Welcome back to madness.
Hey there, everyone. It’s been awhile and a lot has happened since Legion premiered. Noah Hawley’s profile has continued to grow, and all the best to him, and the X-Men franchise, among many other Fox properties, itself finds itself in an odd situation as a result of Walt Disney’s proposed acquisition of most of Fox’s assets.
Now, it’s only April of 2018 and I won’t pretend to know the ins and outs of company mergers, acquisitions, and antitrust laws. What I will say is that right now, Legion is still here to stay. Whatever happens down the line, I can’t predict, nor do I care to because my brain is already rattled trying to dig into this very show.
And it’s been a long time coming for this premiere. Hell, a few days before this, I just picked up the first season on Blu-Ray. Legion impressed me from the start and I maintain that it’s the best comic adaptation on television, whether Marvel, DC, Image, or otherwise. All thanks to the mind of Noah Hawley.
But I’ve talked enough. Let’s jump back into Legion.
The season begins on a bright, sunny day at the pool as Lenny and Oliver get some serious sun. Lenny asks if today is Tuesday, but Oliver doesn’t want to have conversations about time. Instead, he notices that his drink is empty, but it gets replaced by…somebody that we don’t see. Lenny laughs, telling Oliver that they’re trapped.
We then cut to a series of rapid sequences- and a brief glimpse of the Shadow King himself- one of which includes Oliver in a pretty happening club.
We then hear a voiceover describing a corridor and desert full of twists and dead ends. Picture it: a puzzle, you walk. At the end of the maze is a prize waiting to be discovered. You just have to find it. Can you see the maze with all its twists and turns? The maze is, in fact, the maze. There’s no desert, just the idea of it. But this idea will dominate your every waking moment. You’re now inside the maze and cannot escape.
Welcome to madness.
We then catch up with Ptonomy and Clark, who have managed to locate David. Mr. Haller, though, just sits, bathed in a blue light, and talks about helping ‘them.’
Following this, the two enter another location, but find it filled with people standing completely still, save for their chattering teeth.
Elsewhere, while Cary tries to break David out of a chamber, Syd- wearing only one glove- cradles her cat, as she presumably swaps spots with it because she starts licking herself. People lick themselves. Kerry then enters and tells Syd…er, tells the cat, that David has been found. As for why Syd’s doing this…well, she’s practicing.
Enter Part Two: The Madness of Crowds.
An incapacitated David is examined by Clark and another doctor, with Cary believing that David’s mind is locked in the astral plane. Watching the doctors are several folks, including Clark and Ptonomy and the master, who, through one of his colleagues, believes that if there’s any risk David is infected, he should be terminated.
However, Clark is confident that David’s mind is strong enough to resist anything. Clark removes his mask, which brings in tons of soldiers who train their guns on Clark.
Still, he tries to get through to David. Kerry comes out and is ready to fight the soldiers, so they stand down.
David finally awakens and…asks for waffles. Well, at least David has his priorities in line.
So he indeed gets to dine as he talks with Ptonomy, who explains what happened to Summerland. Turns out that they’re actually at Division Three Headquarters. David notes that one of the people watching him, Admiral Fukuyama, had a basket on his head. Summerland, turns out, works for Division Three. Ptonomy explains that after the Lazarus Affair, the divisions were created to study the new mutant threat.
Division One is Global Command. Two is science, genetics, technology. Three is the tip of the spear, and it does the day to day, boots on the ground engagement. Cary in particular works on research, while Kerry is tactical. Of course. Naturally. Syd and Melanie convinced Division Three that the mutants aren’t a threat and just want to live in peace. So the two joined forces to fight the real enemy: the Shadow King.
And the Shadow King has been the main priority since he left. As for what David last remembers, he knows that Farouk escaped in Oliver’s body. He sensed Oliver heading south, then there was an orb that zapped him with a ray. So yes, David has no memory of what happened after Summerland, except for trees and being on a roof downtown. Oh, and dancing. Ptonomy then cuts the conversation short when he spots Syd.
Syd asks David if he’s the magic man and the two finally get to talk, with her noting that he looks the same. In their mind, though, he tells her that he was taken. Everyone thought he was dead for about a year. 362 days, to be exact. Syd found a gray hair in the meantime, and she likes cherry pie now. Syd then remembers the games she played with herself.
If she could hold her breath until the kettle whistled, then David was alive. And she did this for months. She finally exhaled. In November.
David asks Syd if he can kiss her, and he damn well better. And they re-enter their safe white and blue room to touch, kiss, and have sex in just about any position and on any surface possible. Good times.
As we flash back to Oliver driving away from Summerland with Lenny in the passenger seat, we overhear Syd saying that the Shadow King is still inside Oliver. There have been sightings around the world and the Shadow King is looking for…something. Division Three came close to finding him a few times, and we cut back to Ptonomy finding him in a bar, but then everyone became distracted by The Catalyst.
The Catalyst might have been a biological agent, as normal people would just freeze except for the creepy thing they do with their teeth. Every time it happened, Oliver was there when Division Three later arrived. It’s not a physical virus, though, as Cary thinks that it’s psychological.
As Syd makes her way around Division Three, Melanie calls out to her from her room to discuss David’s return to the living. The world won’t save itself, Melanie says. Admiral Fukuyama wants to know if Melanie is ready to get back to work, but Melanie isn’t interested in being controlled or distracted from things that matter. Melanie knows that it’s never the fault of Summerland or the mutants. Destiny calls.
What kind of bitches would they be to stand in the way of progress? Her words, not mine. As Syd pours tea, Melanie brings up the saddest words in the English language: vacant lot. Syd tells Melanie that David will find Oliver and bring him home now that Cary has finished the tank. Though Melanie knows that after they come back, things are never the same.
Following this, Melanie inhales some more smoke and tokes up as she enters a pleasure cruise. While some sort of creature hybrid with…what I’m guessing is a horse head, makes its way across her floor.
Chapter Three: Delusions. The narrator talks of Zhuangzi, who fell asleep and dreamt he was a butterfly. He flew along until he no longer remembered who he was, but when he awoke, he couldn’t remember if he was who he was, or a butterfly dreaming who he was. A delusion starts, like any other idea, as an egg. Perfectly formed on the outside. From the shell, you’d never know anything was wrong. It’s what’s inside that matters.
As such an egg hatches, we see that Albert A. had an idea. He stumbled and realized that his right leg all of a sudden didn’t belong to him. The leg was clearly Albert’s, and when he pricked it, he felt pain. Despite that, the idea grew…so one day on the bus, he grabbed a passenger’s pencil and stabbed himself. Such is the power of an idea. With every day that passed, Albert felt this wasn’t his leg, so he decided that he didn’t want it.
So he went to the hardware store to get a saw, and then he later cut it off. We have ideas, and most die before they can grow. Lenny knows this, as she crushes some ideas. For a delusion to thrive, rational ideas must be rejected and destroyed. Only then can the delusion blossom into full blown psychosis.
Back at the food court, Clark joins David, who tells him that he has no idea what Amahl Farouk looks like. Clark knows of some sketches and rumors, but he came to be in the early 1800s in Morocco. He began as a mutation. Clark tells David that, after some breathing room, they need to have an official conversation. David being gone a year was only a few hours, so Clark wants to examine David to see what his cells say.
David asks if Clark thinks if he’s lying, but Clark shifts subjects and mentions that his mother loved soap operas. They had a drinking game every time someone had an evil twin or amnesia, and they would eat ice cream. David maintains that he’s not lying, but then Clark has some ice cream delivered. David reminds Clark that he can read his mind.
As Clark leaves his ice cream, noting that he used to be called husky because of how fat he was, he tells David to meet Admiral Fukuyama, and he indeed does, along with his followers who communicate for him. David tries to read their minds, but the subjects tell him that their minds can’t be read. When they were a boy, they had the machine put into their head. Now they are this, the machine that bleeds- the organizing principle.
David is confident that he’ll find the Shadow King, as he can still sense him, so he thinks that the Shadow King is hiding. He wants his signal boosted, so Cary has created a device to help with his memories.
When the Shadow King is found, he will be terminated, even though he’s in the body of Oliver Bird. David won’t have the hostage killed, but the body of Amahl Farouk must also be destroyed. His physical body still exists after his defeat by David’s father. Farouk’s mind is strong, but the mutation is genetic, meaning other genes- physical, not mental.
On his own, Shadow King’s mind is powerful, but if body and mind were rejoined, he would be unstoppable. The location is unknown at this time, but everyone is looking, as is is the Shadow King. So it’s a race.
Later, Cary asks David how he feels about small spaces and pitch black. To boost his psychic abilities, he’s created an amplification chamber. The floor is 80 percent glucose, 15 percent bicarbonate and five percent strawberry extract. Yet David can’t swallow any. While David is in the tank, Cary will bring up specific frequencies so they can communicate. For the connectivity to be at maximum work, David must get naked.
Kerry comes out because she presumably wanted a glimpse. But Cary won’t have that because Kerry apparently makes people uncomfortable. Go figure.
When David is submerged, Cary seals the chamber and informs David that he’s used this before…in a theoretical sense. Not helping, Cary. Before Syd leaves, she asks Cary to ping her if he finds something.
She boards an elevator with Ptonomy, who asks if she believes David. He saw his memories and saw David in the club while Oliver was there, and they were dancing. Ptonomy thinks that it’s possible that the Shadow King still has a hold of David, but Syd denies that. He again asks if Syd trusts him, and Syd does. After all, David’s her man.
As David continues to soak in the chamber, Cary applies different frequencies, causing David to have glimpses of when he was in the orb that trapped him. As David’s mind wanders due to the frequencies, his mind goes all around Division Three and even flashes to some kids playing Duck, Duck, Goose…also, that creature from when Melanie got high is in the background…
When Cary pulls the frequencies, voices ask David what happened to him and what he remembered. We then flash back to David joining Oliver and Lenny at the night club and suddenly, it’s time for David to bust a move.
In fact, all three bust a move with their respective dance crews. You heard that right.
Even Cary decides to join in as he’s still monitoring David. As the power intensifies, it all stops.
As Syd waits, she then spots a naked, soaked David, who now needs to lay down.
When he’s later dried up, Syd asks if he had any luck finding Farouk, but David says that he couldn’t see him. Syd asks what it’s like in there and wants to know what he saw, though David downplays it, saying it was just a lot of noise. Syd realizes that David is keeping secrets. David, though, feels that he’s the same, and perhaps Syd has changed. It’s a lot to process, though Syd says that this is the second time that he left.
There was the time he rescued Amy, when he promised that he wouldn’t leave. But David wasn’t in control. However, Syd wonders how long until David leaves again. Then David asks Syd to close her eyes, and when she opens them, he reveals a compass- he had Cary make it when he was in the tank. But it’s no ordinary compass. As David moves, the compass needle follows him. If they get lost, they get lost together.
So Syd makes David promise that there are no more secrets between them. As a parasite approaches them in their white room, in real time, David awakens. He’s again asked what the last thing is that he remembers before the club.
We flash back to David ending up inside the orb, but soon everything goes black. From the darkness, Syd approaches. David asks where she is, but there’s no sound allowed here. Instead, Syd draws an hourglass, indicating that time is running out. And David is in the present. He thinks Syd is drawing an arrow of time, saying that Syd is in the future and he’s in the present.
She draws another crown, meaning king- Shadow King, and he’s trying to find his body. As for what Syd draws next? ‘Help Him’ David wants to know why he’d help Farouk find his body, but then realizes that it was Syd who sent the orb. David pleads for Syd to talk to him, but she just draws a heart instead. With that, Syd departs.
Back in the present, David walks through his memory at the night club of the mind. He spots the same mysterious figure making his way through the crowd until he finds Oliver and Lenny there to greet him. Soon, it’s just him and Lenny as they close in for a kiss…
Back in reality, as David watches Syd sleep, the episode comes to a close.
Okay, first of all. Legion. What is this show? What even is this show? It’s a trippy mind-fuck for one, and for two, Noah Hawley wastes no time in getting the audience both reacquainted with this world, but also expanding it. This is not a premiere that one can jump into without knowledge of the previous season. And coupled with how off the wall Legion can be, it has not lost its luster in the slightest.
Hawley has opened up his tiny world of the mutant universe by giving us more of Division Three, which looks more intricate and trippy than I expected, and uniting them with their mutant enemies in their common goal of capturing the Shadow King. Or, in the case of the admiral, exterminating it.
That’s another thing to bring up. There are a lot of new faces- and baskets- locations, and concepts introduced here that the show doesn’t take the time to stop and explain. And for Legion, I feel that’s how it should be. It introduces a concept and will elaborate as the season continues. Coupled with the jump in time, there’s a lot more to grasp here compared to life at Summerland.
I love how the mutants seem to have settled into their respective roles with Division Three, while also still acknowledging that they, like any other mutant, just want to live their lives and be left alone. The mutant problem is still very prevalent here, especially with the Shadow King looking to reunite with his physical form. So this is indeed, as David put it, a race against time.
A very lethal race with the Shadow King leaving people in this psychological state everywhere he goes. Though if this is what Farouk is capable with the likes of Oliver and Lenny, the ramifications if/when he’s made whole again could be even larger in scale.
There’s a lot to digest in this premiere beyond the Shadow King. What’s with Admiral Fukuyama’s basket? Why is food delivered on tiny boats at Division Three? How long has Syd been swapping spots with her cat? And what in the holy hell is that creature that was in Melanie’s room that we later saw during the game of Duck, Duck, Goose?
This is, as Jon Hamm tells us over narration, madness. Or rather, a return to the madness that is Legion. From its ideals to scenarios presented to illustrate its point, Legion never feels preachy or overdone when using imagery to explain a point. This is something that Hawley also did with the third season of Fargo with The Planet Wyh scenario and that kind of storytelling is just as strong here.
Oh, and side-note, David needing something that could boost his power and help with his memory instantly reminded me of Cerebro. That can’t just be a coincidence.
I’m all over the place here, so that’s where I’m transitioning to the look. Legion had a very sleek look in its first season and that continues here. From the color hues to the wardrobe to the strong cinematography, coupled with some superb direction from Tim Mielants, this is a gorgeous looking show and a very pretty premiere. Legion is more than an adaptation of comic book material- it’s pure art.
Not to mention the dazzling dance sequence that is a great display of choreography and visual flair that makes Legion feel like Noah Hawley’s canvas. And we, the spectators, are left to try and make sense of what we’re viewing.
Trying to dissect this show is like navigating a maze, but with this show, is there even a maze? It continues the thread from last season of just what is real. What’s an idea and what is just a delusion? More than that, what is the dominant factor. For the delusion to thrive, you have to throw rationality out the window. That’s what Lenny wants. And it could be what David wants.
After all, as Syd notes, it’s very obvious that he’s keeping secrets. From how much time has passed from his perspective, there’s a lot that he isn’t telling. And Ptonomy had a point when he hinted to Syd that a part of the Shadow King might still be inside of David. I buy that. After that lock Lenny had on David for most of last season, it’s impossible to think that not even a shred of her isn’t still there.
Sure, there’s potential in possessing Oliver, but David is an equally powerful mutant in his own right. You can’t just let that prize get away. And you certainly can’t let it think for itself, similar to the voiceover at Division Three that looked down on independent thought.
By the way, I’m interested to get more into Melanie’s head just to figure out where she’s at between last season and now. She’s smoking up similar to how David and Lenny did with the frog last season and appears distraught over Oliver. After all, she’d been separated from him for so long, and when she finally reunited with him, he’s taken hostage by the Shadow King.
She’s not broken, mind you, but definitely in a different state of mind compared to the collected leader from Season One.
Syd was always proactive and that’s no exception here. She’s still in love with David, and clearly been waiting a long time for them to revisit the white room so they can do the horizontal polka. But more than that, she knows him. She’s been in his body and knows how he operates. So she can tell when he’s hiding from her and I guarantee that she won’t let up just because David gave her a compass.
Though Future Syd is a different story, and this was something I didn’t expect at all. So Syd from the future is the one who sent the orb and wants David to help Farouk reunite with his physical body before it’s too late. But why? That seems to be what Division Three and the mutants want to prevent, so David will be forced to pick a side. Which way will he go? That remains to be seen.
Legion returns in excellent form as Noah Hawley brings us back to the mutant world while expanding and painting a much larger canvas with his creative brush. The stakes are bigger, the world is as vibrant and weird as ever, and it’s a race against time to stop Amahl Farouk from finding his body. Legion is back and I’m all in for this crazy ride.