This week on Legion, David's secret plan to stop the Shadow King is moving forward, his friends are following their instructions, and it seems like real progress is being made. There's a flaw in this plan, though, one that David didn't seem to see coming, and it's been building for a while.
**Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers for the Legion episode "Chapter 17" below**
Last week, we saw David head off for le désolé to find Farouk's body at last, but not before he put the pieces of a plan in motion. If you'll remember, he realized he couldn't just tell everyone involved what their role would be and why, because then Farouk could potentially discover the plan through telepathy, so instead he just embedded a few key images in the heads of Clark, Cary, and Lenny, and left a note for Syd. Understandably upset that David hid the truth from her and ran off again, Syd went after her man, and when we last left them the two were looking at the skeletal remains of themselves in a windswept tent in the desert, wondering what their eventual fate would be.
Sadly, "Chapter 17" doesn't shed any more light on that, as David and Syd only ever appear in this episode in brief flashbacks. No, this episode is about the pawns being moved in the ongoing chess match between David and Oliver/Farouk, and it begins with a character who's spent most of the season in the shadows: Melanie Bird. Apart from one key moment when she went directly to Fukyama to discuss the Monk and the location of Farouk's body, Melanie's spent most of this season in her room, lonely and bitter after losing Oliver yet again, and inhaling vaporous drugs from a jeweled elephant. She wasn't really alone in there, though. It turns out Oliver/Farouk got into her head, took up residence, and remained there for some time. Her concern over the location of the Monk? That was part of a conversation she had with Farouk when he invaded her mind through Oliver. It was the beginning of an attempt to derange Melanie to the point where she would be susceptible to control, something Oliver/Farouk clearly achieved by the end of last week's episode. This week's story begins with a flashback to Melanie clubbing Clark over the head, taking him out of whatever David's plan is, and then showing us two weeks of drug-addled, unstable rambling leading up to that attack, as the once-brilliant Melanie loses her grip on reality.
At first, I must admit to being a little annoyed that the show was flashing back to Melanie's descent, in part because we've flashed back a lot this season and in part because I want the plot to move amid all of these little detour stories, even if I do understand their purpose. Then I remembered that Jean Smart is an incredible actress who's had very little to do on the show this season so far, and all of my concerns slipped away as I got to watch her work. One of the defining themes of Legion in Season 2 has been the idea that reality is what you make it, particularly that David and Farouk are two powerful men who can essentially choose to shape the world in their own image. Melanie has spent her life surrounded by powerful men, been betrayed by powerful men, and is now at the mercy of powerful men. For her, reality has ceased to have any clear definition. She keeps saying "if it's real" or "if he's real," like an asterisk on every thought or idea her mind can muster. Reality holds no meaning for her anymore. It's one of the great tragedies in a season often built on great tragedies, and Smart makes it immensely compelling.
So, with Melanie enraptured by Oliver/Farouk, and Clark at least temporarily out of play, where does that leave the other prongs of David's new attack strategy?
Cary, if you'll remember, was walking with Clark when David implanted part of his plan in his head, and because Cary and Kerry share a mind, she sees what David put there too. Cary, because he's Cary, immediately recognizes what's happened and realizes they need to carry (pun most definitely intended) out their part of the operation as best they can. It has to do with "the weapon" (something in a case in that closet full of strange devices in Division III), a car parked outside, and the Blue Octopus, a neon sign somewhere in the city. Together, they manage to snag the weapon, get in the car, and make it to the parking lot where the octopus is, but while Cary is steadfast in his belief that they've served their purpose in delivering the weapon to its designated location, Kerry is less sure. She doesn't like the idea of sitting back and trusting David. She, as always, craves action. She also craves cream soda, so the pair of them duck into a restaurant until whoever's supposed to pick the weapon up arrives. Which brings us to Lenny...
Lenny, for her part, also has images in her head that were implanted there by David, but because she's Lenny, she's determined to ignore them and go back to her hedonistic former life. Instead of following her instructions, she goes to one of her old drug dens, where she's quickly hailed as "The Queen" and slips right back into partying. That is, until it becomes clear that she's not alone in her new body. Yes, after a few weeks of hinting that Amy's not entirely gone, David's lost sister appears to Lenny much as the dead Lenny used to appear to David. Lenny's not just sharing memories with someone, but sharing a body, and Amy wants Lenny to either clear out of her body or do what David told her to do. Lenny's portion of the plan, based on the images that flash in her head, involves the same car Cary and Kerry just drove off in, some kind of rifle, and the desert. Lenny's initially reluctant, preferring to live out the rest of her days making Caligula look like an amateur, but Amy won't relent. So Lenny looks for the Blue Octopus too, which turns out to be right outside her window.
Lenny approaches the car, climbs in, and finds there are no keys. That doesn't end up mattering, because just as Cary and Kerry are about to confront her, the car door slams and the whole vehicle teleports Lenny away to the desert. Once she's there, the car catches fire, but she remembers to pull the weapon out of the trunk in time. So, as far as executing David's plan goes so far, he's two out of three.
Meanwhile, back in Division III, Melanie is rambling aloud to Oliver about what she knows of David's plan (exactly how much she knows isn't clear, but she's at least aware that he left Syd a note). Then, amid the walls of what look like a maze where a Minotaur might lurk, she reconnects with Oliver, and seems to find some peace.
This was clearly an interstitial episode, setting up the pieces for bigger moves further down the line. That's always tricky, because episodes like that can very often feel less like storytelling and more like logistics, but Legion didn't fall into that trap with "Chapter 17." Instead, it used the moving pieces to tell us something vital about each character, from Melanie's deluded state to Lenny's possession to Kerry's failure to understand the dynamics of human loneliness because she's always been often quite literally attached to someone. It's not the most thrilling episode of the season, but in the context of what it's trying to do it succeeds in often stunning ways. We have just two episodes to go this season. A confrontation is not far away.
- It's still not entirely clear what Clark's role in David's plan is, if David knows Clark is incapacitated, or how much that will factor into achieving the ultimate goal. Surprisingly little time is spent on this, but it wouldn't be strange at all to see that laid out next week.
- Regular readers of these recaps will know that I've often complained about the lack of Cary and Kerry in some of this season's episodes. This week made up for that in a delightful way.
- Lenny saw the Angriest Boy, who we haven't glimpsed since Season 1, in a vision this week. Is that because Amy remembers that from David's past, or is that because she's still haunted by her own torment of David as a tool of Farouk?
- Kerry: "I'm real."
Melanie: "How do you know?"
Kerry: "Cuz when I hit people, they fall down."
Never change, Kerry.
- "What are years? Just trips around the sun."
- The new Jeanine's bedroom was covered in post-its, and eventually it was clear that those post-its form an eye. That might be my favorite new set design of the season.
- "I would stab death twice in the heart before he could get you." Again, Kerry is the best.
And that's it for this week! Join us next Tuesday for "Chapter 18." It's almost finale time!