Apologies if this is even less timely and coherent than usual, in the middle of a work trip at the moment, so I didn't have time to watch the episode twice or dig as deep as I'd like.
Legion is technically a superhero show, but it’s one where the ghost of Jermaine Clement haunts a coffee machine at a mutant wellness retreat, reciting obscure Japanese parables. Maybe that sentence sounds immediately appealing to you. More likely it sounds like I was typing my way through a stroke. But it’s the show that’s crazy, not me. I think.
The last half of “Chapter 3” is a suspense sequence that takes place entirely in the main characters’ head, which is generally the most aggravating shit in the world, but somehow I found it not just interesting but actually suspenseful. A big part of that was the World’s Angriest Boy In The World showing up in person, which fuck that thing straightaway. Fatboy with the yellow eyes was somewhat creepy, but that giant paper mache head wigged me right the hell out. This is nightmare imagery that would do David Lynch proud, which is the highest praise cinematic nightmares can receive.
|By way of contrast, the lowest form of cinematic nightmare|
The biggest way “Chapter 3” tries to switch things up in the memory sequences is making Syd the active explorer. David balks at this, both because of the whole lurking yellow demon thing and because he is ashamed at having her see his junkie past up close and in technicolor. This is understandable, as those lows are pretty damn low but also because we all have our own particular and strongly held beliefs about the exact pace at which we can dole less savory details about ourselves without scaring off our partners for good. There are some things, like flatulence or masturbation or robbing our doctor's home for drug money, that we may be comfortable admitting to in the abstract, but balk at allowing our beloved to witness in person.
Syd feels like she’s seen it all, though, as her mutant power has allowed her to step into the shoes of others many times over. This is difficult for David to understand; he’s never even been comfortable being himself, so being someone else on top of that sounds like a special kind of hell. Syd’s fairly zen about it, though, assuring him that no matter whose body she may have been occupying, she always remained herself. Which is as good a metaphor for engaging with fictional narrative as any. Through fiction, I’ve “been” a Chinese guy, and a junkie and a mutant and a little girl. And she thinks, like me, that stepping into David’s memories represents no real danger, just the next step if we’re going to continue with this story. That it’s more traumatic than she or I anticipated is the episode's greatest feat.
|That and the whole coffee maker thing|
That trauma comes courtesy not of David's drug-addled sins, but by the creeping, obese memory-revenant and that goddamn freaky storybook. That Syd can see them while the other tourists cannot is intriguing, but in the end, these threats in David’s head remain more eerie than tangibly dangerous. Unsettling and inventive imagery only gets you so far, and an awful lot of these first three episodes has consisted of revisiting the same memories and scenarios. Even with the efforts to tie David’s therapeutic progress to the “real world” predicament of his sister and thus provide some sense of urgency and impetus for the mutants to push past the usual bounds of their dream theater, “Chapter Three” walks right up to those limits. I’m not too worried that Legion wants to live entirely within David’s head for the long term, but if it does, then it may just find some Emmys for directing and visual effects in there. But it will be in danger of losing my interest in the process, and I think we all know which of those things is really important.
- So Cary and Kerry somehow, sometimes share a body? Sure, okay. Why not.
- Aubrey Plaza’s Lenny is unhinged as a living junkie, but disconcertingly hot as a pugnacious ghost. It helps that she seems to be speaking directly on my behalf when she chides David about ignoring his sister’s plight to focus on learning to love himself.
- The Perm feels a surprisingly formidable opponent, for someone who hasn’t actually done anything yet.
- Even in a dream state, the book’s mangling of Melanie’s hand was some cringeworthy stuff.