In which everyone creeps around creepy places looking for David and his creepy alter egos
After last week’s absolutely bananas jaunt to the astral plane, David and the gang return to Summerland and the “real” world this week, but no one seems quite themselves. Granted, the concept of “yourself” is slippery business on Legion, but David takes an uncharacteristically wolfish glee in telling/rubbing Melanie’s face in stories of her weirdo beatnik psychic vegetable husband’s bachelor pad in a floating ice cube (look, I’ve told you already, it’s a weird show). But that’s positively restrained compared to his vamping for the security cameras and striking flamenco poses as he massacres seemingly the entirety of Division 3. And even that seems more like the David we know than the one that we see in the astral honeymoon suite, where he's not just confident, but sexually confident. If the bugs on the strawberries were not enough of a tip off that he was not in the driver's seat, that would be enough; nothing about his characterization to this point suggests he could talk about erogenous zones without stammering.
For all the continued strangeness in presentation, “Chapter 5” continues to increase the clarity around David’s issues, as we have confirmation that the Tubby Yellow Devil, The Worlds’ Angriest Boy In The World, King The Beagle, and Benny/Lenny are all manifestations of a singular entity, and that entity does exist as more than a facet of David’s fractured psyche. This means that he is not schizophrenic in the technical, DSM-sense of the term, but he is in the popularly held (read: inaccurate) conception of it meaning multiple fully formed personalities battling for control. Oliver’s diagnosis of the Devil as a parasite is confirmed, meaning it is less a split personality than a tapeworm. Or if you prefer, a malevolent demon that speaks in many voices.
The Devil is far from the only parasitic passenger in this story, though. While it presents in more benign, symbiotic fashion, Cary/Kerry also have two consciousnesses occupying the same body. Ptonomy has the ability to insert himself into other people’s minds and pasts, whereas Syd and The Perm can hijack their actual bodies. Legion seems to be suggesting, at least subtextually, that the substance of our identities is an accumulation memories. But also that those memories are highly malleable, and shaped by those - family, lovers, allies and enemies alike – that we allow into our mental real estate. No man is an island, as they say, but on Legion, a man is more like wide open prairie basin with no discernable border security.
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But that’s subtext, and as we all know, the tem “subtext” derives from the Latin for “bullshit”. So let’s get back to the considerable textual puzzle the show presents. Because while David’s sinister behavior eventually clarifies the nature of the Devil/Lenny, he’s not the only one who has suddenly strapped on his sassypants this week. Ptonomy is acting noticeably more sarcastic and catty toward Syd and particularly Melanie, whereas before he was this perfectly zen, gentle guru type. Presumably this is due to his being possessed (or occupied, or bugged, it’s still not entirely clear how his powers work) by The Perm during their tussle last week. The brief glimpses we’ve gotten into the characters’ past suggest that he founded Summerland with Oliver and Melanie, and judging by his comments in the guise of David’s doctor last week, he has some lingering animosity toward her in particular.
Which makes all the sense in the world, because Syd’s snotty behavior toward Melanie after she and David knock metaphysical boots suddenly caused several shoes in that web of relationships to drop. Somehow it had not occurred to me that Melanie was Syd's mother (did I miss an offhand reference establishing that in one of the early episodes?), but when she was petulantly bragging about all the sex she was having with my boyfriend, it suddenly became obvious. It’s the sort of brattiness you expect from a 15 year-old instead of a twentysomething, but when you factor in that it’s only her second sexual encounter and the first was a disastrous body-swapping trick on a boyfriend of her mother’s (again, weird show), some arrested development is to be expected.
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But it also it begs the question of who her father is, and duh, there is another, older mutant on the show with the power to hijack other people’s bodies, and that guy has a history with Melanie. Whether he or Syd is aware of their relationship remains an open question, I suppose, but having possessed both the telekinetic Rudy and (presumably) Ptonomy, he has become as much a parasite within the Summerland ranks as Lenny is in David’s mind. My guess is that whenever they sort out this latest mental jaunt to the mental institution, they will return to Summerland to find either an ambush or ashes.
- David’s shrink also seems to have had some sassy screws loosened since he was talking with Amy a week or two ago. Not sure what to make of that.
- Further suggestions that the Perm is at least “in” Ptonomy somewhere – the D3 head who is bleeding out with a severed leg’s warnings to Syd make more sense if he’s actually speaking over her shoulder to his ally, saying “we” made a mistake.
- That silent sequence was fantastic and unnerving. I particularly loved Melanie silently screaming at a reluctant Cary, leading to that cut back to Kerry, spiked bat in hand. Bats with nails sticking out of them are a fantastic weapon – they scream “I want to fuck things up so bad, I’m willing to get a little stupid to do it.”
- On the weapons tip, I also like that Ptonomy carries a tommy gun. You just know everyone refers to it as his "Ptonny gun".
- Fantastic physical performances this week from Bill Irwin and Aubrey Plaza. When Lenny is in full predatory mode, it’s even scarier than The Devil With Type 2 Diabetes stalking people around the astral plane.