Legion: Season 1 Episode 3 Review – Chapter 3
This review contains spoilers.
Three episodes in, the main focus of Legion largely lies on exploring David’s power by revisiting important memories. It is a logical approach for a show that is still finding its footing, especially when its main character is a potential superhero without full control over his powers. But when so much time is spent on fleshing out a single character, you run the risk that other important elements of the show fall by the wayside.
Halfway through this episode, frustrated when Melanie won’t allow him to rescue his sister, David asks the question “Why? Why am I so important?” Melanie gives two reasons: first and foremost she wants to help David live a healthy life, but the next goal is to use him in the war between Mutants and their enemies, Division 3. In a way, this interaction is representative of the show as a whole, and Melanie is the voice of the writers in this instance. Why do we need to spend so much time exploring the extent of David’s powers? Because first we need to understand exactly what his power is and why it manifests itself like this, before he can be of any use in the future plotlines that are being set up, in this case the impending war.
Similarly to Melanie’s motivation for helping David, it seems as if Legion‘s focus on David’s past has two goals: to develop him as a character and as an important figure in the war that is to come. The show is massively succeeding at the first goal. David is a very engaging character and it is fascinating to learn what makes him tick. It is the second goal where the show is starting to lag behind. Aside from the big setpiece at the end of the first episode, the threat of war is virtually non-existant. Division 3 is supposedly this big danger, with The Eye (or the guy with the perm as Syd calls him) as the figure head. Melanie tells us that his real name is Walter and that he was one of the first recruits when her husband and Kerry first started Summerland. However, he left because he was different; he wanted to hurt people. He is presented as a big threat, and the torture through leeches seems to underline this. The problem is that we never see him actually be threatening. The leeches were used as a cliffhanger in Chapter 2, but in Chapter 3 the procedure is quickly glossed over. Instead, we merely see his associate asking questions of Amy, nothing more. Right now, Division 3 is talked about as if they are a big danger, but the show fails to make this evident through what is shown. The stakes do not feel as big as they are supposed to be, which diminishes the threat of war.
That said, Legion finds threats in other places. For example, The World’s Angriest Boy in the World is infinitely more menacing than Division 3. It is unclear how much of it is real, if it is at all, but it does not matter. The image of the giant head stepping towards David lingers long after watching the episode, which I imagine is exactly the emotional response the creators of the show would want you to have. After all we are watching someone else’s traumatic memories. It is a sign that, although the show is currently unable to accurately convey the stakes pertaining to the war, it does manage to find dramatic tension in David’s subconscious.
Talking about David’s demons, there is another one that bears mentioning: The Devil With Yellow Eyes. He is another part of David’s subconscious that provides clear stakes: delving into his memories is necessary but not without its dangers. I like the creature as an agent of terror and some of the jump scares work quite effectively, but I also wish the show would have kept it more in the dark. Especially in this episode we see it often and clearly, which lessens the impact somewhat. That said, I am still very curious to figure out what it is and why it torments David so much.
Another aspect of the show that is working quite well is the relationship between David and Syd. Their quiet moments together offer a very welcome humorous note, as well as a chance to see these characters open up to one another. They had a connection before they swapped bodies, but this episode makes it clear that that connection has only grown stronger since. For the first time we see that not only David is affected by the monsters of his memory, Syd has visions about it too. It could signify that their minds are linked in some way, which is a development I am sure will be important going forward. It is already significant in this episode, since Syd is apparently the only one who is able to see some of the dangers that are lurking in David’s mind.
Since most of the narrative tension is caused by the dark parts of David’s mind, I could see Legion exploring this part of the show in more detail in the coming episodes. The show makes a clear point that memories cannot hurt you, but if that is the case, it must mean that these are not memories. So what are they? Finding that out could be the key going forward. So while the show definitely has room to improve in certain points, diving headfirst into the aspects that do work might be its best course of action going forward. Chapter 3 started off quiet before kicking things into a higher gear during its final moments. If the show can maintain that momentum, we could be in for a hell of a ride.
Image credits: FX Networks