Spoilers ahead for this week's episode of Legion, "Chapter Six."
The short version: David and the gang head back to Clockworks, where something is very wrong.
Well, the strange location shift that happened at the end of last week's episode carries over for the full length of this week's, but it becomes clear very early on that the five hours we already watched were not just some kind of bait and switch. I think I would've simply turned the television off and walked away if it had been revealed that everyone was just a mental patient that whole time and that we'd just watched five hours of David's fantasies. That's not the case, though, and it's clear very early on that this is an elaborate mind game concocted by Lenny to keep David docile and agreeable, even as Syd becomes increasingly aware that something's not right.
There are lots of things to love about the way this episode plays with its deliberately disorienting structure, starting with the sense that Clockworks never seemed all that real to begin with. The series premiere was always caught somewhere between The Prisoner and The Shining, and now we're back in that place with one thing absolutely clear: This time it really is all filtered through the eyes of a madwoman (or a madman, though I'm not really sure if the thing that calls itself Lenny has a gender).
Then there are the amusing emotional transpositions that take place within the characters. Lenny is the doctor now, of course, because the scariest inmate has taken over the asylum. Melanie, who pines for her husband in real life, becomes a widow who insists her husband isn't dead. Ptonomy, with his eidetic memory, becomes a 'time traveler' obsessed with the past. Cary and Kerry become two people with an attachment disorder.
Then there are Syd and David, whose conditions simply fit Lenny's needs. David now thinks he's manic depressive, so he can simply be soothed back to obedience when needed, while David believes that Syd has hallucinations, so that any time she reveals that she's seeing glimpses of reality through Lenny's illusion, Lenny can play it off. That's brilliant, and equally brilliant is the decision to make Amy the tyrannical nurse, taking David's ever-devoted sibling and turning her into the adoptive sister from hell. Then there's Walter, aka The Eye, who still finds a way to be a creepy-as-hell villain.
The best part of the episode by far is the way in which little glimpses of the world beyond Lenny's illusion leak in, starting with that mystery door and then progressing to a bleeding wall, dreams of a diving man and a giant ice cube, and finally the realization that, somehow, Oliver Bird is reaching out from the astral plane to save them. That part is made pretty clear through the show's iconography. What's less clear is how and why Syd's the one able to see through the illusion first. She shares the closest connection to David, and she's been David once that we know of, so there's obviously that relationship, but it's also been clear for a while that Syd simply notices things others don't, and we don't know if that's because she's lived in David's mind or simply because she's more perceptive. Whatever the case, it's been a great way to watch her grow.
Oh, and one more thing before we move on: Legion is one of the most acclaimed shows on TV right now. It's been frequently praised, and rightly so, for its take on the superhero genre, but there's one thing about the show that I don't think we highlight quite enough, and that's the fun. A show that commits so frequently to subverting and commenting on various superhero tropes could be an unbearably stuffy, self-important piece of 'grown-up' genre fiction, but this show still knows how to cut loose, and this episode is proof. This hour just kept leaning into the weird, and you could feel that everyone involved was having a good time. I love that about Legion.
While I loved the recasting of each main character as a unique mental patient for the duration of the episode, I did feel a couple of deficiencies, and my biggest gripe was that there wasn't enough Melanie. It makes sense to exploit her greatest weakness and turn her into a woman paralyzed by longing, but it felt like everyone but her really had something to do. Even when she was transported directly to the moment we left off last week, we didn't actually get to see her do anything. Then there's The Eye, who began the episode dealing with a believable and even relatable emotional issue, only to wind up almost cartoonishly villainous by the end. It felt like the show trying to have things both ways.
- OK, so last week the show established that Lenny is essentially a rogue consciousness that latched onto David when he was a baby and just stuck around like a parasite. This week Lenny herself (itself?) tells us that power is her only true purpose, and that she knew David's real father, whose description certainly matches Charles Xavier. Is it possible that she's Cassandra Nova? Because she really sounds like Cassandra Nova.
- Last week I talked about the wave of fan fiction that would be launched by Aubrey Plaza rockin' a suit, and then this week she just straight up got her own music video, complete with red silhouette like she's living the opening credits of a Bond film. This show is certainly taking full advantage of Plaza's ability to be wickedly playful almost effortlessly.
- It's just now hitting me, after six weeks of this show, that Lenny's last name is 'Busker.' As in street performer. As in someone who uses their talents to ensnare passers-by. Metaphor!
- We know from past episodes that Cary and Oliver worked together before Oliver went astral, so it makes sense that he'd reach out to Cary first. I would also very much like a buddy-cop episode starring the two of them.
And that's it for this week! Join us next Wednesday for the penultimate Season 1 episode of Legion.