Season One, Episode Three — “Chapter 3”
By Jarrod Jones. David’s hit a wall in the third week of Legion and we have too.
This abrupt stop is probably an unintended consequence of gorging on Legion‘s boffo premiere so hungrily. “Chapter 3”, the first episode of Legion that wasn’t written by showrunner Noah Hawley (Peter Calloway, of CBS’ Under the Dome, penned this installment), took the deepest dive into the headspace of Mr. Haller yet, though the imagery contained within didn’t offer much in way of enlightenment.
It did, however, offer dimension. Melanie Bird and Ptonomy Wallace, with Syd Barrett tagging along for moral support, found some disquieting things inside David’s noggin — the Devil With the Yellow Eyes included. What they saw were largely things we’ve seen before, only twisted for the benefit of Team Legion: “The World’s Angriest Boy in the World” revealed another page to Mel, where we saw a city crumbling in flames; David’s innocence took the form of a child, who sullenly trailed behind Mel, Ptonomy, and Syd until things got too intense; and of course there was the Devil himself, who seemed pretty agitated that Syd and Mel would go poking around parts of David’s mind that ought to have stayed hidden.
The exploration contained in “Chapter 3” took up much of its second half, and yet it still felt fleeting. It was brief without being concise, though to be fair “concise” isn’t exactly a word one would associate with this pretzel-knotted psychodrama. Happily there were flashes of the Lynchian surrealism that we’ve come to expect from Legion, and in the episode’s first twenty minutes there were even dalliances with what felt like infinity itself.
It was only when David and Syd’s hopes to save Amy ran up against Mel’s agenda that “Chapter 3” decided to curl into a ball and take a nap. What’s more, with every moment of uncanny mind-fudgery, there came nattering genre devices to shove their way into the proceedings.
For instance, when Syd broke off from the team to follow young David through the dark corridors of his psyche, the episode took on the clunkier attributes of a cruddier horror movie, particularly that of A Nightmare on Elm Street, where narrow pathways are haunted by a marauding boogeyman and obvious undercurrents of psycho-sexuality nip away at our hero’s heels.
Syd’s short-lived mystery tour through David’s memories was particularly frustrating, in part because Legion has once again glossed over Lenny’s death at the hands of David/Syd back in the first episode (and it continues to gloss over the troubling subtext at play there, which Lux Alptraum wrote about over at Vulture, and is worthy of your gaze). There’s a moment where Syd literally steps over Cornflakes to get to some undefined truth about David, and the only substantial meaning we can glean from that is David subconsciously likes to lord his sexuality over Syd.
Syd can touch people in David’s mind, and though she’d probably prefer to embrace this squirrely dude she’s taken on as her boyfriend, David only offers his vulnerable child avatar for comfort. Later, Syd walks in on David and Philly during a bout of particularly passionate (and unsurprisingly vanilla) sex. Something for her and Mr. Haller to gnaw over once he wakes up.
If he wakes up.
“Unhand the space reptile, Captain.” – Cornflakes.
“This is right now.” – Ptonomy.
BEST MOMENT: David and Syd take a trip through the wormhole of the mind’s eye to see what’s become of Amy.
EPISODE’S MVP: David Haller remains the most intriguing part of Legion. This week, Dan Stevens did some wonderfully twisted things with his hands while describing the feeling he had when, for a few hours, he inhabited Syd’s body. The best part? Syd returns the favor.
WELCOME TO THE MACHINE:
– This week’s red sightings: Syd’s slippers, David’s memory constructs crumble to reveal streams of red light, the same light is present again once the World’s Angriest Boy comes barging in, and we see it inside David’s copy of “The World’s Angriest Boy in the World”.
– Still waiting on the show to give Amber Midthunder something to do besides having her stand around darting agitated glances at everybody.
– That moment when Legion framed David in front of a window, its grilles forming a giant ‘X’. Subtle.
– So what do you think, Legionnaires? Is David just prime time entertainment for Mojo? Or is there something far more Sinister afoot? Sound off in the comments section below.
7.5 out of 10
Next: “Chapter 4”, soon.
Before: “Chapter 2”, here.