FX’s Legion returned last night with its sophomore season, but the security blanket David Haller made in the first season is gone. Friendships have eroded, chaos reigns, and David might perhaps be the least-trustworthy character in his own life because he’s keeping some dark secrets from his friends. A lot can change in a year.
“Chapter 9" opens with David (Dan Stevens) being rescued by his friends after having been kidnapped by a mysterious orb at the end of last season. For David, it’s felt like a day, but it’s actually been a year for everyone else since his disappearance. And everything is different now: Instead of being on the run from Division 3—the organization that spent the first season hunting them—the mutants are now working with them, which goes against everything from the end of season one, where it seemed the war between mutants and humans had only just begun. Apparently, Syd (Rachel Keller) and Melanie Bird (Jean Smart) convinced the organization’s basket-clad leader Admiral Fukuyama and his mustached Portal-voiced women that they weren’t the real threat. (That leader was something else, man. I still don’t know what to make of it. There’s weird, and then there’s Legion weird.)
The heroes and Division 3 have banded together to stop the Shadow King, a.k.a. Amahl Farouk, who’s currently possessing Oliver’s (Jemaine Clement) body and infecting humans with something called the Catalyst. It’s a psychological disease that freezes people in place, save for this creepy, ceaseless teeth chattering that is genuinely disconcerting—though I kept wondering how their teeth hadn’t shattered yet. Their goal is to end the Catalyst and stop Farouk from finding his real body, which would make him “unstoppable.”
The first thing you’ll notice is any camaraderie that was formed between our heroes during the first season is gone. They’re practically strangers to each other now, each one heading up their own sector of Division 3. This isn’t helped by the fact that no one believes David’s story that he doesn’t remember anything from the past year; Ptonomy (Jeremie Harris) insists he’s lying, Division 3 wants to do a carbon dating test on his bones, and a vapor-soaked Melanie not-so-subtly derides Syd for trusting that David is telling the truth about his absence. It’s especially sad seeing how Syd and David’s relationship has deteriorated. She physically and metaphorically “held her breath” for months, waiting for David to return. When he didn’t, she started working on honing her abilities (including swapping bodies with a cat) and moved on with her life. The moment David came back, she wanted to reignite that spark, and the two of them have sex on the astral plane. But it wasn’t the same. She knows it. We know it. Something about David is different. He’s got a secret.
It turns out, David does remember what happened while he was gone, and he’s terrified to tell anybody about it... possibly even himself. The orb was actually sent to fetch him by Syd from the future, who tasks David with helping Farouk find his body. She doesn’t give a reason why, only telling him that she loves him and time is running out. You can see how devastating this revelation is to David: He spent most of his life as Farouk’s prisoner, suffering at the hands of a monster who dominated his mind and tortured him psychologically. How could he possibly help a man who caused him so much harm? But if the astral plane dance number is any indication, David has teamed up with Oliver and Lenny (Aubrey Plaza) to help Farouk with his mission.
All of this is juxtaposed with a narration by Jon Hamm about the nature of delusions and how they’re able to grow, eventually feeding on reality to create something new and destructive. It’s represented by a slimy, Venom-looking bird skeleton that crawls its way under David and Syd’s bed on the astral plane, adding yet another layer on top of the many layers we’re already getting this season. I saw some people commenting on the show who believe this means David is being fed more delusions by Farouk, but I’m more inclined to think that it’s David who’s in control and feeding the delusion to others. By showing how his lies have infected his and Syd’s safe space, it represents how far he’s willing to go on his own, and that he’s going to cause a lot of harm to everyone he loves.
Legion knows it’s not a show for everybody, and that it’s totally fine. In fact, I’m pretty sure the show relishes in that. It’s a gorgeous journey into the psyche that, while verging on the silly sometimes, isn’t afraid to take chances in the story it wants to tell and how it’s telling it. I may not always like the creative decisions, but I’ll always applaud shows for taking real risks. There’s a lot of stuff missing from the past year, and I’m looking forward to Legion filling in the gaps. Even if it involves basket heads.
- Getting our heroes away from Summerland and into a new space that has physically and emotionally isolated them from each other was a smart move, one that I feel will (or should) have repercussions later on. I don’t trust Division 3 at all, and I worry they’re keeping our heroes apart for their own ends.
- That phantom leg thing. Eww.
- It’s revealed that Farouk, the Shadow King, “came to be” in Morocco during the 1800s. We don’t really see him physically emerge in the comics until the 1930s, where he was helping Wolfgang von Strucker, but that doesn’t mean Farouk wasn’t around beforehand. And given how the Shadow King’s been a presence since the dawn of nightmares, I think this interpretation totally works.
- I’m always a fan of slowed-down versions of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” and hearing David slowly sing it as he joined Oliver and Lenny in the astral plane dance club was excellent.
- The basket head guy thing is weird. So Fukuyama is actually the singular identity of the collective formed by the cyborg-ed admiral and his three robot-voiced women, but I’m just going to keep saying basket head guy.