David formulates a plan to kill the monster and Syd evaluates her relationship.
With season 2 racing toward its conclusion, finish line literally in sight (except when it isn’t), Legion still finds the time to take a few detours. “Chapter 16″’s diversions focus on a motif of connectivity — romantic, technological, mental, psychic — and its accompanying benefits and dangers.
After a cold open in which David and present Syd get in an argument about David getting in an argument with Future Syd, Chapter 16 picks up where Chapter 15 left off: inside a mainframe full of projected binary code with Ptonomy. Exploring his new computer-case home, Ptonomy finds a faceless manifestation of Admiral Fukuyama, and when he touches him, he’s able to glimpse the Division 3 leader’s backstory.
At 17 years old, Fukuyama is approached by a government official who explains the dawn of a new psychic threat to the world. He claims that the world has lost a portion of its innocence, since people’s private thoughts are no longer their own. The phenomenon the man describes is the rise of powerful psychics like Farouk, but his proposed solution for maintaining privacy is rife with irony. To create an unreadable mind and keep sensitive secrets safe, the government turns to technology to create an interconnected network of consciousness.
The fact that Fukuyama has been hacked by the Mi-Go monk is proof that the network is far from safe, but a nurse who reads to Fukuyama after his procedure also explains the positives of such interconnectedness.
“Whenever you learn something new,” says the nurse, “the whole world becomes that much richer.”
So, the Vermillion become something of a metaphor for online exchange of information, anonymity, and hackability, and Noah Hawley returns to a theme he grappled with in his previous TV outing, Fargo season 3.
Later in the episode, the theme of technological connectivity returns in one of the narrator’s demonstrations of delusion. In this instance, the delusion on display, the most dangerous of all according to the voice, is that other people don’t matter. Beginning with a description of the allegory of the cave, in which prisoners see only the shadows of real objects, the demonstration eventually arrives in the modern day, with the cave swapped out for a phone screen. In this modern version of the allegory, people become the shadows, influencing the perception of others without any real-world interaction.
There are some valid points here about online security, social media addiction and cyberbullying, but as with Fargo’s Facebook jokes, the less-than-nuanced delivery undercuts the message to a degree, and the sequence comes across a little like a tired Gen X versus Millennial trope. Maybe the world wouldn’t be such a scary place if the darn kids would put down their phones.
But Fukuyama isn’t the only person Ptonomy finds inside the mainframe. More essential to the motion of the plot, he also finds some remnant of the Mi-Go monk. From the monk, Ptonomy is able to learn the location of Farouk’s body. He is then able to hack into one of the Vermillion to deliver this message straight to David. Farouk is hidden in a place called Le Désolé.
Meanwhile, Farouk is acquiring the same information. Acting on intel whispered in his ear by Future Syd, Farouk tracks down the driver who delivered his body to the Mi-Go monks. Notably, when Farouk arrives, the driver asks if “the professor” is also there, probably in reference to David’s dad. In exchange for showing Farouk where to find his body, the driver asks for “the endless dream,” a state which leaves her either comatose or dead.
Before heading out to Le Désolé, David devises a plan for defeating Farouk. Since telling anyone else about the plan would tip Farouk off, seeing as how he can read minds, David toils alone to develop a strategy involving Lenny, Clark, Cary and Kerry, along with some sort of giant tuning fork on the top of a mountain. Then, the race is on.
Farouk rides a rickshaw toward his destination despite having a perfectly good car, and David wanders the desert on foot, despite having perfectly good teleportation powers. Unfortunately for David, time and space are relative in Le Désolé, and his destination keeps disappearing before he can reach it. Farouk hints that there is a secret David needs to figure out if he ever hopes to escape the desert.
Back at D3, Syd finds a note David left behind: “Gone to kill the monster.” She is not pleased that David has disappeared again, and she goes to vent about it to Clark.
This conversation turns into a greatest hits compilation of Syd’s character defining quotes. “Who teaches us to be normal when we’re one of a kind?” she asks once again. When Syd intones that there could be some serious trouble in her relationship with David, Clark, ever the pragmatist, reminds her that David could become catastrophically unstable and end the world if she were to “hurt his feelings real bad.” Syd, for her part, seems to be past the honeymoon phase of her relationship with David, and she’s trying to figure out how to move forward.
“I love what we were,” Syd says. “I’m just not sure if we’re that anymore.”
Nonetheless, she’s committed enough to trying to make it work to parachute out of a fighter jet over Le Désolé. After all, “love is what we have to save if we’re gonna save the world.” This could turn out to be pretty literal, as the whole scene with Clark implies that Syd and David’s relationship could be the catalyst that causes David to destroy the world in Future Syd’s timeline.
Once she arrives in the desert and scolds David for leaving her behind, the two wander together until they arrive at a tent to take shelter from an oncoming storm. Inside, they find an alternate version of themselves as skeletons who died side by side. Syd offers the fatalist analysis that any reality in which the two of them make a life together will end the same way. David disagrees, and Syd asks him to prove her wrong.
In the episode’s final scenes, whatever plan David has put together begins to play out. Lenny has escaped from D3 to play her part, and Clark wakes up ready to do his. As he’s walking down the hallway, however, he’s clubbed in the back of the head by Melanie. It turns out Farouk and Oliver have taken control of Melanie and made it her mission to stop David’s machinations.
“Chapter 16”, like Legion in general, doesn’t quite stick every landing in terms of tone, but it’s a routine with so many tricks at such a high degree of difficulty that it’s easy to overlook a little sidestep here and there. With David’s plan in motion and Clark out of commission, there’s no guessing what will happen next.