The Road to Nowhere Leads to Me: Legion, “Chapter 2”

This week’s Legion is slightly less trippy than the series’ first Chapter, but that didn’t mean we were left with fewer questions. With a little bit of neatly shoehorned exposition, Melanie Bird informed both David and viewers that “The human race is beginning to evolve” and she suspects Haller to be a powerful telepath; telekinetic, too. Warning of governmental “Divisions” —  units that control and track mutants like David and Syd — Bird informs him that the Divisions also kill those they can’t control. It looks like The Eye (who we met last week, along with the Interrogator) runs one such team, and he and his militant group are tracking David.

With that, we’re off for a treatment plan right beside David, reassured the place — aka Summerland — is safe, and listening for the single voice calling his name. Bird is comforting, seems worthy of trust and knows what she’s doing, just as Hawley did in recasting his villainous Fargo family head. As easily as her Floyd Gerhardt intimidated, so does Smart’s presumably good doctor settle down David, and give him the methodology to tune out the multitude of voices and hear only hers.

The fun visual of Haller dialing down a giant volume knob might be goofy if it didn’t make so much sense. “… Just turn it down until all you hear is that one voice. That’s good, David. That’s called telepathy. Tomorrow memory work begins”.

Working with Memory Artist, Ptonomy shoots us down a few childhood rabbit doggy holes alongside David; the clever plunging in and out of this timehole or that is as jarringly disconcerting for the audience as it must be for him. (“This first time, just focus on accepting it’s real“.)

Syd, who’s been quietly watching goings-on, visits David and reassures him, urges him forward with stories of her own success. While last week I felt very unsure of Syd, whether she was a separate physical being or a manifestation of one of David’s personalities, this week she feels much more fleshed out as her own character. Who knows; it could be a week to week wavering, but as comic readers know, Syd’s powers make her sound very much like Rogue, so it may be she’s an homage to that character. It’s still unclear how much of Legion’s actual Marvel history will play into this series, (cleverly) leaving everything a guessing game. For David, Syd is a huge calming force and one that thus far, brings him as close to happy as we can see.

Melanie offers to help David “rewrite the story of your life”; David amusingly wonders if they have time for that, but when you’re an inpatient at a second gorgeous, open-aired, glass-walled facility, it feels like you must have all the time in the world. (Illusion?)

Memory Work provides stories that seem just as unreliable as every other sort of David’s visual tales thus far. “But, what matters most — we make you whole” might be more than just words Melanie says; do all the personalities we see make David whole? As much fun as it is to speculate over who is and isn’t real, (much like Westworld‘s human/Host guessing games) there’s a need for a certain ratio. Some of the Legion characters must — need to be — real, lest we venture into St. Elsewhere territory, and Noah Hawley just doesn’t seem the type. We do see Melanie, Syd and Ptonomy even after David is made unconscious, which leads me to believe those three exist independently.

Grabbing hold of some time-tripping handles to ride his memories, we’re treated to storytime with Legion’s “dad”, an astronomer whose book choices seem suspect against the backdrop of sweet, middle-of-the-night starlit adventures that convince David the lights in the sky talked to him. In between, we’re all wrenched from one safe place to another, and in between that, a few terrible details and creatures sneak in. Again, knowing what’s real is near impossible; even his flashbacked sessions with Dr. Poole (what did The World’s Angriest Boy aka David do to him?) reveal David’s unreliable memory. He’s unclear about what happened with a girlfriend, and speaks of “the vapor”, which may or may not refer to a certain smoking frog Lenny (David?) stocked with a blue drug acquired in a kitchen range trade. Speaking of, if anyone is not real (part of David’s personality), I still believe it’s Lenny, as well as the oft-appearing Devil with the Yellow Eyes.

I do wonder what’s in the glass of “milk” Ptonomy says will help with the memory work. Melanie thinks David is “the key” to winning the war (with the government?) and “other things”; it’s interesting that Ptonomy drinks a glass, too. When he tells David to take his time getting up, it feels like that could refer to different moments throughout the hour; when and how many times has David seemingly snapped awake from one scene or the other? Presumably, Ptonomy refers to David recovering from his Spock death grip.

Together on a pair of swings, Syd again makes the case for her reality when she describes how it felt to be David when they switched minds, apologizes for killing Lenny … and suddenly we’re on the fence again about reality. Because, if Lenny’s not real (and I really think Lenny’s not real), and Syd killed Lenny while her mind was switched with David’s, how did that happen? Or did Syd just envision Lenny dead in the wall as if she were David, killing off a part of his own personality? Either way, Syd has a perfect story for how she and David ended up together:  thinking she was him, Melanie — and The Eye’s Division — *heard* David’s power and came after her. David’s still confused, but he feels so good when he’s with Syd, he doesn’t care …

… hmm, time for flip-flopping on Syd again?

In an MRI machine for a few tests (“We’re trying to map the [memory] network), David is advised and kept calm by Cary Loudermilk (Bill Irwin) — “Try not to sneeze; try to think of someone you love”. David reenters his memory palace with sister, Amy again, but in a different place and time, then he’s off with Lenny again. After a good dose of frog-smoke, David sees Lenny turn into the Devil with the Yellow Eyes (definitely, both in David’s head), and Melanie (who’s with David and Ptonomy in the memory) notes from her sensors that something happened. When he waves away reality, Bird reiterates:  “You’re not schizophrenic. Your powers are real.” Well, that much, I think we can take as reality. I think. Ptonomy forces David’s memory into completion to take them to a glitchy place where something happened, but David’s mind isn’t entirely cooperating, and they realize something traumatic must have happened — what it was still isn’t clear.

After Syd again whisks David to at least, a feeling of safety — and power(?) he reads Syd’s mind — finds himself back in the MRI, then back with Dr. Poole in childhood memories again. Whatever he refuses to remember, or let the others see him remember, must be something big (his mother’s death?). If you weren’t having enough character trouble already, this is the moment that David (and we) find out that Carey (Irwin) has a woman (daughter?) named Kerry (Amber Midthunder) working with him. And if you think you’re confused, imagine poor Amy, who we see near hour’s end, trying to find her brother back at Clockworks psychiatric hospital — only to be told they have no record of him (or his doctor) ever being there. Intriguingly, David (still in the machine) can somehow hear Amy, and she, him (and Carey can see David hearing); then everything goes bonkers as The Eye captures Amy, David freaks out, sees Yellow Eyes again, and his powers launch the MRI machine out of the building. He wakes on a floor, elsewhere in the facility. There’s a quick flash of what happened to Dr. Poole (bloody); David knows the Division has his sister, and he readies to leave and go help her … but as you might suspect, Syd pops up in the nick of time to convince him to stay; “She’s [Amy is] bait”. Speaking of, The Eye has some terrible wormy critters he’s prepared to use on poor Amy.

And with that, to the sounds of Thomas Dolby’s Hyperactive — “Shall we begin?” — “Chapter 2” has drawn to a close, leaving us no wiser than we were last week. Confused? Hell, yes. Intrigued? Hell, yes. Want more? Hell, yes. Nicely done again, Mr. Hawley.

Deep Thoughts:

First, a very cool note:  The episode opens with a woman singing lines from Talking Heads’ Road to Nowhere. That woman is Rachel Keller aka Syd Barrett.  “It’s in a sneaky place. They distorted my voice a little bit.”

We never see David’s (blonde) mother’s face, nor his father’s. Hawley has said that Xavier (Charles) will likely appear at some point, but not in the first season, and not as one of the film actors who has played Professor X. I wonder if whatever memories David seemingly has of his father are a step-parent, or just completely dreamed up.

“Loudermilk” as a last name for the testers in a facility where they give the test patients glasses of milk cannot be a coincidence. Also, Lenny’s nickname is “Cornflakes”.

Great lines:

Ptonomy:  “I’ll show you that it was really just your gift, make you whole again. It’s a museum of you.”

Lenny/David:  “Don’t give a newbie a bazooka and act surprised when she blows up shit up.”

Lenny:  “Some girl I finger-banged took a real shine to me. She had all these menus on her fridge, so I figured the bitch could live without stewing anymore Ragu or whatever.”

Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis has been writing about the entertainment industry for ​over ten years, and is the ​Editor-in-Chief at Oohlo, where she muses over television, movies, and pop culture. Previous Senior News Editor at Pajiba, and published at BUST.

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