*This article contains spoilers: Legion – Chapter 6 & Legion – Chapter 7*
In Chapter 6, Legion Loses Its Mind
Chapter 6 is one of the harder episodes to follow, particularly because it takes place entirely in some form of astral plane. But it’s also Legion’s most intriguing thus far, as it constantly encourages critical thinking and close observation behind the gaze of a wildly imaginative aesthetic. You may have missed a visual cue here, or a key discovery hidden in plain sight there, but these things culminate nicely during the last ten minutes and it’s hard not to come away satisfied with how the mystery side of Legion is being spun.
Speculation surrounding the Shadow-King continued to float in the direction of Lenny, who’s got the entire Summerland group trapped in an alternate reality. It’s a suspicion that makes perfect sense (especially now, since Chapter 7 confirms that she’s indeed a form of the Shadow-King) and would give her a whole lot more purpose given the circumstances. For one, her hold over the team – at least, psychologically – is airtight here; one need no more proof than those calculating first 15 minutes of the episode. Ptonomy, usually keen to impending danger, is eagerly clamoring over cherry pie and visually recounting the unfortunate death of his mother as though it had just happened. David’s taking in his return to Clockworks as if he’s uncovered his true happy place; the alarm bells in his head couldn’t be more silent. Cary and Kerry seem more adamant over keeping each other safe than whether or not Syd’s BS’ing over some mysterious hallway. Melanie, worst of them all, is completely out of it: she’s sprouting plants and resorting to unflinching denial over Oliver.
These behaviours demonstrate the danger YED (Yellow Eyed Demon) represents as the season wears its way onto its final act, but that’s not the most impressive aspect of the entity’s presence this week. Aubrey Plaza has made the absolute most of her screen time up until this point, but here in Chapter 6″her efforts propel themselves to another level. Every second she chews up is pure gold, whether it’s on a promiscuous level with that Bond-esque strut around David’s old memories, or on a more calculating one as she either fails to break Syd or succeeds at convincing David that he’s found his “balance”. Various facial expressions and mannerisms give away Lenny’s thoughts without a single word ushering from her mouth, and the power derived from Plaza’s performance – particularly in that one instance where she breaks down the nuance of having power over others – leaves a profound impression in every single gesture. It’s almost as if she’s constantly pushing the entire episode along on her own and doing it with an easy grace that takes years of acting to master.
Second to Plaza’s magnetic presence in Chapter 6 is the outstanding direction: a particular feat I’ve already grown tired of acknowledging again and again. Usually, I appreciate a really good-looking series when reviewing the first couple of episodes and then move my impressions over to my extra notes, but Legion somehow manages to top itself every week from an aesthetic standpoint – and this installment is certainly no exception. There are so many different places to start in this regard: the sepia-toned vividness of Ptonomy’s childhood memory; that shot of the Eye gazing Kerry from afar; those creepy pair of eyes glistening off the wall of that room in David’s old house; and the disturbing image of that bug-infested slice of cherry pie. Not only do these moments look and sound great, they parallel with the characters in each scene in a rather fascinating manner. You’re almost enveloped in the same level of fear Kerry experiences as she’s stumbling down the Clockworks halls while The Eye patiently staggers behind her in pursuit, or caught in the same trance as Syd when Lenny’s headphones leave her trapped in the colourful shadings of David’s childhood bedroom.
I alluded before that the final ten minutes of Chapter 6 practically bring everything together, and it’s truly amazing how efficiently it does so. Melanie’s obsession with Oliver pulls her into another dimension where she stands before the dicey situation David saved the team from, Lenny encases David in some sort of psychological void, and Cary, hot on Oliver’s trail after seeing him traverse about in his deep sea scuba suit, rescues Syd from the crutches of Lenny’s latest manipulation technique. One way or another, Legion edges toward these conclusions before they happen. Melanie’s situation is almost self-explanatory, but Lenny opts to pull all the stops necessary after witnessing Melanie break free; trapping David, however, was the easy part. Cary has been scheming for ways to outwit the YED all along, so of course he stays sharp and works his way into a sort of heroic role amidst all the fabrications. As well as painting a scary picture of what level of power the Shadow-King has amassed, Chapter 6 gives (parts of) the Summerland team these sparse moments to shine, and they go above and beyond gearing us up for the excitement that awaited in this week’s proceedings.
In Chapter 7, Legion Regains Control
The moment we’ve all been anxiously anticipating finally manifested in the final third of Chapter 7 – and it came to us in spectacular fashion. Freed from the hinges of the YED’s (or Shadow-King’s, depending on how you choose to view it after Cary’s revelation) mental bind, David surfs his way through the labyrinth of his head space as Oliver builds a wall of protection for both David and Syd’s real bodies using a symphony of sounds that set the tone for what comes afterward.
What comes afterward is the stuff of television legends. The screen constantly starts shifting between a full palette of colour and a black-and-white sheen reminiscent of an eighty-year old Hollywood classic film. In colour, David’s busting open the doors that blocked him off from registering control over his mind. I can’t say for sure that we’ve ever seen David use his powers without the Shadow-King’s influence, but nonetheless it’s a marvel of an experience seeing him tear down (fake) Clockworks with such impetus. The latter scenario in black and white presents Lenny as the demented monster she truly is, with text stills replacing actual spoken dialogue for a heightened dose of classical horror and suspense. Once again, Aubrey Plaza knocks it out of the park here, giving us a Mr. Hyde-meets-Edward Scissorhands look that coincides perfectly with her incredibly creepy behaviour.
The camerawork, visual effects and sound mixing are truly remarkable in Chapter 7, and those things all transcend the final act. The Eye’s distasteful demise – take your pick between Lenny crumpling his body into the shape of a rubix cube, or his face bleeding out from the pores – not only looks as agonising as it must’ve felt, but it reinforces the degree of power The Shadow-King possesses. Then there’s David swallowing Rudy’s bullets with his hand and teleporting everyone back to Summerland HQ; a cathartic, series-defining moment where we witness this once-troubled man finally come into his own with his otherworldly abilities. Let’s not also forget the stark contrast between Lenny’s envisioned horror show and the dry, drab opaqueness made visible by Oliver’s custom-made glasses.
Another strongpoint in this episode is its delicious bit of exposition, with Oliver and Cary hilariously discussing Amahl Farouk and his complicated history with David’s father (who’s GOTTA look at least a little familiar after seeing those chalkboard drawings), and a British sub-conscious (ironically performed by Dan Stevens, himself) alerting David of the hold that the Shadow-King had over him this entire time. Both scenes are subject to the signature quirkiness that Noah Hawley peppered throughout his work in Fargo, which gives them an enthusiasm and light-heartedness that adds levity to the current situation without tonally downplaying it. Cary’s conversation with Oliver, for example, is one of THE funniest moments the series has had yet – you can almost decode the amount of fun Jemaine Clement must’ve had acting this thing out – but the Shadow-King mention is handled with enough calmness and sincerity to remain as ominous as it is exciting.
Luckily for us, all is not sunshine and rainbows, even despite the Shadow-King finally being overwhelmed by David. With the extremely untimely re-emergence of Division 3 – and that now-deformed interrogator from the first episode – the team is far from both a break and a reprieve. Chapter 7 had its fun throughout, but still makes sure to keep the pendulum swinging by having Summerland’s biggest threat step right onto their turf – and the Shadow-King right on the verge of regaining control over David’s vastly impressive mind.