Spoilers ahead for this week's episode of Legion, "Chapter Five."
The short version: David decides to take matters into his own hands and the rest of the Summerland team makes a discovery.
If I had to guess what some viewers dislike about Legion, I'd say that there are likely people out there -- I'm not one of them, but I'm guessing they're out there -- who would argue that the show can lag a bit too much, or droop under the weight of all its reality-within-reality cleverness. While I've never had a problem with the show's pace in the least, I will admit that some episodes run far shorter on plot than others do, and ... dear lord, this episode isn't one of them.
We get David's return from the astral plane apparently quite changed. We get David and Syd's relationship hitting the next psychic level. We get David's mission to retrieve Amy and Melanie's subsequent mission to retrieve David. We get the total war zone of Division Three, the reveal of The Devil with Yellow Eyes to the rest of the group, the emergence of Lenny as a dominant personality, a showdown at David's childhood home and that insane cliffhanger, all in the space of an hour. This episode is plot-packed, and yet it still feels like Legion.
Aside from any particular plot development, I'm really loving how this feels more and more like a team show, in some ways even a family show. Last week we got to see the rest of the group react to being separated from David, and this week that continues and intensifies. Even Syd, who grew more suspicious of Melanie than usual this week, ultimately stayed with the group rather than betray them all in favor of David. That, plus the Kerry/Cary moments from this week (Yay, Kerry's alive!) really built up a nice dynamic that I hope the show keeps exploring.
Now, let's get to the real meat of the episode: The team's discovery of what David did at Division Three, and the resultant confrontation at the house where even crazier things went down. The pacing here was nearly flawless, which is particularly impressive when you consider that most of the real action happens off-camera and the first sequence is intercut with Cary's discoveries back at Summerland.
I love the way this series continues to react to and comment on superhero media tropes, and here we get that in the form of an extended action sequence we only catch through security camera glimpses. A movie would very likely have shown us the entire trail of David's destruction, but Legion relies on reaction to tell the story of action, and while we might be able to chalk some of that up to budget constraints, it's undoubtedly also thanks to a fair bit of storytelling cleverness.
Then there's the climax, which is almost entirely silent and which seems to break down many of the show's previous barriers between reality and memory space. We are so accustomed to seeing this house as part of David's mind that even Melanie warns that entering it could put them all in David's head, where he gets to be God. The reason for the silence itself is never explained, but it's an excellent tool for ratcheting up the tension, especially when sound is used to loudly proclaim Syd's discovery that something else is in the house with them. It's another impressively taut sequence, and it's made all the more potent by the screaming fury that follows it in the White Room.
This isn't a bad thing quite so much as a thing that felt out of place in this show, but I was a little underwhelmed by Cary's little speech explaining what The Devil is to the rest of the group. It felt tacked-on to the sequence and a little too convenient. Most of the time I dig "Science Guy Explains It All" info-dumps, but this one felt slightly clumsy when compared to the plot reveals of the rest of the series.
- At last, we have an answer to the biggest mystery of the show so far: The Devil with Yellow Eyes is not something David conjured or another mutant messing with him from outside. It's a mutant consciousness living inside him and acting like a parasite, altering his memories so he never knows it's there. That's a truly creepy notion, and somewhat reminiscent of Cassandra Nova from New X-Men. It also explains Lenny, Benny, the Angriest Boy and the imaginary dog King. Remember, Amy never saw King, but other people did see and interact with Benny and Lenny, which suggests that the entity progressed in its power to affect David's reality until it could interact with the people around him independently of him. I find this whole notion fascinating, particularly when you realize that the thing somehow progressed from being David's childhood boogeyman (Angriest Boy) to being David's best friend (Lenny).
- "He's a beat poet?"
- Remember a few weeks ago when I said Lenny perched atop an oven with a giant mural of Larry Fine behind her was my favorite image from the show so far? Well, we have a new champion: David, dressed all in white, playing "Rainbow Connection" on an all-white banjo.
- Speaking of Lenny, all of those shots of Aubrey Plaza in a suit are about to launch a wave of fanfics.
- Melanie's silent demand that Kerry appear, followed by Kerry's arrival with a spike-covered baseball bat, made me laugh out loud.
- So, David's adopted. Will his real father, a certain bald man in a wheelchair, show up by the season finale?
- Now, we've gotta talk about that cliffhanger. There's a theory going around, which I started seeing last week, which predicts that nothing we'd seen in the show up through the fourth episode was real and that it's possible all of this is taking place in a single character's head. Since David's comic-book counterpart is well-known for his multiple personalities, and since the show is already well-known for blurring the line between fantasy and reality in a multitude of ways, it's certainly possible that this is the case. David really could be powerful enough to construct this whole elaborate scenario in his mind, and it's possible the scene returning us to Clockworks is the first real thing we've seen. Hell, it's also possible that all of this took place in Syd's head, after she fantasized about David or something.
Personally, I'm not buying any of this. The show has too carefully plotted itself, too carefully traced the course of its various characters and too carefully shown us the distinctions between the various flavors of "real" to throw such a basic twist at us at this point. Plus, Legion is not a show prone to falling back on cliches, and "It was all a dream" is one of the oldest in the book. I really don't think this show is steering us toward a St. Elsewhere-style finale. Still, I can't wait to see where we go from that scene.
And that's it for this week! Share your theories about this episode in the comments below and join us again next week for "Chapter Six."