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Legion Gives Us Its Perception of Straightforward Superhero Television

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first_img Don’t Hold Your Breath For Noah Hawley’s ‘Doctor Doom&…How ‘Legion’ Uses Superpowers to Explore Mental Illness Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. There really is nothing like Legion. After last week’s mind trip of a premiere, this was its week to let us in on what story the second season will tell. It did so in a surprisingly upfront, accessible way. Which, on this show, involves a trip to the future, two characters turning inside out, and a fantasy wrestling match.We start off on a merry-go-round in a void. David is talking to Oliver and Lenny/Farouk, asking if Lenny was ever real. Normally, I’d call such an opening confusing, but that’s just what this show is. In fact, compared to some of the other cold opens this series has thrown us, this one is shockingly coherent. We know that David is helping Farouk find his body at the behest of future-Sydney, who presumably sent that orb at the end of season one. Whether that was really her or another Shadow King trick, that’s what he’s doing. This merry-go-round is a mental space where the three can communicate. Interestingly, the show drops a hint that it might have really been Syd in that ball. As Cary’s inspecting it, he gets the feeling that it’s something he made. Interesting.Dan Stevens as David Haller. (CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX)In the physical world, David, Syd and Ptonomy are tracking down a strange appearance in a field. Right at the end of David’s conversation, The Shadow King showed David a vision of this place. With Oliver talking to another appearance of himself at a fortune teller stand. When the team investigates it, Syd finds a music box from her childhood. One that plays “Swinging on a Star.” David quickly discerns that it’s a trap. Oliver and Lenny are attacking Division 3. Their goal is unclear, but the rampage is terrifying. Particularly when Lenny pulls Cary through the floor. He holds up a spoon to protect himself, and she flicks it, sending vibrations through him. That causes Kerry to freeze in place while she’s gearing up to fight Oliver. By the time David, Syd and Ptonomy get there, Lenny and Oliver are gone. Even worse, Kerry can’t go inside Cary anymore. It’s the other way around now, which leads to an arm sticking out of Kerry’s stomach. And she’s clearly uncomfortable being on the outside of their partnership.The hive-headed director starts to suspect that David is working with the Shadow King. After all, he’s the one that led the division’s defenses away while the Shadow King attacked. There is truth to that, and though both Melanie and Syd come to David’s defense, the guilt starts to get to him. He needs to know why he’s helping his former enemy/parasite. As the second episode of the season, it had to establish the overarching plot the season will follow. Trippy mental powers and experimental art films are great, but Legion has to move its story forward at some point. He convinces Kerry, with the help of Cary, to calibrate his sensory deprivation machine to allow David to project himself into the future. He says it’s to see where Farouk will go next, but it’s actually to talk to future Syd.Dan Stevens as David Haller (Photo via FX)David needs to know why he let those Division 3 soldiers die. He needs to know why it’s so important that he suddenly helps the parasite who tormented him all his life. It turns out in Future Syd’s timeline, David killed Farouk for good. Then, a deadly plague arrived. One they needed Farouk to deal with. Without the Shadow King around, lots of people died. Division 3 was destroyed. So now David knows exactly why he’s helping The Shadow King. He also knows that something happens to him. Syd implies that he isn’t exactly dead in the future, but he’s somehow different. Not himself anymore. She remarks that our David is sweet, “like [he] used to be.” That’s the saddest, most worrying line of the show so far. That little admission will certainly inject some suspense into the rest of the season as the other mysteries get solved.Even with the body swapping and time travel, this episode was surprisingly straightforward. After wonderfully chaotic spectacle that was last week’s premiere, it was this episode’s job to explain, at least in part, what we’re going to be doing this season. So in addition to David’s expository session with future Syd, he meets up with Farouk in the field from the beginning. Knowing exactly what’s at stake, he agrees to help find Farouk’s body. And this is the first prolonged scene we get with Farouk in his true form. And Navid Negahban does an amazing job. He plays the casual sadist very well, and the way he smoothly switches between languages makes the scene even more disorienting. You almost want to agree with him when he talks about him and David becoming more powerful than gods. Or as he puts it, “bigger than Jesus.”Dan Stevens as David Haller, Navid Negahban as Amahl Farouk (Photo via FX)David tries to convince him not to kill any more people, and a mental battle begins. It takes place inside a wrestling ring in their heads, but it soon becomes much more than that. As the Shadow King turns into a samurai, David turns himself into a tank. This war of escalation is brought to an abrupt end, when Farouk pulls them both out with a snap. Yes, the show’s most easily-understandable episode involves a person transforming into a tank.Interestingly, we learn that Lenny was a whole other person before she became a puppet of the Shadow King. She desperately wants some kind of life back when the Shadow King has his body again. It’s genuinely sad to see him wear her down and destroy the hope that she’d be free one day. He asks what she would do if she had a body back. She says she’d live. And then? She’d die. And then? She doesn’t have an answer. And with that, the conversation ends. David may have to help this guy out for the sake of humanity, but that doesn’t mean we like him.Aubrey Plaza as Lenny, Navid Negahban as Amahl Farouk (Photo via FX)David finally tells present Syd what’s really going on, and though she agrees to help, she’s not happy that he lied to her. You can tell she feels betrayed, even though he was only doing it because a future version of herself told him too. The Shadow King taunted her with a music box from her childhood, and it’s David’s fault he was able to do that. For now though, she has to put those feelings aside. They have a week to find Farouk his body. To find that, they have to talk to a monk from an order called Mi-Go. The last shot of the episode is of that monk standing among a group of people, all chattering their teeth. Legion sure picked a creepy plague to build their second season around.Legion manages to be completely unlike anything else on TV even when it has an almost entirely expository episode. Its surrealist nature allows it to find visually engrossing ways to deliver the information it needs to start telling its story. And even when the episode lays everything out for you like this, there’s still a lingering sense of doubt in the back of your mind. Yes, Cary remarks that he feels like he made the sphere, and that would imply that future-Syd is on the up and up.Rachel Keller as Sydney Barrett and Dan Stevens as David Haller (Photo via FX)But this season is still all about delusion. Future-Syd makes a callback to the concept of an idea starting as an egg when she describes the plague. Remember that that vignette was about delusions. And this week’s Jon Hamm-narrated interlude was about how humans live in our minds, and are therefore able to go mad. We don’t engage directly with reality, only what we think reality is. If a child is taught his whole life that red is green and green is red, that’s his reality. Which soon violently collides with the rest of the world’s reality when that boy steps out into the street. Humans live in our minds, so we can go mad. We can delude ourselves. That’s how the show is going to keep us guessing until the end. We can still see that delusion slime trail in David’s room. Maybe we’ll find out more about what’s real and what isn’t next week. But I kind of doubt it.center_img Stay on targetlast_img read more