Legion: Season 1 Episode 4 Review – Chapter 4
This review contains spoilers.
Four episodes in and one thing is very clear: with Legion you never know what to expect. Case in point, tonight’s cold open. We are introduced to a mysterious man, impecabbly dressed, sitting in a room made of ice. He addresses us as if he were a television presenter and we are his audience, which is true to a certain extent. The commanding way in which he speaks demands attention, yet at the same time he seems unsure of himself at times, scatterbrained almost. In passing he mentions a name, almost easy to miss: Oliver Anthony Bird.
It speaks to the ambition of this show to start off with some light fourth-wall-breaking in what is only its fourth episode. By now you have probably either accepted its weirdness and embraced it, or you are done with the show altogether. But the great thing about Legion is that it is not being weird for the sake of being weird. The scene functions as an introduction to an important new character, and the way in which he is presented perfectly highlights the contradictions in his personality. It makes him seem almost omnipotent yet absent minded at the same time. He has the eccentricity of someone who has been alone with his own thoughts for a very long time.
Another function of the scene is that it lays out the themes in play. Oliver talks about the relationship between empathy and fear; the story about a bunny who overcomes his obstacles, and the cautionary tale. The metaphor is clear, and our fuzzy hero has definitely got himself into a sticky situation. But will he persevere or get sucked into the sea and drown?
However interesting the cold open is, it does not come into play until nearly halfway through this episode. David is only in a handful of scenes, so a lot of the episode is focused on the rest of the people of Summerland and their quest for answers. Early on in this week’s episode, Syd states the following: “What was real? That was the mission.” It is succinct, yet works on multiple levels. The memory work with David raised more answers than questions, so it is clear that in order to find him the holes need to be filled in. This is the main motivation for people like Ptonomy, but to Syd there is a deeper reason. She wants to know if the person she fell in love with was the real David, or just what he wanted her to see, adding yet another layer to their already interesting relationship.
Their mission to find out what is real is shared by the viewers, and finally some sort of clarity is given. For example, we learn that David did not have a dog named King and that his friend Lenny was actually a man named Benny. Chapter 4 like no other establishes David as an unreliable narrator, but we also learn that it is not by choice. In between his frenetic jazz records and beat poetry about avocados, Oliver reveals some interesting things about the monster that torments David. It makes him forget.
While still being very much about David, Chapter 4 offers some much needed development to some of the other characters. The connection between Cary and Kerry is especially interesting, as it is similar to David’s situation. Whereas the monster is a parasite, their relationship is symbiotic; as Kerry says “He makes me laugh, I keep him safe. If that’s weird, I’m okay with it”. It is a little bit weird, mostly because we have not seen the two of them interacting all that much, but the emotional impact of their connection still comes across well, not in the least due to Bill Irwin’s skilled performance. They are two sides of the same coin, the mind and the body, the “boring stuff” and the action. And Kerry finally gets the action she has been wishing for, although this might be a case of ‘careful what you wish for’. Hopefully this is not the end for her, as the Cary/Kerry relationship has too much potential to be so quickly abandoned.
Last week I accused Legion of failing to make its villains feel villainous. However, Chapter 4 makes a lot of steps into the right direction. The ambush at the lighthouse is thrilling to watch, and we finally get a glimpse of what The Eye is capable of. The shot of him casually walking through a hail of bullets is badass, but what is even more badass is seeing smart characters outsmart others. Syd literally taking the gloves off is a brilliant moment that is the catalyst for the breathtaking final minutes where the disparity between David’s knowledge and that of the viewers adds an extra layer of excitement.
So in the end, David manages to escape the astral plane, but only after Lenny taunts him. The question is, did he do it alone or together with… something. The closing image seems to suggest the latter. At the start of the episode Oliver said that this was about a fuzzy little bunny who got too close to the ocean. I cannot wait to see what happens next.
Image credits: FX Networks