A story as complex as Legion requires its audience to keep a lot of things straight; and as if the first two episodes weren’t disorienting enough, the third chapter wraps by questioning the sheer reality of David’s memories that came before it.
The FX series -- which is currently sitting at an impressive 93.33 rating on the ComicBook.com User Composite -- seems intent to cast as much doubt as possible on what the audience is seeing -- and it’s thrilling to watch even if it tortures David.
Legion collides with itself and with the culture that has inspired it in at least 60 ways with each new chapter. The third episode, helmed by veteran director Michael Uppendahl ( Fargo, Mad Men, American Horror Story), continues along these intersecting and forking paths.
[LEGION THEORY: Who is the Devil with Yellow Eyes?]
Shall we begin with the story of the poor wood cutter and his wife, recited by Summerland’s residing voice, Oliver (comedian Jemaine Clement of What We Do in the Shadows and Flight of the Conchords). The tale is condensed from The Crane Maiden of Japanese folklore.
Like Legion itself, the tale gets curiouser and curiouser when considering its possible significance to Dr. Bird and her team of specialists. If the keywords are “never watch me work,” their deep investigation of David’s psyche could be in for a rough ending.
With the clock already ticking down -- on the episode, the season, this recap, and a few other things to boot -- there can be no delay before returning to “the big events” that continue to shape David’s hallucinations and paranoia.
Ptonomy has dug a little deeper and now he can shepherd David and Dr. Bird back to the kitchen vortex seen earlier in less detail with the big revelations for David’s past, present, and possible future(s) come while under observation in Cary Loudermilk’s lab.
Cary asks David to think of something stressful. The childhood memory of treats and unexpected tricks seems to prompt the return of an old partner. David’s best friend Lenny, who for all his purposes was killed in the day room incident at Clockworks, appears in Cary’s lab wearing the same overalls from David’s hallucination in chapter one.
Though David clearly “talks” to his vision of dead Lenny, and Cary Loudermilk notes that the speech center of his brain his active, the conversation is not heard by anyone else in the room. Though Legion has openly played with reality since it was first announced, this may be the most clinical confirmation yet of David’s perception and his surroundings being in opposition.
In the disorder that follows, David levitates and crosses through space with Sydney by his side all the way to his sister Amy’s interrogation by Captain Brubaker and The Eye, members of the mysterious Division 3 that tracks advanced/mutated individuals like David.
The Eye (played with a terrifying understatedness by Fargo returnee Mackenzie Gray) also sees back. There is whittling again... and it may or may not be the same wood block he was seen with earlier in chapter one.
When the pair of travelers returns to Summerland, surprising history is revealed. The whole Summerland complex was built from the ground up only decades earlier by Oliver, Dr. Bird’s husband before he was a disembodied voice, and Cary.
The Eye is no stranger to them either.
Because of the ticking clock, Dr. Bird and David agree that it’s time to speed up his therapy. David has to be sedated to access the incident that led to his stay in Clockworks -- an encounter with Dr. Poole that looks like it’s going to end badly.
After three chapters, it’s getting harder to circle around Sydney Barrett and what she may mean to David. The two lead characters are increasingly becoming one. Sydney sees David’s perspective in her own dreams before becoming lost in the disorienting den of his memories -- if that’s what they are.
Whenever Sydney and David’s personalities collide important realizations are made and shared between them. It seems like she completes him in a way. David’s fragmented world needs some kind of zipper to unite his tremendous supernatural power with the self-control needed to win a war that his teachers leave completely vague in his mind.
A show like Legion teaches its audience aspects of itself while it teaches aspects of David at the same time. Though chapter three ends with David in some kind of limbo, it seems like a perfect time to rewatch his earlier chapters for clues to prepare for the next five episodes of radical television.
Looking at Legion too closely can send you spiraling -- but if you learn to control that, you’re gonna be a world-class bad-ass.
- David makes these important connections each day while threatened by shadows at night. The Devil with the Yellow Eyes has lit up internet discussion with many speculating about his identity as a possible X-Men character. The clues that it may be some kind of reference to the Shadow King are beginning to pile up. One of the most powerful villains in X-Men lore, the Shadow King can inhabit any body he pleases, something like a virus. He often takes the form of a large man in a suit (not unlike what David sees him wearing in chapter three). The Shadow King and David also have quite a history in the comics; fans may want to check out or revisit 1991’s Muir Island Saga.
- If Oliver and Cary really built Summerland alone, one of them must be strong as an ox. Cary Loudermilk’s apparent alter ego, Kerry Loudermilk (played by Amber Midthunder) could fit the bill. She already displayed super strength in the first episode’s concluding escape, and tonight’s episode shows us in the clearest fashion yet that she and Cary seem to share a body.
-- Zach Ellin reviewed the first three episodes of Legion, and will provide coverage throughout the entire season of the show for ComicBook.com. Follow him on Twitter for more of his insights.