On this week's Legion, the infection spreads and the Monk comes forward

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Apr 17, 2018

This week on Legion, the search for the Monk in Division III intensifies, and so does the search for The Shadow King's body.

SPOILERS for Legion Season 2, Episode 3 -- "Chapter 11 -- ahead.

This week, we open on another narrated segment, and while I complained a little about these last week as detours that felt like they weren't quite paying off, things worked out a little better this time. "Your mind has the power to create its own physical reality," the narrator tells us, echoing something Syd already said to David earlier in the season. The segment also focuses heavily on the phenomenon of psychological stresses manifesting as physiological symptoms, and how those symptoms can become contagious. We've heard a lot of talk about the madness of crowds already this season, and in "Chapter 11" it pays off in a big way.

From there, we move into a flashback, namely the very moment Farouk's mind was separated from his body during his psychic battle with David's father. Farouk collapses face down on a table, his body is sealed in a container that looks like a cross between a stasis pod and a casket, and then he's taken to the monastery home of the monks of Mi-Go Order, where they bury him deep below ground. Even tucked away at that level, though, he still begins to exert influence over the monks, as they start to hear sounds coming up through the floor.

Back in the present, something's wrong with Ptonomy as the little metaphorical (at least, we think it's metaphorical) creature introduced in the season premiere crawls in his ear. Meanwhile, Cary is trying to teach Kerry how to eat food and use the bathroom. With all the recent crises they've faced, he wants her to learn how to be independent, and while she protests that she gets all of her nutritional needs fulfilled when she's absorbed into him, he makes her go through with it. The good news is she likes cream soda. Once again, I am delighted by Cary and Kerry.

Elsewhere in Division III, Syd and David are communicating telepathically as Syd wanders in cat form through the basement. They're both searching for The Monk -- apparently the last of the Mi-Go Order, and therefore possibly the only person alive who knows where Farouk's body is hidden -- and it's clear that they've not yet told anyone else in the building that David's plan is now to help Farouk rather than stop him. They're mid-conversation when the facility erupts in a panic. It seems someone, who we know to be The Monk, has ripped out his IV and fled from the quarantine zone for the infected. So, the entire facility goes into lockdown. While that's going on, David has a brief, brain-piercingly fast vision from the future in which future Syd sends him a message in the form of one letter: "H."

So, now the race against time must be run even faster, as David's determined to figure out where the monk is before the rest of Division III can locate him. The task is made harder by the knoweldge that The Monk, like all of his order, can control his mind with precision, making it impossible for David to use his powers to locate him. What he can do though is go back in the tank and try to ask Farouk directly for details. He strips down, goes in, and is taken to the gardens of a mansion, beside a beautiful swimming pool.

While Lenny, who's as close to her old junkie self now as we've ever seen her in the entire series, begs David for a way out of her predicament, David and Farouk have a chat that turns out to be about more than The Monk. In one of the most intriguing scenes added to the show's overarching mythology so far, David asks Farouk what he'll do if he finally does get his body back, something that could supposedly make Farouk "unstoppable."

"Live in it," Farouk says as he dreams of kicking back somewhere in the south of France with some beautiful women at his side. Then David brings up the term "supervillain," and Farouk detours away from the topic at hand to bring up David's father. According to him, David's father came to Farouk's country, where Farouk was king, years ago. Farouk had been ruling this country for some time, and although he didn't believe in things like term limits, he claims everything was fine, until this mutant white man came along and decided to depose him.

"Who is he to make such choices?" Farouk asks David, just a week after he talked about mutants as "Gods" among men. There's a clear juxtaposition happening here between the way Farouk views David's father (an as-yet-unnamed version of Charles Xavier) and the way Magneto views Professor Xavier. Both men see themselves as superior, and, at their most egomaniacal, believe that the same rules don't apply. The difference is that Magneto genuinely cares about other mutants, at least, while Farouk is usually just in it for himself. It's something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

David tries to make Farouk promise that no one will ever hear from him again if he actually does get his body back, that he actually will retire somewhere and cease his parasitic ways. He also points out that, for all his posturing as the victim, Farouk lived in David's head uninvited and basically drove him insane for his entire life. Farouk replies by simply stating that he will always choose survival. Then he changes the subject yet again, messing with his mind like the old master he is, by discussing the Syd of the future at a level of detail that David seems surprised to hear.

"She lives in the future you're trying to change," Farouk says, suggesting that Syd could or perhaps is destined to die if David alters the timeline by helping him. Before David can even fully absorb this idea, though, Farouk hits him with another revelation. The catalyst infection that renders people catatonic save for their chattering teeth isn't being spread by him, but by The Monk.

"He is toxic," Farouk says, but since Farouk is following The Monk (the only person who knows where his body is), Division III has come to associate the infection with The Shadow King rather than the true source. That means The Monk, now out of quarantine, can infect all of Division III. This horrific revelation is enough to jolt David out of his trip in the tank, and he wakes up to a darkened Division III in which virtually everyone except Cary -- hiding out in the restaurant with a bottle of household cleaner -- seems to be either infected or missing.

After that exceptionally dense, tense, and detailed chat with Farouk, David's adventure through the rest of the episode is brisk, tight and surprisingly compact for a show that tends to let itself wander through amusing tangents often. The idea of "The Maze" as a metaphor for becoming trapped in your own madness becomes almost literal here, as Cary and David wander the corridors of Division III looking for their infected friends. When they find them -- beginning with Ptonomy, then moving on to Melanie -- David uses his powers to enter the Maze each one is trapped in within their own heads, the source of their frozen state. In each case, it becomes a puzzle of logic, of finding the thing that will snap each of them out of their repetitive revery.

While all of this is happening, The Monk has somehow created a Pied Piper effect to captivate the child soldiers of Division III into following him. They stun David and drag him back to their new master, where David sees a vision of what The Monk went through. Back at the monastery, after The Shadow King was buried, the monks all slowly went mad. Some broke out into laughing fits, none of them could sleep at night, and then the suicides started. They were wiped out by some kind of contagious madness that became physical, and this Monk is the last of them, the only one able to flee in time to save his own life, but not without carrying the madness of his brothers with him. It's an intense and often terrifying little sequence, one that embraces showing rather than telling in a way that, frankly, certain other aspects of this series could learn from. It also gives David some important visual clues to help him find the location of Farouk's body.

The Monk, however, isn't interested in helping point the way to The Shadow King. He's only interested in "the weapon." When Ptonomy and Melanie find The Monk, he has incapacitated Fukyama and the Vermillion, plugged himself into Fukyama's machine, and begun to demand access to a weapon that the monks were told Division III would build to fight The Shadow King long ago.

"They did not tell us he was a monster, and we took him in," The Monk says through the Vermillion. Fukyama says through another Vermillion that whatever weapon they'd planned to develop was never made, as other crises kept popping up. Melanie, convinced that David can be the weapon necessary to destroy The Shadow King, tries to get The Monk to offer up the location, and just when The Monk is about to reveal that David is working with Farouk to find the body, David teleports him up to the roof.

These last few minutes of the episode, from the confrontation in Fukyama's lab to this rooftop conversation, is some of the best pure storytelling Legion has offered. It's tense and propulsive and conveys a lot of really juicy plot information in a quick and entertaining way while indulging in creator Noah Hawley's love of weird exposition. It explains a lot, but never feels like we're being lectured out. It's just really fun storytelling.

David, alone with The Monk, tries to convince him to give up the location of the body, even revealing his conversations with future Syd about what will happen. David warns The Monk that if he doesn't give up the information, something bad will happen.

"It already has," The Monk says, and throws himself off the roof, leaving David and Division III once again at an apparent dead end. Meanwhile, David spots an infected Syd elsewhere on the rooftop, enters her mind, and finds himself fighting through a blizzard.

While it wasn't quite as dazzling as the season premiere, "Chapter 11" was a solid episode in no small part because it compressed the action down into a single space and added the sense of a race against time. The latent paranoia present in many of the show's most suspenseful scenes was dialed up, we got some very creative visual metaphors, and the show's tendency to get bogged down in characters explaining things to other characters was balanced out nicely with a brisk pace. Plus, we got that ending, which immediately sets us on a clear path forward to the next episode. Legion is really cookin' right now.

Uncanny Observations

- By the end of the episode, David has had enough visions that he's seen an entire word sent to him from future Syd: "HURRY."

- Cary and Kerry once again seem to be in mortal peril, as Kerry became infected and Cary responded by somehow fading away to nothing after placing his forehead against hers. It's unclear right now what happened there, as we've only ever seen Cary on the inside of Kerry once before, and that didn't go well for either of them. All I know is that I demand my two favorite characters are both back safe and sound by the end of the next episode.

-Ptonomy's maze is, quite cleverly, a beautiful garden in which he has virtually no memory, so he simply sits in the sunlight and prunes a rose bush over and over. Cary points out that this is because Ptonomy's mutant power means he remembers everything, even things he himself has not lived. He's "a memory machine," and so a blissful world to get lost in for him would be a world in which he's not able to remember anything. Melanie's maze, on the other hand, takes the form of a black space onto which her mind projects a giant screen. It's a computer text adventure game with a Minotaur (the creature we saw in one of her drug-induced hazes earlier in the season) at the center of it, evoking the classic labyrinth of Greek myth in a more minimalist sense. Cary thinks this is because Melanie would like a world in which she's in complete control, and David ties this back to the story he told her about how her dream became Oliver's dream after they fell in love, and therefore she went through life never having any dreams of her own. It's there that this metaphor, I confess, kinda loses me. I get Melanie's desire to have her own dreams and be carefree after years of giving so much of herself to someone else, but... the visual metaphor didn't make me think of Melanie and her particular burdens quite as much as the show wanted it to.

-I didn't really care for Lenny's repeated attempts at suicide, but the bubbles coming out of the gun when she attempted to shoot herself were a nice touch.

-Where is Oliver? He was in the opening of last week's episode, but most of the Farouk sequences following that have focused on Farouk's true face and on Lenny. We know Farouk is still using Oliver's body, but his mind has been pushed back. Perhaps Jemaine Clement just didn't have time to be present for some of these scenes?

-"I don't think I want a cow in my lab."

-Speaking of the cow, we still don't know why it kept appearing, or what was causing it. Perhaps we'll revisit the cow next week.

-According to The Monk, they were completely unable to destroy The Shadow King's body in any way they tried, which suggests they took it out of its burial place, which also suggests it might not be in the same place anymore.

-"You got a girlfriend? I got one. Well, I got two, actually. Well no, just one, but in two time periods."

And that's it for this week! We'll be back next Tuesday for the next episode of Legion.