Legion Chapter 15, Syd

On this week's Legion, The Shadow King schemes and a new threat rises

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May 15, 2018

On this week's Legion, the war with the Shadow King resumes, Division III is thrown into chaos (again), and a new threat emerges.

SPOILERS for Legion "Chapter 15" ahead!

Last week, David viewed all manner of alternate lives for himself. Whether they were simply imagined paths or parts of some elaborate multiverse we can't fully see isn't clear, but what was clear to David in that moment was how much his sister Amy cared for him. With his rage against Farouk still strong and his resolve even stronger, David begins the episode by heading into Cary's tank and calling Farouk out on the astral plane.

They meet in an ornate dining room, surrounded by paintings and a roaring fire. Unfortunately, they seem to have the same discussion they've been having all season, with the added twist that Amy's death is now involved. Farouk, ever the sly villain, hopes to use the fact that he lived in David's head for years to his advantage, and points out how many rage-filled thoughts David directed toward his sister over the years, particularly when she committed him to Clockworks. David protests, telling Farouk those were just thoughts, and that he never actually wanted anything bad to happen to Amy. Farouk is, of course, unconvinced. "Gods make rules. They don't follow them," he tells David, circling back to something he's been trying to drill into his former host since their first meeting back in the season's second episode. Farouk and David are better, homo superior, so why shouldn't they act like it?

David, of course, is having none of this, and vows to find Farouk's body and burn it (even though the Monk already said that doesn't really work). Farouk, seemingly resigned to the idea that he's not going to be able to convert David, simply leaves, taunting David by sitting him at a kiddie table and then producing an image of Amy to laugh in his face for good measure. It's a fun scene, particularly in the very end, when you see David's rage come out, but how many times are we going to have the same conversation between these two? David and Farouk meet, Farouk tries to talk David into embracing his powers and using them to rule over humans, David refuses, Farouk leaves. At best these scenes end in grudging compromise, and at worst we get the same stalemate at this meeting of powerful minds over and over again. Two great actors and great direction make it compelling enough, but it's getting a bit played out.

Back in reality, Syd and David are trying to figure out what to do now that Farouk's conversion of Amy's body into Lenny has been made clear. Syd suggests talking to her future self about it, because it seems like a new variable that hasn't been explored in David's past time-travel excursions, but there's another wrinkle in that idea. Syd, who insisted several episodes ago that David listen to her future self, is also worried about the relationship that might be forming between Future Syd and David. She suggests a set of ground rules: David can talk to Future Syd, but just talk... unless the battle-worn Syd "needs a hug" or something like that. For me, this scene is a reminder of how much fun Legion can be when it takes a moment to both reflect on how weird it is and also move the plot along. It's ostensibly a planning session between the only two people in Division III who are aware that David is visiting a ruined future and talking to an older version of Syd, but it evolves into a conversation between a boyfriend and his jealous girlfriend, who just happens to be jealous of herself. It's functional and fun without being so meta or obnoxiously self-aware that it takes you out of the plot. 

It also sets up the next sequence quite nicely, as we cut back to Farouk building some sort of machine for himself within his own mind. Somehow, using a classic car, a coin-operated contraption, and some pink slime (Hi, Ghostbusters 2!), he's managed to build a mental time machine, and he propels his consciousness into Future Syd's hideaway. This is perhaps the most compelling scene in the episode, not just because it's a rare chance for Farouk to interact with a character other than David or Oliver, but because Rachel Keller and Navid Negahban just crackle together. There's tremendous chemistry as they dance around each other, both manipulative, both clever, and both trying to say only as much as they need to.

Farouk, for his part, is curious about this dark future apparently brought about by his death, and wants to know why Syd is so convinced he needs to be left alive. Syd tries to warn him that whether he wants to help or not, in her timeline David kills him anyway, so he should probably be cooperating. Farouk deflects, and is instead more interested in what happens if he does die, how the apocalypse arrives in his absence. His first guess is humanity turning on itself and bringing about World War 3, but Syd denies that, and the implication is clear. Farouk muses that he has to live to save the world "from him," and while it's never explicitly stated, the clear implication is that the "him" in this scenario is David. Even with his possible death looming (and it's possible that he doesn't entirely believe he can ever be truly killed), Farouk seems more intrigued by the idea of David going full supervillain than the idea of a future without him in it. Unlike the earlier scene, which felt like a retread of his debate with David, this scene breaks a bit of new ground in the curious and ancient spirit that is the Shadow King. Even when faced with oblivion, he seems more interested in the ways that power can be wielded than in the ways it could destroy him. It's an intoxicating road to take the character down, if indeed he does keep going that way.

Meanwhile, present Syd heads to Lenny's holding cell to confront whatever Amy/Lenny hybrid creature may or may not be in there. As we saw two episodes ago, this version of Lenny maintains the original character's manic sense of humor and nervous energy, with a layer of psychological damage and pain that makes her even more erratic than she was before. We know that Lenny's DNA was used to put her consciousness back in a body, and that Amy's body was the shell, but what's still not clear is how pure Lenny's motives are. She claims ignorance one moment, then hints that she knows more than she's admitting the next. Syd sees this as a plot against David to throw him off, and declares to Lenny that "it's not gonna work." Lenny, in keeping with the same behavior she's exhibited since her reappearance, agrees with Syd and then immediately pivots to a story about how Farouk used to rape her while he kept her consciousness "in the basement of his mind." Syd, like David, isn't sure what to believe. Lenny could really be just another victim of Farouk's ruthless machinations and belief that humans are just pawns in his game, or she could be a maddening plant sent by Farouk to sow discord. Or she could be both. Whatever the case, she has her claws in David, and now they're digging into Syd as well.

From here, we transition into the meatiest part of the episode, which begins paying off something set up by the narrator in the season premiere, and made manifest back in "Chapter 11." The narrator, in explaining what a delusion is, conjured up the metaphor of an egg, and showed us that while one idea can birth a perfectly normal response (a baby chick), another can harbor something darker (a deformed, black skeletal chicken monster). In "Chapter 11," we saw one of those little monsters crawl into Ptonomy's ear, and we saw what looked like a grown version of it behind Fukyama's basket mask when Ptonomy tried to look into Lenny's memories two weeks ago. When it was introduced, it seemed very possible that the bird creature could be metaphorical, a physical representation for the viewer of some insidious thought that had polluted Ptonomy's mind. Well, as with so many things on Legion, the seemingly metaphorical was made literal this week in a very big way. While sleeping, Ptonomy has yet another vision of Fukyama and his bird monster visage behind the basket, then dreams that he's being abducted by the Vermillion. From there, he goes room to room, planting similar delusions (in the form of eggs that hatch into monsters) in the minds of Clark, Kerry, and Syd. Clark and Ptonomy both wake up and meet in the diner. Something is wrong with Fukyama, and they both think they know what it is...

Before we can find out what it is, though, we head back to David in the tank as he tries to get some clarity by chatting with Future Syd again. First, he confronts her with what happened to Amy, wondering if she knew all along that his sister would be sacrificed but didn't tell him. Her reply is cold: "I'm sorry. You have to stay focused," and her coldness is further emphasized when she admits that she's not certain that the world will be saved with the Shadow King alive. She just knows it's doomed in the timeline where he dies, and therefore she's asking David to keep him alive no matter what he did to Amy. David, already enraged over what Farouk did, does not take this well. "You're not my Syd," he says, and that's when Future Syd takes on a somewhat different tone. Remember, she has just recently been visited by Farouk, information that she does not relay to David in this encounter. The desperate, worn-down woman from the future who previously seemed like someone who just wanted to revisit the man she loves and possibly save the world and both of their futures is replaced by something more seductive. Even as David insists that he just can't bring himself to help Farouk anymore, Syd both pretends to understand his reluctance and brings him in for a kiss, luring him into breaking the ground rules he already set with Present Syd. What happens next isn't clear, because other concerns will soon become apparent, but David is definitely getting more than he bargained for here, and is, with the previous Future Syd scene, compelling stuff.

Back in the present, where Ptonomy has just left his eggs everywhere (not as dirty as it sounds), Syd wakes up, goes downstairs to Fukyama's little meeting room, sits in the chair, and mimes taking a basket off her head. This triggers a shot of Fukyama getting ready for bed with the help of the Vermillion, and for the first time we see an old woman knitting in a rocking chair. She puts a finger to her mouth, hushes us, and then we're back to Syd suddenly confronted by Ptonomy, Kerry, and Clark.

Clearly, all four of them have been infected in some way by the same fear, but it's not clear who put it there or why. According to Clark, there are rumors going around Division III about what Fukyama really is, that people walk to his pedestal room -- as Syd just did -- and then are never seen again because "he eats them." Their mission, then, is clear: They have to eliminate Fukyama, and they have to go through the Vermillion to do it. That leads to my favorite moment of the episode, because it means Kerry gets to go kill things.

Specifically, she gets to go kill the Vermillion, who arrive en masse to stop Kerry and Ptonomy from making their way to Fukyama. The Vermillion have the numbers, and they think the odds are in their favor, but Ptonomy and Kerry hold them off while Clark and Syd make their way to Fukyama's room. At gunpoint, Clark demands the admiral remove his basket, but where the audience sees a scarred Japanese man with his neck held in place by steel rods, Clark and Syd see the delusion of a giant bird monster. Before they can kill the monster they're hallucinating, though, David appears and detects the tiny bird creatures. He removes them, holds them up, and almost immediately analyzes them as "insanity," concentrated madness planted in their heads by some unknown force. Before David can analyze and cure everyone, though, the creature inside Ptonomy -- which has had a much longer gestation time than the others, remember -- explodes out of him, leaving a pool of blood and tearing through the halls of Division III. So this was definitely not a metaphor. These were real little monsters, and one of them just became a huge monster.

While the Vermillion drag Ptonomy's body to the "mainframe" to save his mind, even though the rest of him is dying, David pursues the creature, tries to reason with it, then ultimately shrinks it to nothing and blows it up. So the damage is contained, but not without the loss of Ptonomy. As the shell-shocked Division III team sits in the diner, recovering from the ordeal, Future Syd looks through a porthole at the past versions of both David and herself. Meanwhile, Ptonomy's consciousness travels through cables and into the Division III mainframe, where he finds himself standing inside a giant representation of a computer. As he looks around, he sees the same old knitting woman we saw before, who hushes him as the episode ends. Clearly, whatever madness infected the team has not fully gone away.

This was a somewhat uneven episode, but the good outweighs the bad particularly because we finally got a payoff to the egg metaphor introduced back in the premiere. I've wondered aloud more than once just how much these narrator-driven segments would actually play into the plot in a real way, and this week we definitely got plenty of that. Having the egg metaphor actually turn out to produce literal insanity monsters was a perfectly Legion payoff, too.

Then there's the Future Syd stuff, which is a particular standout in this episode both for its performances and its introduction of the idea that even she can be manipulated from afar by the Shadow King. She's been one of the few unmovable characters in the season so far, and now it seems she's shifting a bit, or at least giving the appearance of shifting. I'd love for the rules of her future and exactly what happened to be more clearly established, particularly now that we know just how easily she can have a conversation with someone, but that's Legion for you.

Then there's the Farouk/David stuff, which I must admit I'm growing tired of. The season's done a good job of giving us plenty of other elements to chew on even as its two most powerful characters dance around each other, but if they keep meeting like this, they need to either team up or full-on try to kill each other. This endless cycle of lecture and rejection is wearing thin. Other than that, this episode worked, particularly as the first episode in three weeks to really drive the plot forward.

Legion Chapter 15, David

Uncanny Observations

“Sometimes in a dream you remember you’ve had this dream before, but that memory is just part of the dream, a dream memory of a dream, when in truth it’s all really happening for the first time. Again.” Syd, I think you just summed up the show you're in.

"Cocky bitches" is Peak Kerry.

Well, that happened. The Shadow King really just quoted Frankie Goes to Hollywood. What a cultured man.

Something to keep in mind: We don't actually know if the "him" Farouk and Future Syd referred to is David. It could be someone else, particularly now that it seems the show is introducing a new enemy separate from the Shadow King.

Something else to keep in mind: Before she died, Amy told her husband about a dream she had, and based on the description she was clearly a Vermillion in the service of Fukyama. We may not have seen the last of her.

Speaking of the Vermillion, how creepy was it to see one of those things smile?

"Maybe we're all villains" is Future Syd summing up the show just like Present Syd did.

And that's it for this week! Join us next Tuesday for "Chapter 16" of Legion.