Written by Melissa Jouben
Legion Chapter 4 Plot Summary:
David finds himself in trouble; David’s friends search for answers.
Last week our usual Legion reviewer, Dan Cohen, mentioned that the show was still holding his interest but that it would need to significantly progress the story this week in order to stay exciting. Ask and you shall receive, Dan. We’ve just hit the mid-season point here, and all the groundwork they’ve been laying slowly over the course of three episodes was blown apart, paved over, and then torn up over the course of an hour. There’s no going back for our protagonists now that they’re in as deep as they are. By the end, it is abundantly clear that there’s more going on with David than they knew, but the issue isn’t what they know about David. It’s what David may or may not have known this entire time.
The first half of this episode lets us know right away that with David incapacitated, he is no longer fit to serve as our narrator. Without David and his glitchy memories to guide us, quite a few characters fill in to serve this purpose instead, and none of them are more exciting or more welcome than the introduction of Oliver Bird (Jemaine Clement), Melanie’s presumed-to-be-dead husband. As we learn, Oliver’s mind has detached from his body (much like David’s just has) and he has been stuck wandering the astral plane for an unspecified period of time. We begin with a slightly-fourth-wall-breaking introduction from Oliver and from this point on, we’re finally able to see the world through someone else’s eyes.
With David’s body pretty much catatonic and their work at a standstill, Melanie sends Ptonomy, Syd, and Kerry to go collect answers on their own. With three of our four young mutants entering the world outside of Summerland, the stakes immediately start to get higher. Without Melanie’s protection and knowledge they’re easier targets for The Eye and Division 3 – although, as we learn from a breathtakingly choreographed fight scene in the third act, Kerry is one hell of a bodyguard.
The majority of the episode is told through Syd’s point of view. She asks Ptonomy at one point if they’re still inside David’s mind and Ptonomy is confidently pretty sure they’re in the real world. “What was real? That was the mission,” Syd asks through narration. The problem with her narration is that she’s speaking in past tense, which suggests that everything we see has already happened and is therefore a memory. It’s important to make that distinction at this point, since nothing is more well-established than the fact memories have a tendency to be unreliable. Despite her shakiness regarding what’s real and what isn’t, she seems unshakeable in her dedication to David. She loves him, as she admits to his former therapist. She presses his ex-girlfriend Philly for maybe one too many questions regarding their relationship. She gets told early on in their mission by Ptonomy that David is dangerous – his powers present a bigger threat to their safety than anything else, but Syd feels like she knows him and is eager to prove he’s been hiding his real memories behind fabricated ones and that figuring out why will be the key to getting his mind back.
The middle of the story finds David navigating the astral plane and meeting Oliver, who explains the limits of his powers within the astral plane, as well as power wielded by that Yellow-Eyed Demon we’re still dying to learn something, anything about. In another moment that slightly breaks the fourth wall, Oliver wonders out loud whether the demon is a metaphor for David’s inner monster. It would seem instead that the demon is a parasite that David is feeding and allowing to grow stronger. Jemaine Clement gives us exactly what this show has apparently been missing – some serious comic relief, as well as a mutant who may be able to provide guidance to David and help him understand his powers better going forward. We also get a brief glimpse of Amy, imprisoned by Division 3. She befriends the person in the cell behind her only to learn that it is Dr. Kissinger, David’s doctor at Clockworks. The two share with each other that they may have been more aware of David’s powers than they’ve let on in the past, all the more proof that David’s perspective is not giving us nearly the full picture.
Up until this point, Syd’s been one who seems to retreat into the background. She is literally in the background of most scenes, especially during David’s memory work with Ptonomy and Melanie. She’s always within frame but out of reach. Because of the nature of her powers, it was easy to apply broad strokes and paint Syd as someone who enjoys her place in the background and may not be quick to assume the lead. Last week, when Syd told David about herself and about the role model she found in her independent and intimidating mother, we saw glimpses of the Syd that we’d see in this episode, and watching her really come into her own as a character and take charge really opens everything up. There’s a reason this person caught David’s eye in Clockworks, and it isn’t just because she’s pretty – she’s extremely powerful, cunning, and, OK, maybe a little bit jealous, but mostly protective. When David accidentally read her mind and heard her say “I’ll protect you,” she really did mean it. And now we know just how capable she truly is at protecting herself as well as others, and how powerful she can be when she’s holding the reins.
Unfortunately, what was shaping up to be a huge success on their first mission thanks to Syd’s leadership was accidentally thwarted by David, his mind back from the astral plane, but being controlled by the yellow-eyed demon “Lenny,” who I would accuse of brainwashing David if it wasn’t for the fact that you can’t really brainwash yourself, right? You might be able to if you’re David Haller. I really don’t know.
This episode was also able to take a step back from David’s story to bring us more intimate moments surrounding secondary characters that it had previously been lacking. David has two main focuses – Syd and his sister Amy – but when we begin to see the rest of the group having these moments without him we realize that the bonds they share, while still not entirely clear to us, are just as strong. Kerry’s explanation of her relationship to Cary was moving, as was Cary responding to Melanie’s question, “Do you miss her?” with an emotional “Is that stupid?” Within a single episode, even with just a single scene, the show built up an emotional connection to these characters that has you genuinely heartbroken for them by the events at the very end. This is a testament to the actors as well – Bill Irwin and Amber Midthunder took characters that were previously just an idiosyncratic and seemingly scatter-brained pair and evolved them into two of the most interesting characters to watch. Having not formed much of an opinion on them before this chapter, I really hope Kerry lives to fight another day.
Going into next week’s episode, it’s clear that right and wrong, real or fake, are dichotomies that no longer mean anything. Everything exists within a huge gray area that the characters are going to have to navigate with caution. It seems like after coming back to the physical plane, David and “Lenny” are back with a vengeance, and I’m very excited to see where Syd’s loyalty to David and Ptonomy’s distrust in him will take the group now that Lenny seems to be calling the shots.