Legion 1.2 Review – ‘Chapter 2’
“Chapter 2” takes us further into David’s inner monologue, which so far is more like a collage than a series of straight lines. With the help of Ptonomy’s skill as a “memory architect,” more information about David’s past is hinted at, if not revealed. We see David and Lenny trade a stove for some wild times, and learn that basics of telekinesis. Expect spoilers for Legion, “Chapter 2” to follow.
“Road to Nowhere” seems an appropriate musical backdrop as we see Syd and David flee from pursuers. We meet “The Eye” this week, in the form of a disturbing and serious looking dude who doesn’t seem to have good intentions for anyone.
What do we know? David is a powerful telepath. Comic readers know a bit more than that. David has a plethora of powers, and his inability to control them is part of what’s making him sick. For most of his life, David has been treated as if he’s a “normal, average” kid who is mentally ill within normal parameters. David isn’t schizophrenic, or bi-polar, or any other everyday diagnosis that can be treated with talk therapy and meds. His visions are real, not imagine. Still, talk therapy and “memory work” are vital components of what being at Summerland. We also know that Division 3 is after David and Syd (and probably everyone at Summerland) for nefarious purposes. As was hinted at last week, Div 3 checks in on all powerful mutants. If they can control them, they will. If not, they kill them. Dang.
The casting of Dan Stevens as David Haller gives us some clues about what’s to come. While he’s not an unattractive guy, he certainly isn’t the sort of “TV pretty” that is usually cast as a leading man. He’s both ordinary looking and a little off-putting. That’s in keeping with what comic readers already know about Legion, that he’s neither a good guy nor a completely bad one—though his capacity for destruction is well established. Despite having a simple and conservative appearance, they do a good job of making David look disheveled, or dangerous, or vulnerable, or confused. That’s due to a combination of Stevens’s subtle performance, and a costumer who revels in subtlety.
David hears voices, which is why he got a diagnosis of schizophrenia in the first place. But David was diagnosed by regular doctors based on the same DSM they’d been using for decades. Like “regular” crazy people, the voices are yelling insults at David: Stupid, Worthless, Ugly, Bad. Melanie is teaching him to filter out the bad voices and concentrate on the most important one. But which is that? And what’s this “war” Melanie is so keen on winning?
Later, we see a childhood David being repeatedly read a book called “The Angriest Boy in the World.” It looks suspiciously like it’s by Edward Gorey, but I’m not recalling that any such book exists. It seems more…gleefully murderous than an average bedtime story. David remembers his father often in Chapter 2, and we’re reminded that his whole family was a source of happiness for him as a kid. But we know something about David’s father that he doesn’t seem to know—his true identity. We learn about Ptonomy’s father this week too, and how his weaknesses inspired Ptonomy to develop his own gifts.
Once memory work begins, things get even crazier. The work itself is difficult and demanding. David remembers trauma, death, horror. As David reacts (badly) to this, we see that Ptonomy’s only power isn’t his memory recreations. He touches David’s forehead, and puts him instantly to sleep. Why don’t I have friends who can instantly cure insomnia? In another memory scene, we visit David as he and Lenny (apparently, they were drug buddies before they ended up at Clockworks together) steal major appliances and trade them for a drug called “The Vapor.” It seems like a hallucinogen that is consumed like dabs and is a fun shade of blue that would make Walter White smile. It’s hinted that this vapor triggered something in David. Maybe the Devil with Yellow Eyes, maybe something else entirely.
Syd and David discuss more fully what happened when they changed places. Syd believes it was she who caused Lenny’s death. Lenny confirmed this at the time, saying something like, ‘you don’t give a newbie a bazooka and be surprised when she blows shit up.’ These two are having what they call an “affair of the mind,” which is cute. But it also brings home the point that humans need touching. That’s why little kids put their hands all over everything they see. It’s why humans hug. Syd’s description of how it feels to be around people is evocative and disturbing. That must be awful for her—especially living in a world where people aren’t always respectful of women’s body autonomy.
During a flashback therapy session, David discusses a breakup with the girl from last week. That crazy kitchen meltdown where sharps were flying all around and David looked horrified. As David tells this story, his costume includes a black and white striped shirt—a clear message that David is a prisoner of his own mind. Maybe this is an overused metaphor for mental illness. But it’s definitely apt in Haller’s case. Later, we see David in a shirt depicting a square peg fitting in a round hole. Another overused but apt comparison. There’s also a weird glitch that we saw but didn’t understand…until Ptonomy notices and ferrets out what it might mean. You can’t take your eyes off this show for a second.
Amy is an interesting component of this story. She’s not really a part of her brother’s day-to-day life, but they clearly care about each other. We see her in a flashback asking about David’s then-(ex)-girlfriend. It’s almost tragic that she doesn’t understand that crazy people, even when they’re not mutants, don’t usually get the nice home and happy suburban family that regular people get. She doesn’t get it, because she’s not crazy. Crazy isn’t curable, and David Haller is even more crazy than regular crazy people. Still, Amy does her best to be a good sister. That’s why it’s so disturbing when David sees her having a similar experience to one he had when looking for Syd.
Clockworks tells Amy that David Haller was never a patient there—despite her visiting him repeatedly, talking to Dr. Kissinger, etc. We see in the background, that construction crews are fixing earlier damage. When Amy persists, the nurse calmly suggests that they admit her for observation—which is a terrifying threat to make to a non-crazy person. We recall that when Syd went into David’s memory last week, the memory was him calling Clockworks and being told that Syd had never been there. But it’s even worse than that. She is taken by Division 3 and this creeper called The Eye. When we leave Amy, The Eye seems to be preparing her for some sort of enhanced interrogation—AKA torture. Let’s hope not. She probably doesn’t know anything.
During a spectacular scene where David sees Amy’s events, seemingly in real-time, Haller is able to throw off an entire MRI machine. He wakes from his episode in an empty room, with neither Cary nor Kerry nearby. Melanie seems downright delighted to see this power. Telekinesis is a kickass power, as anyone who has seen Carrie can tell you.
Does Melanie want David to help win the war of humans versus mutants? We’re already hearing that kind of talk even though this story seems early on in the X-Men mythos. And what of this Devil with Yellow Eyes? He’s an ugly mofo, and doesn’t seem like he could possibly be a good guy.
When David finds out that Div 3 has Amy, his only instinct is to go after her. Makes sense. But Syd makes more sense. “Do the work,” she tells him—which is a common refrain among those in mental health treatment. She’s right when she says that they’ll have a better chance of helping Amy if they’re more in control of their powers. And besides, they’re clearly using her as bait. It would have worked too, if it weren’t for that meddling Syd.
So far, Legion has been a feast for the eyes, and the ears. The array of sounds and voices provides an off-putting aural baseline for a story determined to keep us off-center. I love how the sound serves as an emotional guide for the story, while also giving us subtle bits of information. Watching with the subtitles on helps. Chapter 2 was more informative than last week, but with fewer action scenes. The drama is already amped as we’re developing opinions on who we like and don’t like. I was bummed that Lenny died so soon, so it’s nice to know that we’ll keep seeing her.