Legion S01E03 “Chapter 3” REVIEW
- Images of David meditating, his sister being tortured and a beagle play out in slow motion. We see Bird’s patients showering, Bird herself talking to an unusually byzantine and complex-looking coffee machine.
- We see David smile and he imagines himself showering with Syd. We see Division advancing on someone, Amy covered in leeches, Cary and his sister. The coffee machine tells Bird the story of the woodcutter and his wife. The payoff, that the wife is secretly a crane, is desperately sad. The machine asks Bird if she liked the coffee. She lies, asks for another, pours the first away and the story begins again.
- Bird, Ptonomy and David are talking. With Amy in custody they have no time for the usual memory work and must go straight to the traumatic sections. David agrees and we see the kitchen explode again. This time, David, Bird and Ptonomy are there to see it.
- Bird was right. David is a telekinetic as well as a telepath. First they have to find his triggers and even as she says that, the scene shifts to Lenny and David getting high.
- Getting high, we now realise, in David’s own home.
- Lenny and Philly fight over the drugs and that leads directly to the argument and the kitchen.
- Ptonomy tries to move time forwards but the Devil With Yellow Eyes appears and slams the door. Ptonomy and Bird can’t see him even as he throws them out. Ptonomy is deeply wigged out; more so when it turns out that David… or someone else… is resisting him.
- And then they’re outside. In the real world. And 600 feet away. Ptonomy sums it up best when he asks, simply, “What ARE you?”
- Later, David and Syd chat about their pasts. David grew up in the country. Syd? Syd was a city girl, whose mom held salons for all the cognoscenti. It’s a sweet little moment, especially when David talks about the things about being Syd he still remembers. The conversation turns to who else Syd has been and she turns out to be remarkably grounded and kind. She’s been lots of people. She’s seen lots of points of view.
- Later, David is tested again by Cary. Who it turns out has a martial arts expert sister called Kerry who helps him out. This time, Cary asks David to think of something stressful.
- And the second he does we’re back on Halloween. He and Amy are heading home when their dog runs off. Intercut with “Dad” reading The Angry Boy, we see David go into a spooky looking garden to try and get their dog back.
- And when he gets there, he sees the Angry Boy himself.
- The Angry Boy turns, runs at David and… he wakes up.
- Except he doesn’t. David sees himself talking to Cary. In reality, Lenny slides in from off shot and tells him he isn’t safe. She tries to goad him into leaving, telling him Bird is keeping things from him and that Amy is being abused by the soldiers who have her.
- David levitates as Syd rushes into the room and…
- … the pair float away into a vortex of white light.
- Back at Division III, Amy is being told the truth. We discover that Amy always thought she lived in a haunted house due to the odd things that happen around David. We see the astral forms of Syd and David watch the interrogation. Although they can’t speak they can hear the Division III officer explain what David is and that he needs to be turned OFF. Amy begs to be let go as the Eye senses the astral forms, moves to grab them and they disappear.
- We see ink flow backwards out of water and..David and Syd appear in the lake outside Summerland.
- David and Syd debrief Bird, Ptonomy and Cary. David wants to rescue Amy. Bird wants them to be left alone. Syd calls out Bird clearly recognising the Eye and she levels with them. It turns out that Bird’s husband, whose voice is in all the systems, and Cary built Summerland. The Eye was their first “patient” and he went badly, badly wrong.
- Bird levels with David. She’s terrified that she’s making things worse when she tries to help him. David accuses her of giving up and she admits he’s a weapon. David tells her that all he cares about is Amy and Bird relents. She wants to sedate David to lower his defences, to get in and figure out what is and isn’t real. Syd wants in and David, calmly and not unkindly, says this is part of his therapy so he has to do this alone. Syd is… not sure how she feels about this.
- That night we see David flash back to selling the stove, the therapy session, the vapour.
- We see the Devil With Yellow Eyes flash in and out of existence and…
- Syd wakes up. To find David gone. She finds him in the shower block, unable to sleep. He admits everything he used to be and Syd asks if he loves her. He says he does and she responds, “Then there’s nothing else to say.”
- The following day, a visibly annoyed Ptonomy leads David and Bird into the sedation session. The camera zooms up and out of the window and we follow David and Lenny down the street. Bird, Syd and Ptonomy are all there, and so is David.
- As a child.
- Bird tells Syd that she can touch him here as her powers don’t work and David hugs her. The two of them, reeling in shock from the physical contact they have no hope of having in the real world, embrace.
- Junky David breaks into his therapist’s office and begins filling his pockets. We see a ghost of David and the therapist behind them. A ghost that talks. Junky David is visibly frightened. and begins searching the drawers. The ground shakes, the lights go out, rents appear in the wall and Syd, bathed in red light sees hands tear their way through a rift that Bird and Ptonomy don’t see. Ptonomy agrees to get them out and…
- It doesn’t work.
- David runs off through the later memory and Syd follows him. She sees the argument in the kitchen, sees Young David run past and… walks in on Junky David and Philly having make-up sex. Young David is hiding in the corner of the room and Syd rescues him and barricades the door.
- In David’s old childhood house.
- The Angry Boy appears as Young David jimmys a vent open and crawls off. Syd follows him. So does The Devil With Yellow Eyes. Syd screams at David to wake up and…
- Syd jerks awake.
- None of the others do.
- She wakes Ptonomy up and he is PISSED. Unable to wake Bird or David up, the pair panic.
- In the memory, Bird enters David’s house. She sees both his parents (including dad, interestingly) look at her and moves past them. She hears whining from upstairs and follows it to David’s bedroom. She finds a barricaded closet and the Angry Boy book. She reads it and finds that it finishes with the Angry Boy burning the world. The book slams shut on her hand and she screams at her broken fingers, unaware of the Devil With Yellow Eyes behind her and….
- …wakes up. Unharmed.
- David on the other hand is trapped in his head, in the centre of a crowd of screaming people…
The bad news first off: Legion still has a problem with pacing. The real world events this episode can be summed up in three sentences:
- Amy is tortured
- Bird, Ptonomy and Syd find out what caused David’s telekinetic outburst.
- David and Syd are adorable.
Given the amount of air time it takes up that’s kind of surprising. We’ll talk about how the Eye in particular really needs some back story later on in the piece. For now, just know that Division III, the humans, are the one part of this show about superhumans that feels unrealistic and, at times, silly. That’s certainly an achievement but it’s one the show needs to do something about.
The good news is that everything else we see here is great. First and foremost, no less than three different characters or groups of characters get some really good development. Bird, in particular, is immensely well served this week. The poignant moment with the coffee machine speaks volumes about how lonely she is and hints nicely at a future plot but it’s the final scenes where she shines. The revelation that yes she DOES want to use David as a weapon but also heal him is the sort of emotional nuance that the comics do very well and it’s put across beautifully here. Mutants, especially ones like David, are an untidy singularity. They are total societal and cultural change and Bird’s desire to both use them and save them instantly makes her the most interesting character in the episode. Jean Smart has always been impressive but here she’s given something meaty to work with and clearly relishes doing so.
The same goes for Rachel Keller. Syd has been a slightly passive participant in David’s story so far but here the power dynamic in their relationship shifts. Syd is grounded, sensible in a way that David isn’t and she’s also empathic in a deeply unusual way. As we see in one of the episode’s best scenes, Syd has been countless other people. She knows we have a soul. She knows humanity is complex and rich and worthy of saving. It’s a neat contrast too; David is still unsure if he’s imagining all this or if he’s a good person. Syd knows he, and so many others are, and will do what she has to do to defend them.
And that brings us to the third star of the show this week: David himself. Dan Stevens doesn’t know how to turn in bad work but this week he’s on top form. More and more, we’re seeing David’s huge intelligence and equally huge terror. He is not sure of anything, other than his love for Syd, and David is balancing his entire self-worth on that one thing. He’s fragile and damaged in a way that’s so quiet and realistic that it gets a little lost. That’s a shame as Stevens is turning in one of the best portrayals of mental health conditions we’ve ever seen.
So those three characters have an excellent week and their interrelationship drives the episode along. There’s also a nightmarish set of appearances by the Angry Boy and the Devil With Yellow Eyes which, judging by how David finishes the episode, will be expanded next week. The running on the spot pace of last week is still loitering at the edges but it’s never closer than that. Instead this feels like a show, and a character, that both know where they’re going. Here’s hoping David likes the answers he’s about to get.
- That IS a very prominent X behind Bird isn’t it?
- It’s a small thing but the various ethnicities, ages and body sizes at Summerland are a really refreshing change.
- Syd and David are ADORABLE. That conversation about Syd’s very grounded sense of compassion and what they did (or didn’t do) in each other’s bodies is our favourite part of the show so far.
- Likewise, the look on Syd’s face when she’s told she can touch David in the memory is just heartbreaking. The fact that David hugs her first, even more so. OUR HEARTS, YOU GUYS.
- The power dynamic in their relationship is also getting really interesting. They take turns being protective of the other and there’s real emotional intimacy there even without being able to touch one another. It’s both very unconventional for TV and very realistic and we love it.
- “No. I wanna fix him because he deserves to be healthy and he deserves to be happy and THEN I’m going to use him.” – Bird has been in danger of being the least interesting element of the show for a while but this episode really lifts her. The subtle moment with the coffee machine is desperately sad and this line shows just how driven she is.
- Still not a lot of development on the plot front.
- We’re calling it now; the Eye is a twee wardrobe choice too far. The weakest moment this episode is the old man in charge of Division III and The Eye interrogating Amy. Know why it’s weak? They look dumb. Hawley’s fondness for the 1970s aesthetic is fine, but they’re going to need to go some to get The Eye to be threatening.
And The Random:
- Is it just us or is the Angry Boy looking more and more like David?
- Yes that IS Jermaine Clement as the voice of the coffee machine and also Bird’s husband. The show’s Wikipedia page spoils this in detail but let’s just say he won’t just be making coffee this season.
Review by Alasdair Stuart