Legion S01E04 “Chapter 4” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- HURRAY IT’S JERMAINE CLEMENT! IN POLYESTER! AS USUAL!
- He rehearses a talk about violence to camera, goes to take a drink and… it’s one big ice cube.
- Troubled by this, he goes on. He talks about the two types of story we tell our children: stories that teach empathy and stories that teach fear. As the camera slowly focuses in and pulls out, he introduces us to tonight’s play.
- And then he turns on a film projector and the episode starts.
- HELL YES.
- We see Syd talking about looking for truth and finding lies. We see Ptonomy clutching his head. We see Division III soldiers opening fire. We hear Syd talking about how little they really know: was David’s doctor real? Was his girlfriend?
- We see David, lying down, floating backwards through his memories. He memorises constellations, focuses on Syd’s mouth, and thinks about what happened at the Clockworks.
- We see Ptonomy explain he can’t find David in his memories and Bird talking about how David is in a personal mental space. Bird mutters about the “astral plain” and dispatches Kerry, Syd and Ptonomy to David’s old therapist’s office.
- It hasn’t been used in years…
- Ptonomy digs into the objects in the room, revealing that they have memories too and he can read them. He finds a smashed tape deck and asks Syd to put her hand on it. He touches, it, they close their eyes and…
- We’re back in the room with the tape deck and David and his therapist and a voice listing constellations. We get a flash frame of the therapist covered in blood, David’s fists clenched and then…
- Back to Syd and Ptonomy. Who reveals he read the report and that Doctor Poole, the therapist, was beaten half to death by David.
- Syd insists that there’s more going on. That David has been implanting fake memories in his own mind and came back to the therapist’s office not to rob it but to destroy evidence.
- We flash back to Syd, unconscious, lying on the ground. She flashes to the Clockworks, to the Eye and the Division beating on her. We see Amy in a cell with a ramped floor, desperately stuffing her face with terrible food.
- And then we see the man in the next cell to her…
- It’s Doctor Kissinger!
- They fill each other in. Amy asks if Kissinger knew David wasn’t mad. He says he did and asks Amy the same thing. She says she must have, recounting stories of David knowing things he couldn’t possibly know and moving huge distances. She mentions she’d find him talking to people who weren’t there and any time she asked who he was talking to, David would reply, “our dog, King.”
- And then she reveals that they didn’t have a dog…
- Syd is sitting out in the woods near a campfire. She sees flashes of the other memories they’ve encountered, sees the Angry Boy and… Kerry sits next to her. Kerry, it turns out, shares a body with Cary and they’re remarkably Zen about the whole arrangement.
- Back at Summerland, Bird walks into her office and finds a ghostly figure in an old fashioned deep sea diving suit there. She tears up, explains it to Cary and they ride down to the lowest level of Summerland. There, they find a diving suit, covered in frost.
- An alarm goes off and Cary grumbles about the OS being out of date. Bird insists her husband is trying to reach them through it.
- The camera zooms out through David’s memories and back to the cacophony and then…
- …nothing. David, alone on a wide, flat plain.
- With a man in a deep sea diving suit.
- David waves. The man in the deep sea diving suit waves back and gestures for him to follow. They reach a chain ladder and ascend it… into the ice cube we saw at the start of the episode.
- David steps in, the man clambers out of his deep sea diving suit and… we’re back with the fabulously leisure-suited Mr Clement. He plays some truly awful jazz and apologises to David because he’s a little… off. After all he’s been on the astral plain for 20 years.
- David distracts Oliver from some terrible beat poetry and Oliver mentions that the monster can’t find him in here. David is confused and Oliver realises that he makes David forget…
- David tries to leave as the Devil as he see the Devil With Yellow Eyes prowling outside the ice walls.
- David decides to leave and throws a variety of superpower poses which do… well… nothing. Oliver creates a door and David, clearly freaked out, climbs back out of the ice cube onto the plain.
- We cut back to Syd flashing between riding a bus with Ptonomy and lying unconscious on the floor. She cycles back through the images of David having sex with his girlfriend, sees the Angry Boy watching them. They arrive at the place Philly works and Ptonomy briefs Syd on how to keep her busy while he scans her memories.
- We see Philly, Doctor Poole and David have lunch. They’re chatty and friendly and… there’s a flash image of a lighthouse.
- Ptonomy sees the lighthouse too and rocks and rolls the memory back and forth until he pins it down. He sees Philly walk up to a lighthouse. Sees Doctor Poole open the door, his face scarred.
- Ptonomy gets up to leave. Syd comes clean to Philly, tries to reassure her. She mentions that he was lovely until he went off his meds and killed his friend – a pusher called Benny.
- Not Lenny.
- We see scenes we’ve seen before featuring Lenny, excpet this time they feature a fat guy called Benny.
- Syd leaves and asks if there’s a message Philly wants to give David. She says, “Tell him they’re watching.”
- Syd, Ptonomy and Kerry go to the lighthouse and confront Poole. He doesn’t wants to talk but they persuade him.
- Poole is quiet, clearly frightened. Ptonomy wants to hack his memories but Syd is adamant that they be honest. They question Poole and he reveals David was great as long as he was on his meds. He mentions Benny and Syd asks what the stars said. Poole asks if they know where David is. He reveals he can’t concentrate and has lost the sight in one eye.
- Suddenly, unexpectedly, he asks if Bird isn’t the lead of their little band.
- Kerry looks out of the window and sees soldiers storming the house. The next time we see Poole, he’s changed into the Eye.
- This attack is what we saw as the episode opened.
- Syd, Ptonomy and Kerry flee upstairs as the Eye calmly walks through the hail of bullets. They have nowhere to go until Kerry grins, and says, “All day it’s talk talk talk talk TALK. MY TURN.” and jumps out of a window, building them a way out.
- CUE QUITE AWESOME MONTAGE! We see Oliver in his ice cube dancing to music; we see Cary – in his lab at Summerland – look up, and see Kerry in the forest; we see Ptonomy and The Eye get ready to fight; we see Cary mirror Kerry’s motions as she cuts loose magnificently, kicking the Division III troops’ soldiers asses; she was right – it is an awesome place to have a fight.
- And then… more Division III troopers appear.
- Cary screams.
- The Eye takes out Ptonomy.
- The Eye reaches for Syd and says, “We’ve been looking for you.” She grins, says, “That was a mistake,” and touches him. They swap bodies. Syd (now the Eye) falls unconscious.
- Kerry gets taken apart by a squad of Division III soldiers. As she’s clubbed unconscious, Cary passes out too.
- We see The Eye (now actually Syd) order his men to secure Syd and say he’ll take them back himself.
- We see Lenny appear as David’s room assembles around him on the astral plain.
- He/she tries to reassure David. David isn’t buying it. Lenny tries to turn him against the people of Summerland and tries to provoke him. She shows him footage of what seems to be Syd about to be killed by The Eye but of course, we know different.
- David panics, screams and screams and… appears in the real world.
- He stops the truck.
- He rescues “Syd” and the others.
- We see “Syd” pull a knife on David. We see “the Eye” throw a crowbar to stop her.
- We see them change back into their own bodies. Kerry runs fowards. The Eye pull a gun and…
- Kerry and Cary (in his lab) both go down, bleeding from the shoulder.
- David, realising what he’s done, looks on. And Lenny appears and places a hand on David’s shoulder… a hand that looks like the Devil With Yellow Eyes’ hand.
Okay! THIS is how you do it!
The first brilliant thing about this episode is its structure. The puzzle box opening, the reveal, Syd cutting loose and the way that plays into whatever the Devil With Yellow Eyes really wants is fantastic TV. The second brilliant thing about this episode is that looked at up close it doesn’t answer that much and we don’t care. We get some answers about what Oliver, King and Lenny are; we get some good information on just what David was doing before the Clockworks; and we find out about Cary/Kerry. That’s pretty much it.
But every single thing this episode works. EVERYTHING. From the performances to the brilliant direction to the script to the show’s weird, kinked ’70s aesthetic every single element clicks this week. In doing so, it gives us a TV show that simultaneously uses TV and the knowledge of how TV forms stories to tell those stories. We actually clapped when Ptonomy Minority Report-ed the subliminal image into position and the realisation that the flashes we’ve seen are also the ones the characters have is chilling.
Plus there’s definite momentum this week in a way that was lacking last time. We get a solid answer on Oliver, get to see Jermaine Clement have some fun, get some rock solid answers on the astral plain and get to see something especially interesting. The direction, script and acting all come together to give us the tiniest hint of who David really is. The terrifying possibility someone (King?) has put false memories into his mind calls everything about Dan Stevens’s charming, slightly nervous lead into question. That all pays off with the tangible danger in the closing sequence as he saves “Syd” with us knowing full well who she really is. It’s a great sequence, every character driving the action for their own ends and creating something that almost turns into a tragedy. We think (we hope) Kerry and Cary are okay but the fact we care so much says a lot about this episode in particular. Every element of this weird, disparate show is clicking into place and it really does play like nothing else on TV right now.
It’s also far tidier than it first appeared. The studied chaos of the early episodes has been replaced by a constant awareness and questioning of reality. The Lenny/Benny beat is a good example of this but the reveal that the dog was never real is positively nightmarish. Given its name, we have a pretty good idea just who is hitching a ride in David at this point but the show is giving us enough clues to make the journey there way more fun than it was last week.
Witty, sweet, horrific and oh so clever, this is the best episode of Legion yet. Unique, demanding, brilliant TV.
- “Wherever you go, there I am.” BUCKAROO BANZAAAAI SHOUT OUT! The original line is. “Wherever you go, there you are” and this version is much creepier.
- “And what’s the good news?”
“I’m not alone anymore. How do you feel about beat poetry?” Every line Jermaine Clement has this week is gold but this whole sequence is our favourite.
- “I was looking for the man I loved. Or did I just love the idea of him?” Syd getting very self aware, as she needs to be…
- “He’s a bomb.” The single best description of David we’ve heard so far.
- “I think he’s annoying but if I get to kick a few people I’m in.” MORE KERRY PLEASE. SHE’S GREAT.
- “He makes me laugh and I keep him safe. If that’s… weird. I’m okay with it.” SEE?!
- Kerry’s fundamental need to get in a fight is really sweet.
- Kondracki’s direction. The overlaying of David in the therapist’s office and Syd and Ptonomy investigating in particular is brilliant.
- David’s “Alright…WAAAAAAAAIT” reaction to the diving suit is lovely.
- Jermaine Clement. The role is Clement to a tee (’70s science! Air guitar! Total self absorption! Mild horniness!) and he owns every moment. Plus he still plays as kind of sweet in an odd, trapped in a mental ice cube, sort of way.
- The Kerry/Cary reveal. And the shot of her hand reaching over his in particular.
- The fight/dance routine. Just beautiful work from everyone involved. Amber Midthunder and Bill Irwin are magnificent at selling the link these two have. Plus the contrast between Cary’s slightly old fashioned dance routine and Kerry’s full contact martial arts is just beautiful. More of them both please.
- The entire closing sequence.
- The reveal on Benny/Lenny.
- Some of the astral plain effects are a little obvious but that’s a small price to pay for an episode this good.
- Larysa Kondracki has directed for Rogue, Copper, The Walking Dead, Gotham and many others as well as writing and directing 2010 movie The Whistleblower. She’s got a real visual wit and style that makes her work especially great.
- Nathaniel Halpern is the executive story editor for Outcast as well as writing for shows like Manhattan and The Killing.
- The song played over the glorious fight/dance scene is “Undiscovered First” by Feist.
Review by Alasdair Stuart