This week on Legion, David finally meets an old enemy, Syd learns a secret from the season premiere, and things get very rough for Cary and Kerry.
SPOILERS ahead for Legion Season 2 Episode 2, "Chapter 10."
Last week, in its Season 2 premiere, Legion introduced us to a new paradigm with the help of a yearlong time jump, and while a lot happened in the episode, much of it was in service to setting up what seems to be the narrative shape of the whole season: namely that the Summerland crew and the Division III crew have joined forces to hunt the Shadow King, the Shadow King himself is racing to find his body and increase his power, and David is supposed to be helping to eliminate the Shadow King when in fact Syd appeared to him in a flying orb from the future to tell him he should help the Shadow King in the search for his original body.
Still with me? Cool, so let's get into "Chapter 10."
(Author's Note: Since the season is now underway, I'm assuming for the sake of brevity that, if you're reading this, you know who everyone is and what they look like, so unless a character is just being introduced for the first time, I'll avoid typing the names of the actors over and over unless it's to highlight a specific aspect of the performance. It's a complex enough show without having to repeat the cast week in and week out.)
David, acting on his recovered memory of what Syd told him in the orb, has a psychic meeting with the Shadow King, who appears in the form of Oliver on an amusement park carousel (with Lenny in tow). David agrees to help the Shadow King in his search for his body on the condition that "nobody gets hurt." So of course, while David leads Division III on a fruitless quest out into the desert to find Oliver/Shadow King, the Shadow King infiltrates Division III, kills a bunch of guards, and royally messes up Cary and Kerry. The diversion was planned. The deaths and injuries were not. David's not happy.
The whole sequence, featuring Oliver and Lenny traipsing through the facility with glee, singing and dancing as they do, is a wonderful kickstart to the episode, masterfully directed by Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night). I don't know about you, but I'm not going to forget the shot of Lenny's glowing eyes as she emerges from a crouched position next to a bed -- like BOB from Twin Peaks -- anytime soon.
Fortunately for Division III, there's a bit of a clue left behind, because Melanie -- in her drug-addled state -- managed to hear a thought from Oliver/the Shadow King. It's not clear if Oliver pushes this through to her in an effort to set her on the right path, if the Shadow King is searching her mind for what he wants, or if the drugs she's taking somehow allow her access to this thought, but at any rate she has it, and she wants to talk to Fukyama about it.
Remember the weird silent man with the scarf, beads, and red mark on his head who kept showing up with a sense of importance in the club scenes last week? Turns out his monk-like appearances is due to him being... well, a monk. Specifically, he's a monk of a specific order (forgive me, but the spelling does not appear in the credits) long since thought to have been wiped out, though when they existed they had a connection to the Shadow King. According to a rumor that both Fukyama and Melanie are aware of, when Amahl Farouk was defeated in psychic battle by David's father, splitting his mind from his body, the body was hidden away with the wiped-out monks. Therefore, if this monk is alive, there's a good chance he knows where Farouk's original body is. If he is still alive, there's a chance he'd be locked away with the infected clubgoers Division III are keeping in their basement, though the Shadow King is driven away from Division III before he can know for sure, and no one at Division III seems to have specifically noted finding a monk among the quarantined.
At this point, even as they're one step closer to understanding the direction of Farouk's search for his body, everyone at Division III is also growing more suspicious of David. Fukyama's android servants and mouthpieces -- Ptonomy tells us they're called "Vermillion" -- indicate a "63% chance" that David's lying, and while Melanie is sticking by him for the time being, David knows he needs to move fast if he's going to get answers before being outed as a turncoat, or before Division III just decides he's been invaded by Farouk yet again.
For this, David turns to Cary and his memory recovery tank, hoping the whole thing can be reconfigured to create a state of "multidimensional perception" (David doesn't know that term, but Cary does) in which he can reach out to future Syd yet again and get some clarity. That would be complicated enough, but it gets tougher when you take into account what Farouk did to Cary/Kerry. Normally, Cary is the host body with Kerry inside of him, but they've been turned "inside out," so Cary is trapped inside his sister's body (which is technically his own body because they're basically one organism, but you get the idea) and neither of them can figure out how to undo it. I have a soft spot for Cary/Kerry comedy even at its weakest, but create a moment in which Cary has to feed Kerry instructions while David is naked in a sensory deprivation tank and David can't hear what Cary's saying, and I'm instantly delighted.
Kerry eventually gets things working, and David does actually manage to visit the future, or at least a version of it. He sees the same future Syd he did before (who, though the darkness obscured it last week, is missing one of her arms), in what would seem to be some kind of underwater hideaway. This time Syd can speak to David, but she's still vague, and the words are somewhat distorted, as they're talking between two different points in time. David wants to know why it's so important that he help the Shadow King, particularly after Farouk accepted his help and then turned around and killed a bunch of guards.
"We need him when things turn," Syd says, and tells David that in her timeline he kills the Shadow King "about a week from now." The details are, once again, vague, but what it boils down to as David understands it is that, at some point in the future, a plague of some kind starts to wipe out people. It's not clear how or why it started, but Syd is convinced it wouldn't have happened if the Shadow King were alive.
"He killed a few," she says. "This thing kills everyone."
With that, and a sense that the two of them will be seeing each other again soon, David and Future Syd part ways, and it's here that I get just a little bit annoyed with Legion. I'm aware that this is a show often accused of being too clever for its own good, and that I often relish the whimsy when other viewers and critics get irritated with it. This time, though, I'm frustrated, because this scene doesn't feel like a partial clue thrown in with clever storytelling. It feels like things are being deliberately left mysterious by the writing, not the story, by which I mean I stop seeing characters and start seeing the strings they're suspended from.
David goes through the trouble of going back in the tank specifically because he wants clarity. He wants to know what's so desperate about Future Syd's situation that she would encourage him to help a man who was a parasite in his brain for years, and who just casually strolled into Division III and disintegrated several people with a wave of his hand. What he gets is basically "things are bad here and we think the Shadow King would make them less bad." Normally the show could wave away the lack of detail with the excuse of telepathy, but it's explicitly shown in this scene that David can't read Future Syd's mind, so all he can do is ask questions and get answers. So why doesn't he say, "What is this plague? What are the symptoms? Is it like the catalyst we're dealing with now? When and where does it start? Who does it affect first?" or, most obviously, "Why do you think this bad guy is the one who can somehow stop it if he's already dead when 'things turn'?"
And on the other side of the conversation, we have Syd, who's so desperate to get a message to David that she goes back in a time orb to play Pictionary with him, but in this moment can't elaborate beyond what she says in the scene. This is Legion we're talking about, so it's quite possible that future scenes will make me more comfortable with this one, but watching it I couldn't help but feel like I wasn't watching characters who had to be vague for the sake of a story. I felt like I was watching writers just choosing to be vague for the sake of a clever script. It removed me from things for a minute.
Anyway, back in the present, Clark once again prods at David over his apparent falsehoods and obfuscations. Clark knows that David asked Cary to reprogram the orb, you see, and he wants to know what David knows. When David doesn't tell him, Clark gets more suspicious, and David himself gets more anxious, so he does the only thing he thinks he can do in that moment: He telepathically reaches out to arrange another meeting with the Shadow King, and that's when we finally get a real sense of Amahl Farouk, the man behind all of these many masks throughout the show's run.
They meet on the same desert plane from the beginning of the episode, at a small fortune teller booth, and Farouk shows David his real face and voice for the first time. David, torn in two directions by Syd's instructions and Farouk's persistent malevolence, demands again that they proceed without any more violence. Farouk scoffs. Like the many versions of the ultimate mutant villain of Marvel Comics, Magneto, he's not really concerned about harming a few insignificant humans if it means getting what he wants, and he doesn't think David should be either.
"Come and sit with the big boys," he tells David, who still demands no one else get hurt. So, at last, David and Farouk have their own psychic battle, not through proxies but mind to mind. Rather than a dance, it takes the form of a Greco-Roman wrestling match, then evolves into a kind of arms race before shrinking back down into the two men sitting across from each other at the booth. It's not nearly as elaborate or as visually interesting as last week's amazing dance-off, but it gets across the idea that Farouk is toying with David, bemused at his strength and determination, but also clearly sizing him up to see how far he can really push him.
At last, Farouk agrees that his body is more important than harming humans, and again promises no more violence. He also promises that, if David makes good on his promise and finds his body, he will be in David's debt.
Back at Division III, after a brief conversation with Melanie -- who, still bitter over losing Oliver yet again, encourages him to simply leave this life behind and run away with Syd -- David finally decides that he has to be honest with at least one person. So he finds Syd on the roof and tells her about the orb, her future self, and her instructions to help Farouk. After she asks a few questions -- including a couple that David probably should have asked Future Syd when he had the chance, but didn't -- she simply says, "If I said that you should do it, then you should do it." Now that they're on the same page, they set out to find the Monk (Nathan Hurd). It turns out they shouldn't have to look far, because he is indeed among the infected club-goers stashed away in Division III... and his teeth aren't chattering.
Overall this was a solid episode, even though a couple of storytelling decisions really turned out to bug me. Amirpour's direction was wonderful and drove the creepy points home, and it was nice to see Farouk actually getting some screen time as he flaunts his power. The first thought I had as the credits rolled: "So, the plot seems really straightforward now. Too straightforward."
-Two moments in this episode directly referenced the childhood memories of supporting characters. Upon seeing the music box left by Farouk, Syd recalled a moment from her unhappy childhood. To draw Cary back out of her, Kerry began singing a song that triggered a happy memory in him. It's always interesting to see the way the show juxtaposes things like that.
-We got another narrated segment this week, this time about what happens when you've learned the wrong way your entire life. I'm not sure what these are building to, but I hope we find out more soon, because even two episodes in they feel like they're slowing things down just a touch.
-Cary and Kerry are separated again, but with one very real consequence. As Kerry said last season, she doesn't age unless she's outside of Cary, which explains why they appear so physically divergent in age even though they were born as one. After existing with Cary inside her for the first time, which caused her considerable physical strain, she's sprouted Rogue-like white streaks in her hair. It feels like we're not done with the fallout from this yet.
-Did Cary say the orb wasn't Shi'ar? Did he really just invoke the Shi'ar Empire on this weird little show? I think that's almost definitely what I heard.
- The show is continuing to build in little bits of mutant mythology that existed before David's awareness of what he is. This week we got the monks and someone apparently called "Miser Sunday."
-"Cary said it might be too dangerous and that you could explode."
-David: "Am I dead?"
Future Syd: "It's complicated."
David: "Good complicated?"
-I'm loving Navid Negahban's delightfully menacing Farouk so far, particularly the fact that he seamlessly transitions between at least two and sometimes three (he seems fond of France) languages within the same conversation. It establishes him as a worldly and ancient man, but also continues the idea that, even with his "real" face on display, his true identity is difficult to penetrate.
And that's it for this week! Join us next Tuesday for "Chapter 11" of Legion.