This week on Legion, the action keeps moving, David puts a new plan in motion, and The Shadow King heads somewhere very important.
**SPOILERS ahead for this week's Legion episode, "Chapter 16"**
Last week, after a string of episodes that often kept us rooted in one place, took us to the past, or even explored alternative lives, we got an episode of Legion that just roared forward until it ended with David killing a giant bird monster that once lived inside one of his friends. This week, I'm happy to report, the weird adventures continue in another episode that wastes little time and doesn't hold back on plot.
We open on Syd and David, sitting on the steps of Division III headquarters and discussing their next move. After all that they've been through over the last few weeks -- the Catalyst infection, the journey through Syd's mind, the return of Lenny, and the insanity infection last week -- they finally have to get back to the task at hand. With the Monk dead, Syd wonders aloud if anyone still living knows the location of Farouk's body, and then theorizes that her future self might know. David tries to shrug that off, and tells her things aren't good with him and her future self (withholding the information that the last time we saw them, they were kissing). Syd asks if the plan is to still help Farouk in his quest, and David says nothing, which is very likely the first Syd has heard of David's full change of plans. "What about the end of the world?" she asks. "One thing at a time," he replies, and that little rift that's always been there between them -- even when it's online as wide as the space between their slightly separated beds -- grows a little bit.
Then we move to right about where we left off last time, with Ptonomy getting used to the new home of his consciousness: the mainframe of Division III. As he explores, realizing he can now watch his old friends like he's watching surveillance videos (similar to what Fukyama does), he notices Admiral Fukyama sitting on the floor and moves toward him. As he gets closer, he realizes this version of Fukyama doesn't seem to have a face, and the figure grabs Ptonomy by the arm. It's through this connection that both Fukyama and Ptonomy sort of travel through the mainframe together, and we finally get an origin story of sorts for the admiral.
We see a 17-year-old Fukyama sitting on a bench as a student, reading Freud, when an unnamed man approaches him and asks to talk. The man warns of a new world of "listeners, watchers, creatures from science fiction" who can "steal our secrets," and then tells Fukyama "there is a plan." Fukyama has caught the eye of this obvious government recruiter, apparently. He's testing well. He doesn't seem to get sick. He heals quickly. He would, according to his school application, do anything for his country. So, would he be willing to volunteer to be the "secret keeper," the "mind that can't be read"? Somewhere along the way, Fukyama apparently agreed, because the next thing we see is this young man undergoing some kind of very gruesome brain surgery in which wires and machinery are inserted into his head. Then we see him recovering, as a kind nurse in a rocking chair (the same woman we saw knitting in a rocking chair last week, which adds context to that mystery) reads aloud to him. This is what Fukyama meant when he called himself "The Machine That Bleeds." He is essentially a living representation of a computer mainframe housing all of the government's secrets, which is how he wound up at the head of a division. It's an intriguing, horrifying, masterful little sequence, and it made me ache to know more about how Fukyama works and how long he's been doing this job, but that's all the context we get, because something else is in the mainframe with Ptonomy.
It's the Monk, or at least a portion of the Monk's mind, sucked into the computer from that time the team found him clinging to the ceiling with wires in his head, trying to access Fukyama's brain. Apparently that connection worked both ways, and now Ptonomy's found the residue of that. Ptonomy, ever resourceful even as he's just a consciousness, has also found that he can use his own abilities to hack into a Vermillion and briefly take control of its body. He does this, heads into the restaurant, and talks to David. Because he found the Monk's mind in the mainframe, he also now knows the location of Farouk's body. Finally, David is told where to look: a place called "Le désolé."
But David's not the only one who has this information. Farouk and Oliver arrive at a seemingly unremarkable retirement home to visit an old woman there, and while Oliver sits by, Farouk connects with her telepathically. She recognizes his true form, and why shouldn't she? She was the one who drove the hearse to his body's final resting place. Farouk apparently got the driver's location from Future Syd, who whispered it in his ear after their intriguing and almost flirtatious encounter last week (lending further credence to David's fears that she's not really Syd, or that she's at the very least a more morally dubious version of Syd). Now armed with everything he needs to know, Farouk gives the old woman "the endless dream," and he and Oliver are off.
I love this. I love this. This is Legion at its story-driven best, and even though it never stops being weird and mildly confusing, it's moving. I want more episodes like this.
Back in Cary's tank, David is trying to form a plan. He's figured out where he needs to go and why, but he knows he might need help to accomplish everything he needs. He also knows that if he actually tells Syd, or Cary, or Kerry, or Lenny, or Clark, they will be susceptible to having their minds read by Farouk, and the plan will be ruined. So, he has to make a plan without telling anyone, which he does with the help of a mind map and several little markers to indicate all of the major players in the story... including an object or two that we don't really know much about yet.
With his plan in place in his own mind, David visits Lenny -- still in her holding cell, still fluctuating between manic and vulnerable -- and after a brief conversation plants a kiss on her forehead. Lenny sees a few flashes of imagery, including a car, a desert, and herself holding a rifle, and then David is gone. In the Division III halls, he comes upon Cary and Clark and does a version of the same thing, snapping his fingers in front of their faces to implant something there. Syd doesn't get a mental implant. She gets a note slid under her door from David that reads "Gone to kill the monster." As she reads it, her tea kettle -- the kettle she used to use to play a game that would reassure her that David hadn't abandoned her -- begins to whistle.
But David has left, because he's out in the desert, walking toward his eventual goal, while, in another frame, Oliver and Farouk are driving there and Oliver is reciting "America" by Allen Ginsberg.
The game board is set, and the major players are on their way, but Syd is apparently not one of them. Instead she's back at Division III, having drinks with Clark and expressing her frustrations about David. She still believes that her man is a good person, after all they've been through and all the times he's fought to do the right thing, but she also worries if her family's history of pushing men away has contributed to the distance between them. Despite all of this, she plans to go after him. Clark, assuring her that he's not interrogating her and it's just "girl talk," asks if she trusts David. Syd doesn't trust him. "I think he lies all the time," she says, and then offers up an explanation that sounds like both an acute understanding of David and like something a person living in an emotionally manipulative or even abusive relationship would say: "Who teaches us to be normal when we're one of a kind?"
As usual, it is very difficult to see where the show is taking David and Syd, but between this very dilemma and David's trip into Syd's mind a few episodes ago, it's becoming one of the most dramatically rewarding arcs of the season. Rachel Keller and Dan Stevens are often at their best when acting opposite each other, and in this episode, even when they're apart, they make a stellar pair. The final shot of this scene, revealing Melanie to be listening outside the door, perhaps pondering her own bitterness over Oliver leaving her again, is the final twist of the knife. It's brilliant.
Back in the desert, David puts his plan in motion. With the command of "Ready, set, go," whatever he was thinking about when he was in the tank starts moving, and Lenny's cell door mysteriously unlocks. She quickly pops up and sneaks out of Division III, while we cut to Farouk and Oliver riding in a rickshaw, and Farouk delivers a key piece of information. They are ahead of David in the race for his body, but time and space don't necessarily count in the desolate place where they are. David, Farouk says, could wander there for the rest of his life "unless he figures out the secret." The monastery we've seen several times now, where the Mi-Go monks lived and where Farouk's body rests, is out here, but it keeps moving, fading from view in its spot on the horizon only to move on to another spot on the horizon. Farouk does not seem to be bothered by this, but as David gets used to walking (and walking... and walking), he doesn't seem to be too bothered either.
The person who is bothered, though, is Syd, who uses her David-finding compass and a jet (who knows how she wrangled that) to parachute into the desert and berate her man for leaving her again. She's going the rest of the way with him, whether he likes it or not. He seems happy to see her, even if she does kick him in the shins.
Eventually, as night falls and a storm builds up, Syd and David make it to a mysterious campsite in the middle of the desert, and head into a tent for shelter. There, time loops around at least twice, and at least twice they find their own skeletons huddled together in bed. With nothing to do but take shelter, they talk about what could have possibly happened to these versions of them, and how this place bends time and geography in ways they still don't fully understand. David, in an attempt to be optimistic, tells Syd that they'll move out to the country together when everything is over. Syd counters that they'll die anyway whether the rest of their lives are peaceful or not. Here, in one of the most powerful moments of the season so far, they share this exchange.
"Every story ends the same," Syd says.
"I don't believe that," David replies.
I can't help but recall what Farouk's been telling David all along: that he can determine what is real and what isn't. "You better have a plan," Syd says, and while she doesn't know it yet, we know David does, as Clark wakes to David's subconscious instructions to him back at Division III. David's voice says, "Find the clock of the long now," which could be that weird tuning fork-like device we saw earlier in the episode.
Whatever it is, we'll have to wait until at least next week to find out for sure, because as Clark is going to follow David's commands, he gets clubbed over the head by Melanie, and a quick rewind reveals that she did this because of a psychic link established between her and Oliver/Farouk. She's under their control now, and the last shot of the episode is of the Minotaur creature that lives in Melanie's drug-addled mind.
Season 2 of Legion has spent a lot of time sidetracking us as viewers to show us important character moments while the overall plot is essentially on pause. It did this to bring David and Syd closer, to show us the inner workings of various characters' minds, and to re-establish the importance of Amy in David's life. While each of those episodes did their jobs well, and were often downright moving, they did still slow certain things down, sometimes in a very negative way. "Chapter 16," like "Chapter 15" before it, performs the very difficult trick of informing our emotional connection to the characters while also propelling the plot forward in both brisk and engaging ways. For me, this is when Legion works best. We've got a two-episode streak going now. Let's hope we don't lose it.
- Based on the narrator section we got this week, you might want to go read up on Plato's Allegory of the Cave now.
- “Because love is what we have to save if we’re gonna save the world. I’m just not sure that’s what he’s doing.” Syd is, more and more, becoming the soul of the show. At least, in her present state.
- Speaking of Syd, it's really hard to tell at this point if Future Syd is hiding something or if she's simply being self-serving in her drive to achieve undoing her timeline. She's becoming more interesting with each passing week.
- When David embedded instructions in Cary and Clark's minds, we saw Cary (I think) taking a case of the shelf of the same gadget room where Farouk got the machine he used to put Lenny in Amy's body. What's in it? We'll know soon.
- "To create fear, hold up a mirror" is a Mi-Go monk saying, but it could just as easily have been part of a narrator segment.
- I know that Syd procuring a jet and then skydiving into David's location isn't really relevant to the story in a serious way, but I still want to see the conversation she had to have that led to that moment. Maybe there's a deleted scene.
And that's it for this week! Join us next Tuesday for "Chapter 17."