And so the virus spreads.
The episode begins with Jon Hamm asking not about the Placebo effect, but the Nocebo effect, in which the body has a negative physical reaction to harm. The mind can create its own physical reality. And we see a doctor hand a patient a drink that, according to her, will make him vomit. Indeed it does.
Why do we yawn when we see others yawn? There have been incidents like the dancing plague of 1518 or the Hindu Milk Miracle. Some believe there a response to stress. Psychologists call it a conversion disorder- the body converts a mental stress to a set of physical symptoms, like a tic or spasm. Like any disorder, it can be contagious. This collective behavior isn’t limited to human beings.
We know that in certain communities under specific circumstances, an involuntary symptom can become viral and spread from person to person. We see such a spasm pass from person to person play out on screen among some cheerleaders. Soon enough, the entire community is infected. If the idea of illness can become illness, what else about reality is actually a disorder?
Part Five: Contagion. We flash back to Amahl Farouk enjoying two ladies as he battles Charles Xavier. When he’s eventually defeated, his body is stowed away and transported to a monastery. The monks receive the casket and the body is stowed deep within the floor. The monks soon seal the opening, locking away Farouk’s body for good. Or so we hope.
Life goes back to normal for the monks until they hear a noise rumbling from the ground where Farouk’s body is stored.
Over at Division Three, as Ptonomy rests, he’s blissfully unaware of the delusion that soon crawls into his ear. When he awakens, he continues his day as normal, though he does start hearing voices…
Cary and Kerry, meanwhile, remain separated. At the cafeteria, Cary introduces Kerry to shaomai- a traditional Chinese dumpling. She’s not wowed by this, but Cary remind her that she needs to be independent. There’s more to life than fighting. She’s not a fan of the shaomai, so in response, she knocks back an entire bottle of cream soda. She soon…um, evacuates, as she’s new to that. Go figure.
Syd, meanwhile, asks David what the monk looks like, but it was dark in the club and he never got that close. She then asks what her future self was like. And if she was prettier. She also reveals to David that when she enters the cat, she has to resist certain impulses.
As the cat navigates the halls of Division Three, Clark discovers a bloody hand print on one of the walls. He and Melanie later enter the room of infected individuals, where they find an unattached IV bag. One victim is missing and then Clark spots an open vent. Instantly, Division Three is put on lockdown.
Syd asks David why he can’t just find the monk with his mind, but he’s unable to right now. Either he’s not at Division Three or, as Fukuyama said, the monks are able to control their thoughts, And Farouk still owes David some answers. He’s not sure what happened, but he saw a flash of her in the future, writing a message.
David goes back into the chamber and, once it’s activated, finds himself poolside, where a frantic Lenny is drawing on the ground with some chalk. It doesn’t work, but she’s gotta try something. After all, she’s Lenny. She asks David if she’s got any pills, smoke, anything good, and wants to know how come they never talk. Finally, she asks David to help her, saying that she’s dying out here and feels like a pet.
She’s pulled out all of her hair before, but it all came back. Perhaps that was a dream. She asks David to talk with Farouk, and he’s more focused on that anyway. Lenny just wants to be put out of her misery.
Farouk does finally appear. David brings up the hand print and mentions that the monk is indeed at Division Three. The Migo Order monks are impenetrable unless you know the secret. As Farouk hands David a drink, David wonders what Farouk will do with his body. Turns out Farouk will visit the South of France- women, money, and power. No supervillain, destroy the world bullshit.
Then Farouk asks if David knows what the word ‘villain’ means. It means, originally, one who comes from a village. A peasant. Language is important. And Farouk was just a man who ruled over his country. But then David’s father, a White man, came along. He didn’t speak Farouk’s language or know his customs, yet he decided that Farouk’s people should have better. That he knows better. Who is he to make such a choice?
David doesn’t feel bad for Farouk, as he fed off of David when he was a baby. And they sure as hell aren’t brothers. Amahl has his own anger. He’s a refugee as well. He was driven from exile and is now a prisoner in another man’s body.
David points out that no one forced Farouk into David’s head or Oliver’s body, saying that he made a choice, but that choice came down to life and death. And Farouk chose life. David will call Farouk when he has the monk somewhere safe. Once David is taken to the body, that’s it. After that, no one ever hears Farouk’s name again.
Farouk notes how David is doing this for Future Syd, a future that he’s trying to change. And when David does, Future Syd will cease to exist. So in reality, David is helping her to commit suicide. Oh, and David should be careful of the monk, as he’s contagious. The people think that Farouk is infecting people, but it’s really the monk. He’s like Typhoid Mary. Where the monk goes, Farouk follows.
So everyone believes that Farouk is the virus. They don’t seem so smart after all.
Oh, and if you’ve noticed, Lenny commits suicide several times, but she’s still trapped. Tragic.
David emerges from the water and calls for Cary to let him out, but he gets no response. When he finally gets himself out, all is quiet in Division Three. He explores the darkened halls and soon finds that the inhabitants are infected. When he tries to turn on the power, the hallways are bathed in a red light. David then happens upon, of all things, a cow, which soon vanishes.
He heads to the diner and ends up getting sprayed with household cleaner by Cary. He heard alarms and Kerry’s gone off, but he remained. David telepathically calls out to Melanie, Syd, and Clark, but gets no response. Cary tells David that the children have followed the monk. They’re immune to the disease, yes, but they followed the monk’s tune. Also, David makes sure to tell Cary to keep his eyes out for a cow.
The two enter a room and find Ptonomy sprawled out on the floor with his teeth also chattering. David realizes that Ptonomy is in the maze. The two join hands as David places his hand on Ptonomy’s forehead.
Instantly, David and Cary wind up in an actual maze that is Ptonomy’s mind. They happen upon Ptonomy, who is in the middle of trimming flowers. He doesn’t recognize either of them. David tells Ptonomy that he’s here to rescue him after the monk infected him, but all Ptonomy can say is ‘Hello.’
David wonders if everyone goes to a floral astral plane when they’re infected. He can’t sense anyone else, so Cary realizes that this is just Ptnonomy’s maze. The contagion locks people into their own mental maze. This isn’t gardening. He forgets what he’s doing after he sets down every flower. It’s a core desire. Ptonomy is a memory machine, after all, so what would Ptonomy wish for if he had the chance? To forget.
He doesn’t have a future. All that’s real to him is the moment. Ideally, he could be left like this, but that’s not the best solution, obviously. David then taps his finger on Ptonomy’s temple. This creates explosions throughout and Ptonomy soon awakens, back to normal. Though he’s unable to remember what happened. David informs Ptonomy that the monk got loose and everyone is infected.
While the monk continues to lead the children, the three happen upon the cow, though David wants to find Syd. After another glimpse of Future Syd spelling out a message, David continues onward with Ptonomy and Cary. Soon enough, they find Melanie.
They bring her to Cary’s lab and David leads the three into her mind. They end up in a dark void, only lit by Ptonomy’s lighter. David soon finds and starts typing on a keyboard that starts spelling words above them, telling them that they’re in a cave. The door is just ahead. You see another door in the floor and there’s a ladder that goes down.
When you climb down, the ladder ends in darkness. David types that he’s up they end up on the ceiling. They’re now in Melanie’s maze. Cary figures that Melanie’s mind reflects her core desire to be omnipotent. Also, if the three don’t keep moving, the minotaur will get them.
They reach a fork in the road and David calls out to Melanie, telling her that she’s trapped inside her mind. If she comes down, everyone can go home. They hear an approaching noise and soon enough, a minotaur- the creature from Melanie’s high vision- approaches. Yeah, the three run like hell.
David starts creating light energy, but it doesn’t last too long. Soon enough, the three arrive at the dead end. So David starts typing out a story about a girl with no dreams. She lived in the right now, then she met a boy and his dream became hers. Except what he didn’t realize was she already had a dream. And that dream was to be care free. The end.
This ends up reuniting the three with Melanie. She doesn’t want to be touched, just to leave. David grants her request and she’s free from the virus. And the cow is in the lab. David gets another quick glimpse of Future Syd and again wants to split up. Cary and David will find Syd while Ptonomy and Melanie find Fukuyama.
Everyone should be immune, and David suggests the cow be left in the lab. Though obviously Cary doesn’t want a cow in his lab. Long as the cow doesn’t touch anything. David sees yet another glimpse of a message that Future Syd is spelling out. He’s suddenly flung to the wall and dragged away by the children while Cary searches for Kerry.
Soon, David is placed in the midst of the infected when the monk rests beside him. We then see said monk at the monastery and see everyone else that’s asleep soon expiring similar ticks to him. David, turns out, is among them. He ends up in meditation alongside them. As he goes through life as a monk, Farouk’s coffin continues to shake.
Eventually, one of the monks erupts into laughter. David later explores the monastery, finding some of the monks are infected, while others have hanged themselves. In no time at all, the monks themselves are all infected, except for David. He heads outside and looks onto the horizon. Eventually, the monk winds up back in his own body.
When we return to Division Three as is, Cary explores the halls in hope of finding David, but happens upon an infected Kerry instead. Cary rests himself on Kerry and his body soon vanishes just as the children approach.
Melanie and Ptonomy find the Admiral and the Vermillion motionless in their chamber. The monk is on the ceiling and attached to the Admiral via electrodes and wiring. He speaks through one of the Vermillion, saying he wants the weapon to kill the monster. Though the Admiral says through another Vermillion that the weapon was planned, but never built.
The monk still wants the body and says that the Shadow King is also looking for it. And he must not find it, as he’s too powerful. His body will neither drown nor burn.
In enters David just as Melanie says that he can destroy the Shadow King. Though the monk does not trust David. Before the monk says that David is working with the Shadow King, David teleports the two to the roof of Division Three. David tells the monk to stop infecting people, but to the monk, people don’t matter- just their bodies. And the monk tells David that he’s seen his mind. The Shadow King will kill everyone.
is mental plane, the monk tells David that Farouk will kill everyone. He’s seen inside David’s mind.
As David suffers another migraine, he sees the entirety of Future Syd’s message: Hurry.
The monk isn’t afraid to die, but David is desperate to find the body. He asks the monk if there’s just one time period. After all, people change, so maybe Syd is different now. He loves and trusts her. Bad things happen, according to her, so he again asks the monk where the body is located. But the monk knows that David won’t destroy the Shadow King’s body. David promises not to let anything bad happen, but it already has.
With that, the monk backs over the edge and falls to his death.
Then David finds an infected Syd on the roof. He enters her mind and ends up in a raging snowstorm. Near him sits an igloo as the episode comes to a close.
This episode is a game. Both literally and figuratively. Legion continues to challenge our perception of what’s real and isn’t, but also gives us a glimpse into the delusional. The opening sets the stage for the main conflict of the episode with one minor tic soon spreading to an entire community. For the cheerleaders, it was the muscle spasms, but in Division Three, it’s the Catalyst.
As Jon Hamm told us in the premiere, for a delusion to thrive, more rational ideas must be rejected and destroyed. Only then can a delusion bloom into full blown psychosis. In our reality, the physical symptom is the teeth chattering. Which, by the way, that gets creepier the more that I think about and see it.
But within the mind, the delusion represents the individual’s true desires and wants. As the memory man who remembers it all, Ptonomy wants to forget. Melanie, meanwhile, in the text-based adventure game that is her mind, is all-powerful and all-seeing. She’d probably be living the dream if she swapped bodies with Charles Xavier, but more on David’s father in a minute.
It’s very important that this episode established just how different each mind works. Not just to make them feel distinct, but to further the question of just what is real. What is a maze for Ptonomy is a dark void for Melanie or blizzard for Syd. It’s a nice, stylistic choice that goes hand-in-hand with Legion’s distinct visual flair.
This extends to the trip through Division Three. With the facility bathed in red, it felt like a callback to the pilot after David and Syd ended up swapping bodies. Like back then, everything here was out of wack, flipped upside down, and gone to shit. Though unlike then, this is the doing of the Catalyst, who then became the Pied Piper as he led the seemingly immune children behind him.
He’s the walking, talking infection. Jon Hamm asked what about reality is actually a disorder, and in this case, that’s the monk. Having somehow escaped the monastery and made his way to Division Three, he leaves a wake of infection and destruction in his wake. It’s disturbing to see everyone fall under his infection after things at Division Three seemed relatively calm. Minus Lenny and Oliver’s rampage last time, anyway.
Though David is still in a bind over helping the Shadow King find his body and changing the course of history- and potentially Future Syd’s fate- in the process, he does make good use of his powers. What’s great about Legion is that while David is this all-powerful mutant, he doesn’t, like Farouk, see himself as omnipotent or godly. He’s aware of his abilities, but doesn’t abuse them.
In fact, him creating the light in Melanie’s mind, teleporting the monk to the roof, and ultimately rescuing Melanie and Ptonomy were good displays of his mutant abilities. Powers that he previously couldn’t control last season, he’s fully coming into at this point. Despite many not trusting him and questioning his allegiance, he’s not the villain. As far as we can tell.
But Farouk doesn’t see himself as the villain either and I very much enjoyed his conversation with David. Farouk is sitting on a lot of anger towards Charles Xavier and people like him. People like him look at Farouk’s people and decide that they know what’s best for them. This paints Charles as the villain in Farouk’s mind, as well as the whole ‘white savior’ complex.
But I want to stretch this a bit further and look at it in a larger context, particularly in terms of the X-Men world. Charles and Erik grapple on their ideals often and have a different idea on what’s best for the world, both for humans and mutants. To humans, mutants wants nothing more than to rule over them. But also, humans see mutants as the disorder.
And like on The Gifted, humans have dominion over how mutants live within the confines of the law. Charles sees Farouk’s people and believes that he knows what’s best for them. Whether out of superiority or a feeling of paternalism, we don’t know, but it’s easy to see why Farouk holds such resentment towards him. And I do like how Legion does still acknowledge David’s father without addressing him by name.
Again, going back to The Gifted, it works similar to how that show acknowledges Polaris’ father without ever saying the name ‘Magneto.’ Though, like always, it remains to be seen whether we’ll actually get an appearance by Charles Xavier in some form or fashion on this show…whether it’s McAvoy or Stewart.
Sticking with the Farouk confrontation, Legion once again shows the tragic side of Lenny’s capture. In Season One, she was the delusion. The infection. The devil on David’s shoulder. Here, she’s a prisoner desperate to taste the sweet relief of death. Or life, really, as she did ask Farouk if she could be freed. At this point, anything is better than the limbo she’s in right now.
It’s a bit sad, I’ll admit, to see Lenny so full of life and energy in the first season and even here when she’s causing destruction, but beyond that is a helpless servant who just wants to be free.
Moving on, the show continues to find good and humorous ways to develop Cary and Kerry’s relationship. Kerry is this strong, outspoken fighter…when she’s the one in control. When she and Cary are both on the outside, though, and isn’t burying herself into combat, she’s more awkward, reserved, and less experienced.
The fact that she didn’t seem to get the mechanics of going to the bathroom was quite funny, I have to admit.
Going off of the monk’s warning to David, it seems inevitable that the Shadow King will not just rejoin his body, but bring about more destruction. We’ve seen the damage caused by his presence and that thumping sound at the monastery. And as the Shadow King follows wherever the monk goes, anything bad that might happen already has. And David has to choose.
Does he destroy the Shadow King and change history? Or does he go along with Future Syd’s request to help Farouk? And how will that affect Syd’s future? Was thecow itself a delusion? And what’s with the giant hand and that finger pointing at the satellite? If all of David’s moves are being broadcast- to someone besides Fukuyama, anyway- then I wonder if David can see us, too.
Well, we’ll hopefully find out next week as David navigates the snowstorm of Syd’s mind. Another strong and very creepy installment of Legion this week. Well done.