Tick-tock, little bird.
The episode begins on the Division airship in the sky while David meditates. All to the tune of “Oh, Good Grief.” How else would you start off an episode?
Time for Chapter 20 on Lessons in Time Travel. Consequences. When considering a trip backwards in time, deliberate your plan very carefully. After all, what do you hope to accomplish in the past? What lives will you intersect with, ether casually or deliberately? You must consider the consequences of your actions. Not all temporal interactions go as planned.
But anyway, Lenny interrupts Switch’s lesson and gets the entourage out of the room where Switch is studying. Lenny tells her that David wants to speak with her, but warns Switch to not get any ideas because Lenny already helps David. He needs her. If she wants to be part of this group, Switch has to remember that she works for Lenny, and Lenny works for David.
But Switch tells Lenny that she’s but a humble servant ready to help the master.
As David argues with himself, Lenny brings Switch outside, though obviously Lenny is a bit miffed with David giving Switch more attention. However, David manipulates Lenny’s mind into telling her that she’s hungry and should get something to eat. After all, she’s happy right now. With that, Lenny goes off to fetch herself some food.
Switch explains her powers to David: she goes to a place that looks like a hallway filled with doors. One way is the past, the other is the future. David wants a demonstration, so Switch creates a doorway that leads into the time hallway.
David, however, cannot enter, no matter how hard he tries and no way in hell can he force himself inside. Switch normally goes alone and she doesn’t know how to bring others in, so she extends her hand and tries to bring David in, but there’s a force that just won’t allow David to enter.
A now frustrated David argues with himself, thinking now that Switch can’t help him. David isn’t angry, though. He beckons Switch to sit and asks if she believes that he deserves love. They can fix this world and all the bad things in it, but they just have to start over and keep David’s home from being haunted. It’s not about a girl, but saving lives, starting with David’s. So they have to fix Switch’s powers.
Switch has the skills, but David wants to turn up the volume. Luckily, David knows a guy.
Up above, Cary observes Clark interrogating the now-captured Squirrel, who tells Clark that they’re on the wrong flight. Clark asks about David’s location and then David himself, but Squirrel refuses to answer, figuring that Clark is trying to trick him. Squirrel is a good boy and starts repeating some of the words to “Jump” by Kriss Kross. Clark reminds Squirrel that he wants to go home and sleep in his own bed.
Getting nowhere, Clark drops Squirrel from the plane. He then goes to Cary and tells him to deploy Squirrel’s parachute, so he does. Luckily, Squirrel is fine and is now heading south.
Indeed, Squirrel hits the road, Jack, but he’s picked up the Breakfast Queen herself, as Lenny and her blade-wielding entourage have arrived in their very own Mystery Machine. Oh, and Lenny has an early Christmas present in the form of some blue liquid in a vial.
The Division watches this unfold, with Kerry really wanting to fight Lenny. She’ll get her chance, but she’s told that she can’t kill Lenny. Well, shit. Either way, Squirrel is whisked away.
Back at the crater where David’s compound once stood, Syd continues to hold the tooth in the palm of her hand. She tries to psychically reach out to David in his mind as she wonders what he did. As she looks over the tattoos on her wrists- “Me First”- an astral projection of David finally appears to her, and she’s not afraid of him.
David tells Syd that he wasn’t bothering anyone- he just wanted to be left alone to help his people, which Syd sees as David just seducing teenage girls with daddy issues. He tries to apologize to Syd, but she says that he has no idea what it’s like to be her with her problems. Syd figures that David never really saw her. David tries to show her by giving her a glimpse of her at Clockworks. Syd, though, doesn’t want David doing that.
Syd then quotes Margaret Atwood, saying that “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” She tells David to turn himself in. David, though, is upset that Syd twice tried to kill him. Before David can say that they love each other, the conversation ends. David said that Lenny told him not to come, but he had to know.
He’s a good person and deserves love, but he still did bad things to Syd. It doesn’t matter who David is, and he offers to disappear altogether, but the bottom line is that Syd knows that David is responsible for the end of the world. Back with David’s compound, the normally peaceful blue turns into a violent red…
Back in Lenny’s Mystery Machine, Lenny and the gang drive to an abandoned building in the middle of nowhere. Everyone exits, with Squirrel leaving last as everyone heads deep into the woods.
Squirrel makes his way through the forest and arrives at a trippy tea party, led by Lenny as the Mad Hatter. Lenny demands to know where Squirrel was, saying he doesn’t get a treat yet. Not until he sings.
As she dangles and eventually discards the blue potion, she asks Squirrel if he’s ever seen blue wine. However, Squirrel isn’t ready for that. The blue stuff is for beginners, but Squirrel is no beginner, right? He gets the red potion instead. He pours the drink into a fancy looking teapot and inhales the smoke that comes from within.
The Division listens on Squirrel’s movement, but there’s no way to tell if David is there. The mainframe calculates that their chances of success are 63 percent, so it’s time for Kerry to go into action.
Indeed, Kerry and the Division soldiers approach Lenny’s entourage, but before any fight can break out, Lenny’s crew is captured by, of all things, a damn net. Squirrel does manage to get the drop on Kerry, but he’s restricted by the Vermillion.
Cary, meanwhile, is driven off, as Lenny has commandeered one of the Division tanks…
Then we catch up with Amahl Farouk as he plays “O Tannenbaum” in his club, but Syd interrupts him.
She tells him that David believes he’s the victim, and that’s why he’s dangerous. David’s false reality is altering. Plus, he knows that Syd tried to stop him, but David has the time traveler. To stop David, they have to stop the time traveler first. They can’t surprise him, but David could still destroy the world. They could always get ahead of him, but Farouk sees no fun in that.
Farouk knows better than to sneak up on a man, but a lover? That’s different. Syd won’t do that to save the world. The intimacy that they need is physical, not emotional. Farouk will teach Syd to lie so well that he won’t expect her to stab him in the back.
Cary wakes up in David’s compound and manages to maneuver and tap step his way around the woman assigned with bringing him food. Only Bill Irwin could pull that off.
Cary makes his way around the building and soon finds himself confronted by David, who brings up something Cary said at the trial. David remembers almost being gassed- though not by Cary personally- and remembers saying David’s mind can’t reconcile the person that everyone sees him as. David won’t kill Cary, but he is going to use him to help create something that magnifies powers.
Not David’s powers, but the young time traveler whose powers aren’t fully developed yet. As such, Cary will build a tool to help her. Cary wants David to come back to the Division, but instead, David wants Cary to open his mind and heart. This is a good thing and David convinces Cary that he wants to do this. With that, Lenny places a mask over Cary’s face and gasses him.
When Cary awakens, he finds himself before a mirror and starts combing his hair. When we go from one side to the other, we join Kerry as she and Cary are on opposite sides, staring at each other in the mirror. He goes to yet another mirror and sees Kerry staring back at him, but then he pulls Kerry out of the mirror as the two begin to dance!
She implores for him to let her lead, but instead, David wants to lead Cary.
So Cary awakens yet again and is greeted this time by Switch, who pours tea for the both of them. She asks what he knows about time travel and asks if he’s ever seen the time hallway. Switch explains that it moves in two directions, and by drawing a doorway, she can access the time stream anytime she wants. But only Switch can go, so she wants Cary to expand her field so he can bring David with her.
Okay, but Cary will need tools and technology to make that happen. With that, Switch leads Cary to a room where Lenny is waiting for tons of science shit for him to use. Lenny then tells Switch to beat it while Cary gets to work.
Cary needs to devise a solution or something wearable, but Lenny won’t let him use her hammer. Lenny then asks at what point in time David will be going, and Cary tells Lenny exactly what David is going to do: save the world.
Well, can he start by helping the X-Men take care of a Dark Phoenix-sized problem?
Joking aside, Chapter 21 has a lot going for it. While the confrontation between David and Syd is something that the series needed in light of the Season Two finale, we push the story forward in other ways to advance the plot. For one, we get a slightly better idea of what Farouk has in store for David who, in turn, has his own plans to help Switch.
This episode felt like moving chess pieces across a board and trying to position everything you need in the right place before you attack. It’s not setup because we do get plot progression. At the same time, David’s plan comes into greater focus, but as a protagonist, it’s hard to root for him based on some of his actions.
By virtue of being the main character, David is the show’s protagonist. There’s no question about that. But in the eyes of the Division, his actions have turned him into the antagonist of the series. His constant need for love and validation have led to his manipulative decisions and it’s difficult to root for a character trying so hard to undo the mess he’s made.
Not that David is a character with malicious intent. Manipulative, yes, but this isn’t someone- I feel- who does something to torture or to give off the vibe that he actually is a villain. For any mistake he makes, whether intentional or by accident, he wants to make up for what he’s done.
As is often the case with Legion, though, we find ourselves questioning what really is the truth. It’s possible that David does indeed want to save the world. But at the end of the day, he’s more concerned about Syd. No matter how much he tells Switch that this isn’t about a girl, it all comes back to Syd. He wouldn’t have bothered meeting her to talk in-person if he didn’t care for her at all.
The confrontation was a bit uncomfortable to watch, but it was necessary. Not just to move forward from last season’s finale, but for Syd to rightly call David out on his shenanigans. Again, not going to get into the assault-side of things because that’s opening up another can of worms, but David needed to hear the uncomfortable truth from Syd.
He did manipulate her against her will, and no matter how much David tries to smooth over that rough patch, that can’t be overlooked. For one, Syd will never forget it. More than that, even if David tries to Days of Future Past away his mistake, what’s to stop him from manipulating time yet again if he has another screw-up?
Consider the episode’s lesson in time travel: what do you hope to accomplish by changing the past? You must consider the consequences of your actions, and given how David is already an unreliable narrator, we as an audience can’t be sure that he’s not just doing this for self-preservation. He talks about wanting to save the world, but he could end up making things worse.
Not just limited to the world of the X-Men, but you’ve no doubt seen countless examples of the dangers that come with trying to change the past. Sure, X-Men: Days of Future Past created a brighter future for the younger and older X-Men- until Logan, anyway- but that didn’t prevent another Dark Phoenix incident from happening. David trying to go all the way back could create an even greater ripple effect.
Actually, talking about examples about time travel, The Flash talks about this on a weekly basis. But then, that series is about a speedster who can travel through time at any moment. David Haller, though a powerful mutant, doesn’t have that luxury, but Switch does.
But we’ll get to Switch in a moment. As the Magic Man, David paints himself as a sort of savior. The means in which he and Lenny keep his entourage sedated, though, begs the question of how far they’re going just to keep people around them. We know next to nothing about the followers except for Squirrel and that’s fine because they’re just along for the ride.
It’s hard for David to see himself as the villain because he’s not intentionally doing anything wrong. Using his telepathy just comes with the territory. But when he casually manipulates Lenny’s mind to make her happy, or when he takes over when moving in on Cary, David crosses a lot of lines.
Sure, David has been in Syd’s mind and her body, but there was nothing malevolent about that. It’s a different story now that David is, for the most part, in control. When Syd calls him out on his behavior and how he’s only in this for himself, though, we see that anger that we rarely see with David. That anger that leads to hues changing from red to blue.
As far back as the first season and even in general, we’ve seen that red signifies danger. Think back to the red room where David would converse with Lenny, compared to the blue and purple hues when he was with Syd. The color switch is a good way to illustrate David’s mounting frustration.
He can’t convince Syd, so perhaps he just wants to prove his good intentions by helping Switch help him. I kind of like that David is taking a sort of mentor role here, but unlike, say, Polaris on The Gifted, he’s not training her because she already has control of her powers. Plus, due to limitations, he can’t enter her time hallway. What David wants to do is help expand her horizons by increasing the range of her abilities.
That’s where Cary comes in and full stop for a moment: this was another moment for Bill Irwin to shine. Each season, Irwin has demonstrated how nimble and maneuverable he is, and this episode was another example of that. Watching him maneuver around that one member was a fun sight to watch.
As was seeing him dance with Kerry, but that scene in particular was just the darker undercurrent now that David has stepped in. Like Lenny, here’s another vessel for David to manipulate. Given Cary’s expertise as a scientist, going to him makes sense and I wonder if this could tie into the orb that we saw capture David at the end of the first season.
Does Cary truly believe David is going to save the world, though? He wants David to return with him to the others, so I’d have to think part of him believes that David is as big of a threat as Farouk makes him out to be. He could try to resist, but we’re talking about a powerful telepathic mutant like David, so resistance is futile at this point.
Speaking of Farouk, though, I’m still questioning his motives. Okay, he wants to stop David. That’s what the Division wants as well. But to try and manipulate Syd into lying so well to David that he won’t sense a double-cross? Yeah, I think that Farouk has something bigger at play than he’s letting on. Like David, it wouldn’t take much for him to manipulate the others around him and I wonder if he’s already done just that.
Not that Syd would ever be on board with his suggestions. I think she of all people also has something big at play that could go beyond both David and Farouk. She’s the wild card in this equation and, I think, chart a path that ends up solving everyone’s problems altogether. That’s my best guess, anyway, because she’s smart enough to see that Farouk’s game of deception probably isn’t the best approach.
Then there’s Lenny, who feels like she’s either searching for a greater purpose or trying to maintain the status she already has now. She’s David’s right hand Mad Hatter and Switch’s presence threatens to undermine that. Not that Switch is looking to snatch David away, but with her there, David is putting his focus on the person who can help him the most.
Lenny is still the devil on David’s shoulder, but Switch’s usefulness and abilities trump whatever fun that Lenny could conjure up. That said, the entire Alice In Wonderland-esque sequence in the woods with her as the Mad Hatter gave us some very trippy eye candy. Frankly, I could go for more of Aubrey Plaza giving us her take on the Mad Hatter.
So the wheels are in motion based on this week’s Legion. Cary’s capture could ensure that Switch gets the needed power boost to help David, while Farouk is trying to position Syd to manipulate David, but chances are that she’s got her own plans. We’ll see how this game continues to unfold next time. Meanwhile, prepare yourself, because Gabrielle Haller and Charles Xavier are coming. It’s time.