Today, let’s take a trip to the Garden of Eden, I mean, Garden of Legion.
The episode begins on a peaceful hillside as we see a man finding random objects, but he talks about how the astral plane was like a magnet for lost dreams. When people lost their minds, they ended up in the astral plane.
Who’s talking? It’s Oliver Bird, who happens upon a baby in a basket. He loads up the baby in his wagon and happens upon another individual, played by Jason Mantzoukas, who asks for the baby girl. Jason Mantzoukas is playing a wolf and he asks if Oliver has asked about the Holocaust, and herpes. Very important things to know, you know?
The wolf is shooed off by Melanie Bird, who is excited at the arrival of this baby. She brings the child inside while Oliver remains wary of the world around him. This world, turns out, is a planted area outside of a fire escape in our world.
Melanie asks what they’ll call the baby, but Oliver already knows that her name is Sydney. She apparently already told him that, but nothing else since, you know, she’s a baby. Melanie thinks that the baby looks familiar, but she cradles her, saying that everything is alright.
The peace is interrupted by some crashes outside their door. The straw house was blown down, but this one should apparently hold. The wolf does blow, and the house does hold.
Oliver opens the door and sees the wolf and his friend, Cynthia, played by Samantha Cormier, who was wandering through the woods, has lost her innocence, given up all hope, and brought dirty needles with her. Interesting combination. The wolf wants to party, but Melanie wants to help raise this child with wonder and magic, so they need to keep the real world out.
The wolf offers to do a magic trick, but Melanie tells them to leave. Well, more to the point, he tells the wolf to leave, but Cynthia can stay. Still, Melanie feels that they should move. Probably not the worst idea.
Time passes and Syd slowly grows older. One day, she asks why some music makes Oliver happy, while some makes him sad. She has quite a number of questions about the real world, but then she wonders about the objects that she and Oliver find. These items come from the real world, including a doll without a head that Syd decides to call Heady.
Before Syd can go far, Oliver calls back his ‘little bird,’ warning her not to go too far. Syd wants to know why, and he shows her the building across from them: this is called a city, also known as the real world. Syd asks what makes it real, and Oliver offers to explain when Syd is older. Syd wants to know now, but that’s not how this works.
On the way back, Syd goes down to tie her shoe when she’s drawn to a particular tree. She approaches it and finds a carcass. The wolf approaches and tells her that people think death is scary. After all, look at this creature. Syd thinks that this is just nature, but hey, kids die too. Syd was told by Mom that death is just part of life. Still, the wolf wants to make sure that Syd knows about chlamydia.
That evening, Melanie tells Syd a story about a girl with extraordinary abilities: she could feel everything that the animals around her felt. It was her special power and the girl called this special power ‘empathy.’ Empathy was her friend and the two did everything together. But it’s a hard thing for a little girl to share the feelings of others. The girl started to wonder where do they end and she begins.
One evening, the wolf happens upon Cynthia in her hood. He asks if she ever misses her real parents from the real world. Her mother was lush, and the wolf likes that particular word because it sounds so positive. Cynthia lives here now, but the wolf asks if Cynthia misses Kenny, who apparently used to beat her. The wolf tells Cynthia that Kenny is sorry and wants her to come back.
Before Cynthia can run off, the wolf presents a packet. Cynthia tells the wolf that she doesn’t do that stuff anymore, but the wolf reminds her that the light bulb isn’t afraid of the dark. Rather, it relishes the dark because in the dark, it can shine. The wolf asks Cynthia to shine for her. With that, the two leave.
The next day, Oliver, Melanie, and Syd have breakfast, but Cynthia’s chair remains conspicuously empty. Melanie explains that when Syd grows up, her young body will develop like her mother’s. As time passes, a slightly older Syd finally asks what chlamydia is, and she explains that she learned the word from the wolf.
Melanie explains that it’s like when someone sneezes and you get a virus. It’s like a cold, but in the case of chlamydia, it’s a cold for your vagina since the sneeze transfers a virus. Syd thinks that bodies are weird, but Melanie corrects her, saying that the body is ‘beautiful.’
Syd was gonna find out about chlamydia one way or another, I guess.
That evening, Syd has Season One nightmares. The next day, Melanie informs Oliver that Syd is having nightmares about what happened to her in the real world. Oliver believes this will pass, but Melanie believes that Syd might go back if there’s something she needs to do. For some reason, Melanie feels that she recognizes Syd from before, but as far as Oliver is concerned, there’s no ‘before’ for the two of them.
Melanie then beckons Syd to tell Oliver about her dream, but Syd says that she forgot. Oliver reminds Syd that he and Melanie can’t help if Syd doesn’t use her words, but he understands that Syd will talk when she’s ready.
That evening, Syd continues to have nightmares as she hears David’s voice. He apologizes to Syd, saying that he’ll make things right, and we revisit the moment from last time when David wiped Syd’s mind. All the while, the wolf continues to lurk…
Melanie and Oliver rest for the night, but the wolf blows the roof off their home. Immediately, Oliver decides that it’s time to move.
Again, probably not the worst idea.
So the three pack up and hit the road, Jack. They moved from the woods into the gutter in order to escape the knowledge. Oliver meets up with Melanie, who informs him that Syd is inside, studying long-division. Nerd.
He goes inside and greets her. Syd, now with Pearl Amanda Dickson back in the role, is 16 now and ready to learn about the world, as it feels like she’s meant to do something, but she doesn’t know what. Oliver warns Syd that there’s a big world that she hasn’t seen, but there’s an order to things. As she grows older, she gained structure and grew up from wildness. If you feel safe when you’re young, you’ll feel safe when you’re old.
That’s the secret of life. Syd feels safe, and Oliver doesn’t want that feeling to pass. She has her entire life to be old, but right now, she’s still young. He assures her that she’s doing the right thing, but we have to learn about love before learning about hate. Otherwise, everything goes to Hell.
So Syd goes for a walk and happens upon a beating heart. Before she can pick it up, Cynthia tells her to leave it. Cynthia is accompanied by her two kids- Sweetie and Blue. Sweetie offers vodka, while Blue has tons of jewelry. Syd offers Cynthia a chance to stop by the shoe shop and say hello to Mom and Pop, but Cynthia figures that the two don’t remember her. In fact, they do, as they talk about her all the time.
That much Cynthia appreciates. She explains to Syd that they live down the way and wants to Syd to come by, as they have video games. Oh, and they have movies about slavery. Does Syd know about slavery? Also, Jerome would love to see Syd. Oh, so that’s what we’re calling Mr. Big Bad Wolf. Upon spotting the wolf, Syd tries to leave, but before she can go, Sweetie reminds her to not forget the heart.
Later, Syd tells Melanie that she’s not going to the real world, as she doesn’t want any of that for herself. Melanie understands, but reminds Syd that the real world needs her. All of those bad things can be fixed. They’re not protecting Syd from the real world, but be the person that the world needs so she can save it. But what if Syd doesn’t want to go? Melanie tells her that they’re not put on this world to just think about themselves.
Oliver enters with some livestock, with Syd proclaiming that they’re going to save Cynthia from the wolf. This is what good people do, so they’re going to save her.
Sweetie and Blue sit outside their home when a bottle rolls their way. Cynthia later emerges from the home and finds the two knocked out on the ground, but before she can process this, she’s kidnapped by Oliver and Syd.
Syd thinks that the wolf won’t care, but Oliver warns her to not be naïve. He then tells her that if they survive this, she’ll be a grown-up. Syd asks what they built the wall for when it didn’t do anything, but it at least did wall things. Oliver tells Syd that she was taught to ask questions so she’d know how to answer them. While the wolf didn’t see them, he does at least have their scent
A rabid Cynthia is brought to Melanie and Oliver’s home, where Syd tells her that she does deserve love. She begs Cynthia to come home. Melanie figures that this doesn’t matter since the Wolf is already here.
Indeed, the wolf has arrived, but he’s intercepted by Oliver, who tells the wolf- Jerome- that he can’t have Cynthia. Jerome knows that Oliver can’t beat him because he’s a wild animal, but Oliver still has a few tricks up his sleeve.
He takes Cynthia and the wolf elsewhere on the astral plane and tells them that this can only end in one way: a rap battle. Why? Because Legion does what Legion does. And indeed, the rap battle commences. Oliver can at least rip the wolf’s reality.
Just when it seems that the wolf has won, Oliver strikes back, saying that the wolf is a scared little boy. Cynthia concedes, begging for Oliver to not kill Jerome. While the wolf is reduced to tears, the two still leave together, with Cynthia telling Oliver that she belongs with the wolf. But hey, Oliver is victorious, so there’s that at least.
When the rap battle ends, and Oliver returns alone, he tells Syd that not everyone wants to be saved. So why did they do this? They had to at least try so Syd would know. Oliver changes Melanie’s wardrobe and the two revert to their prior selves as they tell Syd that she is now ready.
In an instant, Syd also reverts back to her adult self. Now she sees it and realizes that she has to go back. Melanie tells Syd that it’s not us or them, but us and them. Still, Oliver and Melanie won’t be coming with Syd, even though she needs them. But they know that she can do this on her own. She just has to remember everything that they taught her.
Back on the Division airship, Syd awakens with her mind intact.
She heads elsewhere on the ship and finds one of Switch’s doors to the time hallway, but is unable to enter it.
Cary patches up a bruised and beaten-up Kerry, who asks if they lost, and Cary believes that they did. She wonders if they’re going to vanish when David changes things. For that, Cary has no answer. Syd arrives, telling the two that can fix it if she can get into the time traveler’s door.
Cary asks if Syd changed something about her- she’s put her back into a bun- and he confirms that he can make more time bracelets like the one he made for David.
At last, FX finally presents Legion. As for why the door is spinning, Cary believes that the Time Eaters are back. So yeah, no one needed to her that. The time bracelet is matched to Switch’s signal, so all of three of them should be able to follow Switch’s signal in order to locate her and David. Kerry wants to accompany Syd, but she’s in no condition to do so.
Plus, Cary knows that Kerry will need her in case she needs to find her way back. However, Kerry knows that Cary can do what he does while sitting down. Kerry, though, cannot. Cary tells Syd that they need a moment, so he brings over a wheelchair.
However, it’s time for Kerry to go home. The two join bodies once more with Cary inheriting Kerry’s battle wounds. At the same time, the Time Demons approach, with Kerry emerging from Cary’s body.
The three manage to enter the portal before the Time Demons can catch them. Now in the time hallway, a confident Kerry tells Syd that yes, they’re going to win.
We shall see.
Again, when you get John Cameron behind the camera, you’re in for an emotional journey for an episode of Legion. Like the Charles and Gabrielle episode a few weeks ago, we’re taken on a trip that explores the emotional core of this series: Syd. We’ve had episodes dedicated to Syd before, and even times when her mind was indisposed, but David isn’t around this time.
In fact, he’s not here at all. It’s interesting when watching this episode back-to-back with the previous one and considering how much time has passed. We left off with David and Switch going into the time hallway, and mere moments later, Syd awakens, so in a way, when you take out Syd’s time on the astral plane, this episode picks up mere seconds after the previous one.
Kind of like the Saw or Rocky films, I’m a big fan of films- or in this case, a television series- that pick up moments where the last one left off, although in this case, it takes us a while to continue the story going on in reality-land.
Cameron and Hawley took us deep into the astral plane to give us a further idea of how Syd’s mind works, her curiosity about the world around her, and what she can do to help change things for the better. Even with Syd’s perseverance and abilities, she’s one person. She can get a lot done, but she can’t accomplish everything. Nor can she get it all done on her own.
That’s where Melanie and Oliver come into play and right off the bat, it was a welcome return to see these two again. Based on where last season left the two, I was unsure if we’d see them again in any capacity or if Jemaine Clement and Jean Smart would even be in this season at all. Sure, there may not be a huge role for them at this point, but it still would be great to see them again.
Indeed, we see the two of them living in bliss with each other on the astral plane. Despite the change in scenery, these aren’t reinvented versions of the characters. They maintain their wisdom and experience from the real world and hope to safeguard that from Syd as long as possible. It sounds like they’re mollycoddling her, yes, but I more see it as them preparing her for what’s to come.
There’s a real sense of innocence on the astral plane, with the Big Bad Wolf lurking as the one constant bad. The astral plane here sort of reminds me of the Garden of Eden, with the Wolf taking on the role of the serpent. In a way, I suppose that would make Syd and Cynthia take on the roles of Adam and Eve, with Oliver and Melanie pulling double duty as God.
Now, I say Syd and Cynthia as opposed to Cynthia and Syd because, ultimately, like Eve, Cynthia is the one who chooses to live in sin. Like Eve, her life didn’t start out that way. She had a rough upbringing and a boyfriend who used to beat her, and that’s no fault of her own, but she’s seen the ugliness for what it is. She’s tempted by the Wolf because, despite Oliver and Melanie’s help, Cynthia feels she’s too far gone.
As a result, her story ends in tragedy when she decides to remain with the Wolf. Despite all of Syd’s efforts and Oliver’s most excellent rap battle skills, Cynthia is beyond the point of saving. It’s unfortunate, but the key takeaway is that Syd tried. She barely knew Cynthia compared to Oliver and Melanie, but she remained selfless enough to put someone else’s needs before her own.
Therein lies a lesson from Melanie and Oliver: not everyone wants to be saved. Syd didn’t see it as her versus Cynthia- she wanted her to return. But in the end, it’s not that she failed so much as it was Cynthia making a conscious decision to walk a different path.
She was lured over with temptation and pleasure, much as the serpent did to Eve. While the Wolf didn’t promise that Cynthia would become like God, he did offer something alluring to her eyes. Something that she knew she was warned to avoid, but she grabbed onto nonetheless. At that point, if she’s already interested in what the Wolf is offering, then the Wolf’s job is done.
We don’t spend a lot of time with Cynthia and that’s okay because she functions better here as an idea and polar opposite to Syd. While Cynthia is well-versed and aware of the dangers in the real world, Syd is blissfully unaware, but remains curious. Cynthia gives into temptation because she feels she has no choice, but Syd knows that she has no choice but to return to the real world.
Power and desire are what tempt Cynthia, and while Syd has great powers, she’s not seeking personal gain or doing something for herself. She acts out of selflessness and can resist being tempted, while the Wolf is easily able to prey on the hapless Cynthia.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this is a full-blown rewrite of the book of Genesis, but the similarities are interesting and I wouldn’t put it past Hawley if that idea crossed his mind. Hell, in a way, when Cynthia ultimately sides with the Wolf, she’s effectively banishing herself from the hedge of protection provided by Oliver and Melanie.
Syd’s curiosity about the real world almost get her into trouble a few times not because she puts herself in danger, but because she’s far too eager to grow up. Oliver and Melanie notice this, which is why they’re in no rush to tell her about the real world. Or chlamydia. It’s all about nature versus nurture this week as Oliver and Melanie seek to protect Syd for as long as possible.
As Oliver says, she’ll have the rest of her life to be an adult, but only a limited amount of time as a child. Why waste your youth being curious about the future? That’s not a bad thing that Syd wants to know about life beyond the astral plane, but I think another way to look at it is that Syd’s not ready for what’s out there.
After all, she wasn’t ready for David forcing her out of his mind and him ultimately wiping her mind. She couldn’t have been prepared to wind up in the place that’s a magnet for lost dreams, so even though she’s headstrong and proactive, she has a lot to learn. Having said that, I’m glad that Syd did press and ask questions.
She doubts herself and tells Melanie at one point that she doesn’t want to go back to the real world. That’s when Melanie imparts the wisdom that we aren’t put on this world just to service ourselves. Phrasing. We’re put here to help one another. Syd’s empathy is what allows her to be helpful to others.
Admittedly, as she told her younger self, that ability to feel what others feel is a double-edged sword because she feels like she’s a tourist in someone else’s body. So there’s some bad to what Syd can do, and she’ll never be able to undo taking control of her mother’s body, but she’s not an inherently bad person.
As far as aesthetics and direction go, I like how the astral plane is portrayed here. As far back as Oliver’s time in the ice cube, we’ve seen the astral plane visualized in various ways on Legion. It really does look like a sort of Heaven away from Earth, but then we have elements from Alice in Wonderland and The Three Little Pigs blended together for a very creative episode.
Do I really need to talk about the rap battle, though? I mean, we ended with a song last week, and now we’ve got Oliver and the Wolf stomping the yard here. If there’s one thing that Noah Hawley has continued to excel at, it’s throw you for a loop when watching Legion. Yet every single abrupt change of pace feels completely in line with what you’d expect from the series at this point.
Plus, after not seeing him at all this season until now, it’s great to see Jemaine Clement bust a move again.
I haven’t said a word about Jason Mantzoukas yet, but he was fantastic here. I must have missed the announcement that he would be in the final season, but he brought a lot of range to his performance as the wolf. In addition to being comedic, he had a sinister side as well, as seen when the wolf preyed on Cynthia.
Like Aubrey Plaza, I mostly know Mantzoukas for his comedic performances, but there are instances when he can show another side to his range. He was great.
Back to the episode and the present timeline, Syd sees that true selflessness and empathy have been in front of her all this time when Cary willingly chooses to take on Kerry’s pain. For one, the two are at last joined again. But also, it shows what Cary is willing to do in order to ensure that Kerry is well-positioned to help Syd. She can only do so much when she’s beaten and bruised.
We left off last week with David and Switch entering the time hallway. We end this episode with Syd, Cary, and Kerry hot on their heels, with the three more confident than ever that they’ll stop David. However, will David and Switch’s time travel put a stop to that? What about the time demons? Will Farouk still factor into all of this somehow?
Here’s hoping we find out the answers to all of this and more in the final two episodes. See you next week!