulges in some Exorcist-style wall crawling, latching himself to the ceiling of Fukuyama’s chamber while physically tethering his mind to the cyborg via spiked electrodes.
Speaking through Fukuyama’s Vermillion, the monk demands a weapon to destroy the body of the Shadow King. When Fukuyama claims no such weapon was ever created, Melanie volunteers David for the job. Before the monk can fully blow David’s cover by revealing that he’s working with Farouk, David teleports the two of them to the rooftop of D3 for a more private conversation.
“I’m having a really hard time finding the landmarks here,” David summarizes to the monk. “Minds separated from bodies and minotaurs in mazes.”
Even the monk, trained in psychological warfare and no stranger to mental manipulation, seems a little dumbfounded by David’s bullet-points explanation of Future Syd and his reasons for helping Farouk. Regardless, the monk warns that helping Farouk will lead to the end of the world, just as Future Syd warns that not helping Farouk will lead to the end of the world. David is still more inclined to believe Syd, but before he can pump the monk for information on the location of Farouk’s body, the monk jumps to his death off the edge of the D3 skyscraper.
As David turns away from the edge, he finds a chattering Syd, and with the monk now dead, he is the only hope for returning her to normal. The final shot of the episode shows David entering Syd’s whiteout of a maze.
The resurfacing of some horror elements is a good look for Legion, although the show hasn’t quite made it back to season 1’s levels of psychological spookiness. Part of that difference stems from how powerful David has become. With such control over his powers, what danger can manifest that David can’t just think away? The show is going to great lengths to reinforce the idea that the perception of danger can equate to danger itself, but that perception needs a bit more foundation in physical consequence. The stakes of the show have reached global levels in season 2, with David’s choices supposedly determining the fate of the world, but the tension of David’s personal struggle is reduced. Hopefully, the realization that Future Syd’s life hangs in the balance no matter what he chooses will present David with a challenge he can’t undo with his glowing pointer finger.