Legion S01E06 “Chapter 6” REVIEW
- “Doctor” Lenny talks to each character in turn. She calls Doctor Bird on the “ridiculous” fantasy of her husband being alive. She has Ptonomy relive his mother’s death and calls him on his obsession with the past. She diagnoses Cary and Kerry as having mutual dependency issues. The Eye was the last kid in his glass to hit puberty and that’s the key to his hatred of mutants who “evolved” faster than he could. Syd isolates herself from the world. And yet Syd is the only one who senses something is badly wrong…
- Syd heads back to her room, hears music from behind a locked door and heads towards it… only to be ordered to the nurse’s station and warned. There she finds Amy, in this reality as a nurse, who insists on spot-checking her even though Syd hates to be touched.
- Ptonomy and David, meanwhile, are re-enacting the spit conversation from episode one. David though has the slightest hint of something being different. He asks Ptonomy what things were like before the Clockworks. Ptonomy’s fatalistic response is very, very unlike him. Syd joins them and asks about the odd door in the South Hall only for Lenny to appear and take David to therapy.
- David’s interview is… tranquil. He’s at peace. The world is starting to make sense. Doctor Lenny does not seem overly thrilled by this news. Especially when David reveals so much of this is because he’s in a relationship.
- At lunch, Nurse Amy takes the pie from David for no reason. Syd offers him her’s but is forbidden from doing so. When she takes the pie back, it’s covered in bugs. She screams, throws it aside and the pie fades into Lenny’s face.
- And Lenny’s dance routine.
- As “Feelin’ Good” by Nina Simone plays, Lenny rampages through every memory David has. The exploding kitchen, the lab, the bedroom. It’s a Bob Fosse routine crossed with possession and it finishes with Lenny stepping out of the mysterious door in the South Hall and going back to “work”.
- Syd wakes from a nightmare of the real world (the white room, the Devil With Yellow Eyes, the gunshot) and finds David joining her in bed, complete with separation pillow. Syd loves it but it’s… familiar. She asks David about it, asks if he’s happy. He is but Syd wants to work on getting better. She pushes him but he isn’t having it. She says she can’t stay, and when David asks if she could stay for him, she doesn’t answer.
- The next morning, the door in the South Hall is gone…
- Syd chats to Kerry and Cary, who are playing Scrabble with drug names. She admits she hasn’t slept well and describes the attack in the bedroom last episode. Cary dreamt of a large ice cube. Bird dreamed of love. Kerry dreamed of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Cary tries to reassure Syd that she’s just confused. Syd isn’t buying it.
- Kerry is waiting for Carry outside the bathroom. The Eye watches her from down the corridor. She looks but he’s gone…
- Later, Kerry and Cary go to bed, in adjoining rooms. Kerry is… not cool. With anything. Cary does a little vigorous yoga and sacks out, fully clothed. As he does so bright green light rises in the room as the ice cube appears above his bed.
- Cary is pretty chill about this, all things considered. He reaches up for it and suddenly is in a forest. He’s also dressed in his own clothes and carrying Kerry’s injuries again.
- That night, Syd talks to David about the door and how the asylum may be a construct. David asks her to be careful as he’d hate her meds to be upped. As the conversation goes on, it becomes clear that David has no memory of what his true issues are and has projected them onto Syd. As the conversation goes on it becomes clear David remembers things that Syd has absolutely no memory of. She leaves.
- Syd walks into the corridor, collects herself and then, sees a beating heart in the wall.
- She touches it.
- She flashes back to Lenny in the wall.
- She sees David kiss her.
- She sees them touch.
- She sees the white room.
- Division III.
- The bedroom attack.
- And then Doctor Lenny appears. Syd tries to talk her way out of it but Doctor Lenny insists on her trying music therapy. She hands her a massive set of headphones and presses play. The gentle, ambient music turns Syd off and she floats to the ground and is carried back to her bed by the music.
- Nearby Ptonomy relives his mom’s death in his dreams and Kerry sits bolt upright. She knocks on the wall. No response. She steps through into the other room.
- Cary’s gone.
- And The Eye is in the room. He touches her, and Kerry panics and runs off, screaming for her brother.
- Later, David is heading down the corridor when he hears the music. He’s stopped by Amy who voices every single terrible thought that adopted kids have about how they’re really viewed by their family. She begins to vomit and David leaves.
- Nearby, Bird is watering her bonsai plants. She sees the diving-suited figure who gestures for her to follow and she pushes through into the Astral Plain. Or, at least, a corridor that leads to the cryo-chamber. She steps through and…
- …Is in the final moments in the bedroom. The bullets. The White Room. The diving-suited figure appears again and gestures at the bullets. She begs him to speak but he simply points.
- Slowly, Bird touches one of the bullets. It’s hot and still moving. She tries to move David and Syd. Nothing. She looks around and, unseen, a pair of eyes open on the doors on the other side of the room…
- David comes to find Doctor Lenny. He’s concerned about Syd who he can’t find. Lenny wonders if she’s the right girl for him. David’s shocked but she goes on. She compares Cordyceps fungus – which takes over ants and forces them to climb before bursting out of their bodies – to love.
- Lenny goes on to explain that only God matters because God has power. She mentions that The Eye understands and we cut back to him walking the halls, cheerfully pursuing Kerry.
- Back in the room, Lenny says she knew David’s real father. She also reveals he was hidden to protect him from her. As she flickers between being The Devil With Yellow Eyes and Lenny, she explains that she is his own special fungus. He asks what she did with Syd and she complains about how hard work he’s been and how she just needs his body. David convulses and wakes up alone in a box, falling into darkness…
- Syd is woken as the headphones are taken off her. It’s Kerry, in the diving suit. The escape is on…
Legion is one of those shows that rolls the dice on a weekly basis. Nothing is safe, not even the format and in weeks past we’ve seen the format of an episode be used as the format of the reality the characters are experiencing; that reality being hackable allowing for a wide variety of amazing moments spill out. The dance routine in the pilot for one. The punch-up/Jermaine Clement glam rock-out for another in episode four for another.
This episode behaves itself for almost exactly 14 minutes. We see our leads in Clockworks, being examined by “Lenny’. We see how different they are and how reduced.
And then Aubrey Plaza cuts loose.
The dance routine is terrifying, exuberant, funny and a season highlight. This is Lenny as the victor. She’s in total control. She has it ALL.
And she’s kind of bored.
As the episode goes on, little slips keep appearing. She can’t control their dreams. She can’t control Oliver, who extracts first Cary and then Bird. She can’t control Syd whose grounded, physical presence and calm slowly break through the gossamer tissue of the constructed world they live in.
All of this is great and it gives the rest of the cast a chance to cut loose too. Jeremie Harris and Amber Midthunder are especially great as we see their characters broken down to their purest selves and their strengths used against them.
And then there’s the Eye and the Problem.
Last week, Syd – who is along with Kerry, the most physically capable character on the show – was pursued onto a bed by the Devil With Yellow Eyes. The sexual assault metaphor is clear but passes by pretty fast.
This week, the last time we see Kerry, she’s running tearfully down a corridor as the Eye follows her. He’s already physically touched her once. An assault, it’s clear, of some form, is next.
We have a serious problem with that. Here’s why.
First off, Legion is easily the best TV or movie version of the X-Men universe since First Class and, probably, since the 1990s cartoon. A big part of that is that characters like Syd and Kerry are smart, switched-on women who are physically capable and aren’t used as cheap jeopardy objects. A bigger part of it is that this is a show that deals with superheroic ideas in a manner that’s adult, measured and wildly eccentric. “Adult” does not have to mean “the women get assaulted”. It shouldn’t mean that. For the last two episodes, it has.
The biggest problem we have with it, though, is this; it’s lazy. It’s cheap drama, lowest-hanging-fruit writing in a series that usually goes to the next forest over to get the really good stuff. How many versions of “strong female lead is terrified she’s secretly a marshmallow?” have we had to sit through over the years? It’s always the go-to and it’s always the least interesting result, especially for Kerry. How much more interesting would it have been for her greatest fear to be Cary’s death? Or their growing age gap? Or, given she’s Native American, her unique perspective on the Division’s war with the mutants? Or her terror that, living most of her life inside a white man’s head, means she isn’t a “real” native American?
Crunch it down to something way simpler even; Kerry loves to fight. She loves physical combat. She just got her ass kicked very soundly. What if she’s scared she doesn’t have the edge anymore? What if she’s scared to get back in the ring? That was the dramatic engine for at least six of the seven and counting Rockyverse movies and it would have fit here like a glove.
Instead we get the female victim.
In fairness, the episode does end with Lenny doing something very similar to David but the payoff is entirely different. David is psychically mauled and thrown into a prison in his own mind. Everything about the scene between the Eye and Kerry suggests a physical assault is imminent. Even if this is prevented by Kerry getting her memories back and kicking his ass, it’s still there. The laziest beat possible for a female character in a show that categorically knows better.
This is still a good episode, often a great one, of a show like nothing else on TV right now. But that just means the bum note sounds even louder. Two episodes to go. Here’s hoping this is the last time we have to sit through that particular plot beat.
- The entire cast. This entire group is amazing but this episode in particular they turn in just stunning work. Especially Rachel Keller and Aubrey Plaza who, now she’s been let out of the bag, is going wild in the most fun way.
- That moment when Syd walks into the corridor, stops, sets her shoulders and moves on. Rachel Keller is doing brilliant work with Syd, showing how this woman who is terrified of physicality is also resolutely comfortable within her own physical form. It’s subtle, joined-up acting and it’s a pleasure to see.
- The dance routine.
- David being happy inside the asylum.
- The direction and pacing. The eyes on the door, the dance routine, the Kerry/Cary sequences. So much great stuff this week.
- The entire Cordyceps conversation.
- “All of you running around trying to be happy… fulfilled.” The “you” slip here is chilling. Comic fans have some idea just what “Lenny” is but this sets her out as alien in a really subtle way for everyone.
- “What do imaginary doors have to do with not wanting to be touched?” Syd is so grounded and awesome.
- “Living day-by-day.”
“Till what, osteoporosis?” This entire sequence is great but this line is one of the few, and best, jokes in an unusually grim hour.
- The entire Kerry and the Eye plot.
And The Random:
- Hiro Murai has directed a series of music videos, most notably for Donald Glover’s rap alter ego, Childish Gambino. He’s also directed for Glover’s extraordinarily great comedy drama series Atlanta.
- Nathaniel Halpern is co-producer on Legion and has written for Manhattan and Outcast amongst others.
- Lenny’s “music therapy” is a real piece of music. “Choir & Crickets” by Jeff Russo.
- The incredible version of “Oh You Pretty Things” at the end of the episode is by Lisa Hanigan.
Review by Alasdair Stuart