Review: Legion Chapter 2 is Filled with Style and Substance

Photo Courtesy of FX

Legion Chapter 2 Plot Summary:

After being taken to the Summerland facility, Ms. Bird (Jean Smart) and her team of mutants try and hone David’s (Dan Stevens) abilities.  As David begins to unlock his memories, he shows off more power than anyone could have possibly imagined.  Meanwhile, Amy (Katie Aselton) desperately tries to find her brother, but only encounters dead ends.

While the first episode of Legion was superb, my greatest concern was its ability to maintain comprehensive storytelling with the hyper stylistic and artistic tone it had established. While there are slight cracks in the armor, Legion delivered another enthralling 60+ minutes of television.  Part of this has to do with the show’s unique pacing.

Is it possible for an episode to move both fast and slow? That’s what we got here. After ending on last week’s Hacksaw Ridgelike war zone escape, Legion dives right into a mentor/mentee dynamic with Ms. Bird and David.  From the first scene, it already feels like David has been through five Mr. Miyagi lessons. At the same time though, the episode takes its sweet time exploring David’s ability to walk through memories.  

This is what the meat of the episode was about. The specificity they take us through in how memories work is fascinating, especially in how they screw with David’s past. It felt like they were rewinding a scene on an old VHS tape. While interesting, this whole memory storyline had no payoff. I understand this is serialized television, but David remembering his past plays such a crucial role in the episode, we should have gotten something for our time. Instead, it veers off into another mutant ability altogether.

One of the mutants who guides David through memory exploration is Ptonomy (Jeremie Harris), who we briefly met last week. This is a great character with a cool power that works in tandem with David. Even though Ptonomy feels a bit dry, he’s an exceptionally intriguing character.

This is pretty much the case with Legion. Even though on paper these characters seem dry and monotone, there’s something about the performances that gives them a surprising charisma. The David/Syd (Rachel Keller) relationship continues to fire on all cylinders.  They easily have the best scenes. Through all the stylized and intricate storytelling, this is where the show gets the most human.

I appreciate the hell out of the way this show is telling its story. It’s different. There’s no denying that. At times though, it can fall into Terrence Malick land, getting too arty-fartsy. There’s a sequence where David remembers a time from his childhood where he and Amy are running through the grass, and you can hear the echoey child laughter you’ve heard a hundred times in movies. There’s also random moments where they distort the audio with Aubrey Plaza’s voice. It serves no purpose whatsoever other than to be weird, I’m sorry.

Even though the way they are using Aubrey Plaza’s character is a bit pretentious, I don’t really care. Aubrey Plaza is that good of an actress. Dan Stevens continues to carry the show. You can feel this guy’s headaches and migraines whenever his powers get out of control. The bond between him and his sister is also strong, which is essential, as it’s the longest emotional relationship David has had.

This second episode did exactly what it should have done, which is slowly expand David’s powers, and continue to set up the world. At some point though, the style needs to take a back seat for true conflict. The villain right now is creepy curly haired government guy (Mackenzie Gray). Hopefully, we’ll learn more about him next week. One of the other red flags is Ptonomy’s use of the words “the war” and “the key” when describing David. I can’t stand those vague terms. It’s crap like “the prophecy” and “the one.” They usually lead nowhere.

The unconventional storytelling is cool, but I can only be wowed for so long. At some point, something’s got to give.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (Very Good)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow’s fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.