HomeTelevision'Legion' Chapter 21 Review: A Visually Stunning Episode

‘Legion’ Chapter 21 Review: A Visually Stunning Episode

Legion Chapter 21
Photo Credit: Suzanne Tenner/FX

Chapter 21 picks up with Clark (Hamish Linklater) interrogating Squirrel, the member of David’s commune that they managed to grab before the commune house disappeared. You can see why that’s his nickname, because Squirrel is extremely squirrely and hard to get a direct answer from. Clark threatens him with dropping him out of the airplane, which he does, but the trick is that they give him a parachute and track his movements in the hope that he leads them back to David (Dan Stevens). Unfortunately, he leads them to Lenny (Aubrey Plaza), and she leads them into the woods for an Alice in Wonderland-style tea party that also counts as an interrogation of Squirrel, as well as a bit of a trap.

Switch (Lauren Tsai) is now dutifully dedicated to David and his commune. Whether this is because she’s seen enough of the future to believe in David’s promise of “the forces of division” trying to take him out remains to be seen, but she assures Lenny – albeit in Mandarin – that she knows her place and only wants to help their leader. Switch is young and a bit idealistic, and clearly very lonely, but she’s been devoting herself to learning to master her powers. Unfortunately, she’s not good enough at controlling them to make David (Stevens) happy. She’s useless to him if she can’t take him back in time with her, and David decides that he’s going to call in an expert to help: Cary (Bill Irwin). 

Lenny’s tea party in the forest was little more than a trap to get Cary to follow, so she can take off with him and bring him back to David. This leaves Clark (Linklater) and Kerry (Amber Midthunder) stranded in the woods with the rest of the Division soldiers as well as the leftover and expendable members of David’s commune. Back with David, he gasses and then, presumably, uses his powers to control Cary and get him to do his bidding: building a device that will amplify Switch’s powers and allow her to bring him with her.

Cary now seems firmly under David’s control, which presents as a huge problem. David has now been shown using his mind-control powers on Syd (Rachel Keller), Lenny (Plaza) and now Cary (Irwin), meaning that there seems to be no limit to who he’s willing to control to get what he wants. David has exposed his true nature, that of a manipulator and a narcissist who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. 

Ultimately, though, it seems like he just wants love and adoration. Which is unfortunate, because the only people who ever truly loved him are either gone (his sister, Amy), turned against him through his actions (Syd), or are being neglected by him (Lenny, who seems threatened by Switch throughout the episode and regularly makes moves to assert her dominance).

David feels as though he’s always been worthy of love despite the bad things he’s done, and that was certainly true up to a certain point, but lately it doesn’t seem like love is what he’s after. Rather, he wants unwavering loyalty and dedication. He doesn’t believe in learning from your mistakes and getting better; he believes in being forgiven. That’s a very large difference and a fine line to walk when you’re one of the most powerful mutants in the world.

David (Stevens) has this conversation with Syd (Keller) in their first contact with each other since David leaves at the end of season two. He visits her telepathically and the two verbally spar over what David has done. The way she sees it, he drugged her and had sex with her. He can never undo what he did or go back in time to before he did it, because what matters at the end of the day is that David is someone who chooses to hurt people to save his own sense of self-worth.

She insists that he never loved her, and never fully saw her for who she was. At this point it’s clear that she’s right: David never loved Syd, he was just obsessed with her. Obsessed with what she provided him and how he wanted her to be. David is obsessed with receiving love to the point that he’d rather build a community around him that views him as some sort of God, and then keep them at arm’s length so they never get to know him, than change his behavior for the better. 

David’s core conflict here is what has been at the heart of Legion since the beginning. Is he good, or is he bad? This is a question he asks himself, but everyone else seems to understand the fallacy in that question. “Good” and “bad” are just social constructs and aren’t enough of a litmus to gauge your entire identity around. David could be “good” while also hurting the people who love him if he acknowledged his mistakes and dedicated himself to correcting his behavior.

He could also be “bad” while surrounded by love and admiration because the way people feel about him isn’t based on his actions. As Cary (Irwin) said to him during his intervention last season (an intervention that David refers to as “his trial”), David has an issue squaring the way he views himself with the way everyone else sees him. It’s an internal struggle within him that has been bubbling away at the surface long enough that the tension lets loose following his argument with Syd, and it seems like David is done trying to simply play the part of a “good person.”

The blue drug that David has been synthesizing from his own brain turns red following his conflict with Syd – a conflict that ends in what seems like a pretty definitive break up and with Syd reminding him that she wants him dead because if he lives, he’ll end the world. His commune members, excitedly smoke the red drug, which causes them to get violent. 

Whereas David is obsessive, Syd (Keller) seems to struggle from a possessiveness issue. From the moment she agreed to be David’s girlfriend, she was at his side faithfully and defended him constantly against everyone else, even when they were right to be concerned with David’s behavior or his uncontrolled powers. Syd’s background was explored in Chapter 12 where we learn that she’s been neglected a good deal of her life and only hardened herself from her experiences.

Additionally, her ability to swap bodies with people has led to her having less of a centralized sense of self than what David craves, and it seemed to make it easy for Syd to prioritize others – specifically David – over herself. She liked the attention he lavished on her, but at the end of the day it wasn’t about her. It was about him and what he wanted out of it. This revelation might be harder for Syd to face than the sexual assault, and when she derides David for starting a commune full of “teenage runaways with daddy issues,” it makes me wonder if she sees herself as the prototype for the kind of woman who would join. 

At the end of the episode, Cary (Irwin) and Kerry (Midthunder) are separated indefinitely for the first time, with Cary being under David’s control and hard at work building some kind of device that will help David travel back in time. Syd is being asked by Farouk (Navid Negahban) to trick David into letting her in enough to backstab him. Lenny (Plaza) is growing jealous of David’s relationship with Switch and the power she could potentially have over him, and David’s commune is now, essentially, getting high on his anger instead of his love. 

The pacing this week is far better than it felt last week, which is promising considering how fast we’re approaching the finish line. While it’s easy to get frustrated at an entire episode focusing on one element of this massive story, I also have to remind myself that at the end of the day, this is a television adaptation of a very wild comic book, and the influences of that comic are impossible to deny all over it.

Even the way the episodes are structured feel more like an issue of a comic series than they do a traditional episode of television, and however they fill up the panels is guaranteed to, at the very least, be visually stunning. And this season isn’t holding back on visuals, despite my lack of addressing them. One of the most arresting things so far on this series is the giant pig that appears to be constantly feeding on the blue drug, which comes out as vapor that his commune members inhale. It’s strange and I hate it but it’s also… Legion.

What I hope we see more of soon is Farouk (Negahban). His motivation for sticking with Division 3 remain completely unclear. If he can join Switch (Tsai) in the time hallway, why can’t he find David without the assistance of Clark and the rest of the division? And if he could join Switch in the time hallway, why couldn’t David also astral project into it? I have a feeling it’s possible that he could, but Switch may be afraid to tell him about who she met in there. She seems to be afraid to tell him a handful of things. 

Now that the story is addressing more of these issues head-on, I’m very excited to see the way it unfolds over the remaining half-dozen episodes. Next week we get to see David’s dad, Professor Xavier, which promises to be extremely enlightening. 

Overall Rating: 8 out of 10

Legion airs every Monday night on FX. You can stream the Legion Chapter 21 on Hulu.

Melissa Jouben
Melissa Jouben
Melissa Jouben is an enthusiastic young writer who can usually be seen performing or enjoying live comedy in New Jersey and New York. She has a very limited range of interests which can be summed up by the following list, in no particular order: comedy, cartoons, toy collecting, wrestling, limited edition varieties of soda, and Billy Joel. She was born and raised in New Jersey and can’t wait to leave so she can brag to all her new neighbors about how great the ocean smells at low tide.

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