Suffice to say that after last week’s 90 minute pilot episode, which featured a mentally unstable main character, confused timelines, people who are dead that maybe never existed, body swapping, and a full blown song and dance number, I had no idea what to expect from episode two of Legion. Oddly enough, the direction I was the least prepared for was the actual direction that “Chapter 2” went in: straightforward. Following up on last week’s harried escape from government goons, David’s new friends take him deeper into his psyche to try and get him to understand the root and breadth of his powers.
So it seems that characterizing Jean Smart‘s character Dr. Bird as Legion’s Professor X was kind of astute. We don’t know if she’s a mutant, but she’s definitely invested in helping mutants realize their potential and she has her own post-modern X-Mansion in the middle of the woods called “Summerland.” The reason Dr. Bird is helping all these mutants in this idyllic woodland glen is not revealed, but in the back of my mind I’m wondering if this is being set up as a future twist. Here’s a bonkers theory, what if Dr. Bird is really the Shadow King, a bad guy from the X-Men comics that has his own telepathy and can possess people and bend them to his will. The Shadow King would be an interesting opponent for David who has his own issues with reality.
In the meantime, Bird is trying to get David to deal with his own self-made demons. One of David’s rescuers, Ptonomy, has the mutant ability to reconstruct people’s memories and allow that person, and others, to see them from outside. So we see young David playing in the woods with Amy, we see David and Amy interacting with their parents whose faces we never see (remember that in the comics, David’s parents are Professor Xavier and Moira MacTaggart), and we see David’s faceless father read him a bedtime story, The Angriest Boy in the World. The book was interesting and loaded with symbolism, it was like a children’s book written by James Wan and illustrated by Tim Burton.
The other major area of David’s past that was focused on were psychiatry sessions he had with a man named Dr. Poole at some time before he was committed. Through these memories, we also learn that David knew Lenny before he went to the hospital, which only makes me suspect further that Lenny is a figment of his imagination and we’re being Fight Clubbed when we see scenes were Lenny is negotiating getting drugs in exchange for an oven she stole. The only thing that gives me pause is that Syd says she saw Lenny’s remains plastered inside the wall back at the mental hospital, but she was in David’s body at the time, which makes me think her judgment’s impaired.
Through these holodeck-like flashbacks, we see Lenny and David getting high on some funky blue substance called Vapour. Why Lenny needs to cope using mind-altering drugs (assuming she’s real) is not revealed, but clearly this was a bad time for David, who Ptonomy discovers is hiding something about this period of his life. We don’t go into details, but as soon as Lenny starts talking about if there’s anything in Poole’s office that’s worth stealing my thoughts immediate turned to the notion that Poole was probably hurt in some kind of robbery, a theory proved when we see a quick flash of Poole’s beaten and cut face. My question: was he killed? Why else would David be trying to hide it? It was the misuse of his powers that did, basically, kill Lenny, so why is he so shamed that he once beat up someone for drug money?
I’m not sure anything is resolved for David in terms of dealing with his past or his powers, which is another interesting aspect to this show. Rarely is there ever any time in the X-Men movies to deal with the mundane of trying to control one’s powers or investigating one’s past (unless your name is Wolverine), so to dedicate an hour to pluming the inner depths of a mutant’s mind and their struggles with their abilities only to resolve nothing is actually fairly compelling, and refreshing. David’s journey to accepting his abilities is going to be as difficult as when he thought he was living with mental illness, if not even more difficult. You mean to tell me that Dr. Bird is the first person David’s encountered who knows he’s a mutant? Is that why David has such ambivalence about looking at his parents?
Of course, if there’s bright spot to all this it’s David and Syd’s physical-less romance. The fire still burns strongly with David declaring there there’s nothing he wants to do more than hug Syd. How scandalous! You’ve got to love the kind of chasten quality to their relationship, it’s sweetly innocent and it stands out all the more considering the black ops and bad things going on through the rest of the series, both past and present. I love Syd’s characterization of how touching people, even while wearing gloves, is like feeling pins and needles, and it’s amazing how vividly Noah Hawley and Co. have characterized the dilemma when she essentially has the same power as Rogue, who’s appeared in a handful of X-Men movies by comparison.
Sadly though, there’s not likely to be much time for romance with Amy now in the custody of Division 3. David wants to rush in and save the day, but Syd correctly points out that they’re using her as bait to lure him out. It’s refreshing in a superhero show to see someone play 3D chess and credit villains for thinking like villains, because I have a feeling that if we were watching Supergirl or The Flash, the episode would have ended with the hero marching hard headedly into a trap because they “have to” and “that’s what a hero does.” It’s definitely the shrewd option to make sure David gets a handle on his own powers before picking a fight with Division. In the meantime, who wants to take bets that Amy has a mutant power?