What’s more terrifying? Fear or the frightened?
The episode begins with Chapter Eight: Moral Panic. As some builders hammer away, Jon Hamm defines moral panic as a response to a perceived threat society’s moral standards. As a boy reads comics about the Devil with Yellow Eyes, we hear that the road to moral panic has several stops. The first is concern- limited at first, but spreads and is amplified by cultural forces until rational concern becomes irrational and fear.
People believe that something terrible is happening, something they cannot see or control. It comes for others and will come for them. The builders, for example, begin chasing a woman that they believe is a witch. Whether or not the threat is real, the response is, and it is often excessive. The ‘witch,’ as we see, is soon hanged from the gallows. Ask yourself, what’s more terrifying: fear or the frightened?
Then, presumably somewhere on the astral plane, we see Amahl Farouk powering up a vehicle with some sort of energy. He then pulls out a coin, inserts it into a slot and watches as his vehicle is powered. Then, there’s an announcement over the loudspeaker from David Haller, who is calling him out.
We cut to a dinner table as a snarling David demands to know why Farouk chose Amy, who was just trying to help him. Farouk believes that Amy and her friends ridiculed David and questions just how Amy actually helped him. Did David wish terrible, indescribable things? And there’s no hiding here. Farouk knows that David wished Amy dead since she called him insane and kept him from realizing his true potential.
It’s time for everyone to pay, as Farouk tells David to remove his mask and show who he really is. But David doesn’t hide behind a mask, even though Farouk believes that everyone has one that they wear. Farouk tells David to do and take what he wants. Gods make rules, they don’t follow them.
David tells Farouk that he’s not his friend. Once he finds his body, he’ll burn it. If Farouk is lucky, that’s all he’ll do. Farouk decides that David isn’t ready for the big boys’ table, so he’ll meet him again when he’s in his real body. For David, he’ll go sit with the kids.
As Farouk taps a glass, David finds himself indeed at the kiddy table with a young boy and girl. He tries to enter the other room, where he sees Amy sitting by her lonesome. When he winds up there, he tells her that he didn’t want any of this. Amy finally responds through mad laughter as she bangs the table. David’s anger rises and he demands that Amy stop, so she does as David finds himself back in the water chamber.
When he’s out, David wars within himself in his mind while Syd believes that Farouk wants David to be distracted, driven by his emotions, but he can’t allow that to happen. She then asks what her future self says about her past self, but that hasn’t come up in conversation yet. Syd wants that to happen and isn’t bothered by David talking to her future self. She can’t be jealous of herself, after all.
Syd asks if David is physical with future Syd, even though that’s kind of impossible, but David senses that Syd is, in a way, jealous. She decides to set some ground rules: David can talk to future Syd, and if she needs a hug, he can hug her. David reminds present Syd that he loves her…but Syd doesn’t say it back, not that it’s necessary. Though she eventually does say it.
Farouk continues to gas up his vehicle until it’s time. Time and space fly by and we suddenly find ourselves in the future, as Farouk comes face to face with future Syd, who actually speaks. The doors seal behind the two of them. Farouk doesn’t need David’s help, though in Syd’s timeline, Farouk still dies, so he should need David’s help.
Farouk asks Syd if she plays craps, chess, the game of probability. As he and Syd circle a throne, he defines what it means to cheat, saying that the state writes the law. The game is rigged, and he is the state. Even when he loses, he still wins. Future Syd is confident that Farouk can’t hurt her here, but Farouk disagrees. He has no intention of doing so, as they’re allies and want the same thing.
See, Farouk knows why this is what he wants, but why is this what future Syd wants. She says that they need him. As she takes a seat on the throne, she tells Farouk that she needs him to stop the world from ending. And who, pray tell, will end the world? David, perhaps? For centuries, many said that Farouk was the villain. The heroes came to try and kill him, thinking that by doing so, they would save the world.
But the opposite is apparently true: the villain is the hero, and the hero is the villain. Oxymoron, to be sure. Maybe they’re all villains. If David doesn’t help Farouk, then future Syd will, and together, they will rule the world. Even save it from David.
Back in the present, Lenny snaps her fingers and suddenly recalls Amy’s final moments with each snap. She receives a visit from Syd, who knows that this isn’t Amy or Lenny- she’s the song that plays during a hostage crisis to keep criminals from thinking clearly. They won’t be best friends and Syd isn’t falling for Lenny’s shit. Whatever Farouk told her to do is just noise.
Lenny approaches Syd and states that Farouk raped her, over and over again. He kept her in the basement of his mind, like a girl snatched from the side of the road. Still, bros before ho’s, maybe. She goes back to snapping as Syd leaves.
Elsewhere, Ptonomy approaches a can held by a string and speaks into it, but gets no response, so he decides to listen instead. But upon doing so, his right ear begins to bleed profusely…
But then he awakens in his bed, unharmed. Briefly, for once he pulls back the covers, the Vermillion go on the offensive and restrain him while the Admiral towers over him. His mask reveals a creature within.
Later, Ptonomy, after whispering to an egg, sets it on the counter by Syd’s bed and whispers into her ear as she sleeps. He does this again when he stops by Kerry’s room, then Clark. Soon enough, the eggs hatch…
Following this, Clark walks the halls of Division Three, but finds the Vermillion suddenly behind him. As he continues walking, the Vermillion continue to follow him until they get closer and closer and closer…
However, Clark then wakes up in his bed, with a broken egg shell at his side.
So Clark and Ptonomy meet up in the cafeteria to talk, but they have to be careful, as Clark warns Ptonomy that the Admiral sees and hears everything. As of now, they aren’t safe, and that’s made very clear when one of the Vermillion walks by the cafeteria as the two talk. And indeed, the Admiral is watching everything happening in Division Three on this night.
David returns to the chamber- memories of his childhood with Amy flash by him as he arrives in the future and finds Syd sitting on a bed. He asks if she knew, and she did, but reminds David that he has to stay focused on preventing the apocalypse. Still, David is distraught on losing his sister. Still, future Syd is confident that they can’t win without Farouk.
Now, David senses that this isn’t his Syd, but she wants to be. He resists, though, as he promised present Syd. Future Syd tells David to go, as she understands that she’s asking too much of him. She’ll be fine. Right now, all David should do is live and make good choices. Maybe things will turn out different. To David, it feels wrong to help Farouk, so Syd admits that maybe she shouldn’t have asked. Still, she’ll miss David.
She does at least want to say goodbye, and the two kiss.
Now it’s Syd’s time to narrate. She says that, sometimes, in a dream, you remember that you’ve had this dream before. But that memory is just part of the dream. But it’s all happening for the first time. Again. Back at Division Three, Syd enters the Admiral’s chamber and sits on his throne.
At the same time, the Vermillion help the Admiral into his bed for the night. As he rests, we see an elderly woman sitting in a rocking chair near his bed.
Ptonomy, Kerry, and Clark find Syd in the chamber, and she’s left wondering what’s happening to her.
The four enter an elevator, where Clark describes a rumor that when people go to the Admiral’s pedestal, they don’t come back. So what happens to them? Well, apparently, the Admiral eats them. How delightful.
Now armed, Ptonomy and Kerry approach the Vermillion…and it turns out that there are more than three of them. Way more. Ptonomy opens fire and guns down as many as he can, but they regenerate. So Kerry goes in and hacks away with her axe.
Clark and Syd approach the Vermillion and demand he remove his mask. Clark even opens fire on the Admiral, telling him to remove his mask. He does, and it turns out to be a delusion that crawls out of the Admiral’s head. David appears before Clark can kill the Admiral, turns his gun into a mop, and freezes both Clark and Syd in place.
As the Vermillion enter with Ptonomy- believing the three to be working with the Shadow King- David pulls the delusion out of Syd and Clark’s minds.
Ptonomy begins to cough up tons of blood as a giant delusion crawls out of his body. However, it doesn’t attack anyone. Instead, it crawls out of the room. David gives chase.
Kerry, meanwhile, continues hacking away at the Vermillion when the delusion approaches. David suddenly appears at her side, telling her that attacking might be a bad idea. The delusion crawls right by them.
The Vermillion note that while Ptonomy is dying, his mind can be saved, so they take him to the mainframe, which turns out to be a forest. They set him against a tree and plant vines into his neck.
David pursues the delusion and finds it in the cafeteria. He transports them to a red void, saying that the delusion’s timing couldn’t have been worse, given how David is dealing with the Shadow King. He asks that the delusion go on its way or he’ll have to kill it. Never mind that the creature probably can’t understand David.
As it approaches David, the delusion grows smaller and smaller until it’s at David’s boot. He traps it inside of a jar and then, after reminding the delusion that he would have freed it, destroys the creature.
In the future, Syd observes David before then seeing her past self. Jon Hamm then asks what we’ve learned: that a delusion is an idea, and an idea can be contagious. Human beings are pattern seeking animals and we prefer ideas that fit a pattern. We don’t believe what we see- we see what we believe. When we’re stressed or our beliefs are challenged, our ideas become irrational.
One delusion leads into another as the mind struggles to maintain its identity, and once this occurs, what starts as an egg can become a monster.
As Ptonomy remains hooked up to the tree, we go higher and higher into the mainframe and we end up in a ventilation shaft where Ptonomy currently resides. He spots the woman from before, who was outside the Admiral’s bed, and she beckons him to keep quiet as the episode comes to a close.
Legion brings us back to the plot of Division Three going up against the Shadow King in what might be one of the scarier chapters of the series since Lenny went all Edward Scissorhands in Chapter 7. Legion has always been a real mind-fuck of a show, but this episode took it to 11 while also giving us an extra dose of the psychological that we’ve come to expect from this show.
A lot of that has to do with whose behind the camera. This episode was directed by Charlie McDowell- center- who is the son of Malcolm McDowell, who you may remember that played Alex in Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of A Clockwork Orange. And given how much of a mind-fuck that film was, especially what Alex endured in that movie, it’s no surprise that a lot of those same beats shine in this episode.
McDowell treats this episode of Legion very much like a horror film, allowing the tension to build while satisfying the audience with some very creepy imagery and moments once things got hectic at Division Three. Whether it was seeing David pull the delusions out of Syd and Clark’s heads, the speech glitching out again in the future, or the sight of the giant creature itself, it was a creepy episode.
In fact, it was such a good, horror-based episode that I very much hope that Josh Boone’s New Mutants film also contains this level of horror. Granted, I got that vibe from the first trailer and just hope that Fox pushing the film back does indeed allow for a scarier film. Hell, forget the asylum setting. Have the New Mutants film take place in Division Three.
Okay, let’s get back on track. Let’s talk about fear- a very powerful emotion that can render us powerless unless we’re able to conquer it. Like the moral panic that Jon Hamm spoke of at the start, fear can spread and become amplified, like an entire community fearing something perceived as an outsider or threat. What starts as concern becomes irrational.
All based on our reaction to a perceived threat that may not have manifested yet. It’s like the settlers who finger a woman as a witch. They have no proof of it, but are content with stamping out a possible threat before panic spreads throughout the community. Or before the supposed ‘witch’ can cause some harm. And so Jon Hamm asks what’s more frightening: the fear or the frightened?
In my opinion: the frightened. Fear is something that you can control. Hard as it may be, if you accept your fear, then it’s not as scary anymore. It becomes as insignificant as the giant creature that soon became no bigger than David’s shoe. That doesn’t mean you won’t be afraid of anything ever again, but at least you’ve acknowledged that, while you’re afraid, you can still tackle that fear head on and defeat it.
The frightened, however, are ruled by their emotion and moved by mob mentality. Once fear settles into a crowd, it settles and spreads like a virus. The frightened are capable of causing great harm because they aren’t being rational. And that irrational behavior grows like a wildfire. If no one is thinking rationally to calm the mob, then the frightened cannot be stopped.
And, of course, in greater X-Men lore, the humans represent the frightened who hate and fear the mutants. Not all of them, but the people who are frightened of mutants because they don’t understand them are moved by emotions. The movement against mutants isn’t encapsulated by just one person, but rather, a sea of frightened individuals who want no association with mutantkind.
David is also ruled by his emotions through a good portion of the episode, but he has plenty of motivation. He’s still reeling from Amy’s death and Farouk continues to taunt him. Even in death, Amy is still very present by how Farouk uses David’s memories of her to get under his skin, not to mention that Lenny’s continued presence.
In Farouk’s mind, David is still a kid ruled by his emotions. As such, he’s not ready to play with the big boys and gods yet, so he’s confined to the kids’ table. He’s a mutant playing with powers he hasn’t fully tapped into yet, so Farouk has no need to combat him at the moment. All David would need to do is make his own rules, not just react to Farouk.
By the way, I did like Farouk’s line about how gods make the rules, not follow them. Again, a very Magneto-esque line.
However, since the start of the series, David Haller has been portrayed as the unreliable narrator, so you can’t fully buy into or never question his actions, even though he’s the protagonist. So to learn that David was, in fact, the reason for the apocalypse sets quite the reversal, where the supposed hero is now the villain, and the Shadow King is in the position of becoming the good guy.
With that in mind, this doesn’t mean that Farouk is one to be fully trusted, either. He’s a smooth talker and knows the right words to say because, as he says, when he loses, he still wins. Everything is written to his advantage. I enjoyed his confrontation with future Syd. For one, I didn’t even think that Farouk had the ability to get himself to the future.
But two, it puts future Syd in the position of acknowledging to us that her world has been ravaged because of David. Combined with her already knowing Amy’s fate, but not mentioning it to David, and she doesn’t seem as trustworthy as you would think. Then again, it’s not future Syd’s place to spell out everything that’s going to happen in David’s life. The focus is on the Shadow King.
It’d be like if Logan told Charles in X-Men: Days of Future Past to not put a mental block on Jean Grey in order to prevent the events of X-Men: The Last Stand. And I don’t know how I managed to crowbar a reference to The Last Stand into this analysis.
Though David may have lost his sister, he’s not stewing in his grief. He’s being proactive, confronting Farouk and then going to future Syd. Plus, he puts his powers to good use when he pops from one location to the next, stops Clark from shooting the Admiral, and treating the giant creature as nothing more than an insect.
When David was talking in a very frank manner to the creature about how it picked the wrong time to cause problems, I got a very big Deadpool vibe. Not helped by the fact that we were in a very red world.
It’s not just David, either. Syd also remains as proactive as ever, going to the Admiral’s seat, trying to get David to focus, and even sending Lenny a message. It’s been said before, but Syd is no damsel in distress or girlfriend that just sits on the sidelines. Sure, she and the others fall prey to the delusions, but David manages to take care of that no problem.
Going over to Lenny briefly, since she only has one scene, we get more of her tragedy of being Farouk’s puppet. Though, this is Lenny, so who is to say whether she’s being honest about what was done to her? At the same time, she must know that Syd doesn’t trust her, so not like she’d have a reason to lie. I just really enjoyed her ability to conjure up memories by snapping.
Ptonomy’s mind being taken to the mainframe may mean his character could still be around, even though he’s dying. It felt like something out of The Matrix and I’m curious who that woman was that we saw. Could all of this have just been for Farouk to gain access to the mainframe? Or perhaps, like with Lenny and Oliver causing mayhem, this was another distraction. We’ll hopefully find out. Or not. This is Legion, after all.
This was a superb episode of Legion, filled with great tension and character moments in an episode that doubled as a horror movie. With the knowledge that David is responsible for what happens in the future, and with Farouk prepared to stop that, it begs the question: who is the real hero of this story?
Here’s the preview you can watch for Chapter 16: