New perspectives balance out David's distorted sense of the world to give us a smoother ride this week.
The editing and writing for the memory work scenes leave subtle clues for us to piece together, which makes the episode more interesting.
While improved from last week, the scenes within David's memories are still very disjointed and overwhelming, making it hard to make out details that might be important.
An aptly named sanctuary, a fragmented past, and a hidden power all come together in Legion “Chapter 2”
Legion took us from the confines of Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital to the beautiful tranquility of Summerland this week in “Chapter 2.” After being rescued by Syd and her friends from the grasp of Division 3, they travel to the secluded and secret location to discover his true abilities. She introduces her to Melanie, who heads up the unique institution, and fellow mutants Ptonomy, Cary, and Kerry. During a brief period of withdrawal from his psychiatric medications, Melanie reveals to David that the symptoms of his schizophrenia are in fact part of his mutant powers. After teaching him how to quiet the voices he’s heard his entire life, she convinces David to participate in memory work to retrieve and piece together his past.
When they first venture into his mind, Ptonomy, Melanie, and David find themselves transported through a multitude of memories, including a memory of David’s father reading him a strange bedtime story about a boy who kills his mother. They also see one in which he partook in drugs with Lenny because he was trying to rid himself of the voices. At one point, the three of them are pushed out of his mind, but despite Ptonomy insistence that he is responsible, David is equally adamant that he isn’t. Melanie decides to assess his brain functioning further by placing him in an MRI scanner, but then David accidentally projects his mind to the present and sees Amy being kidnapped. The next thing everyone knows, the machine is outside while David makes for the exit.
Now that David is no longer under a medication-induced haze, we’re starting to see some of the reasons why he was so willing to be drugged. With the yellow-eyed monster always in the shadows and an angry boy on the loose, let’s find out what Legion “Chapter 2” showed us before we fall victim too!
David is free to explore his memories in Summerland, while Amy becomes Division Six’s newest hostage
It seems that the Haller siblings can never escape their past, David (Dan Stevens) is in a prison of his own making while Amy (Katie Aselton) has built a new life for herself. This week, the former finds himself truly free for the first time, his voices gone and replaced with talented friends in a gorgeous new home. Despite his aversion to his medications, David is equally terrified of losing their protection. Luckily, Melanie (Jean Smart) knows exactly how to help him with that, in exchange for his cooperation at Summerland. They work together to unravel the knotted images in his head, and begin the process of reconstructing his fractured past. Amy, on the other hand, becomes an unwilling guest of Division 3 when they come looking for her. If they can’t find David, then they’ll make sure he finds them.
David: “How do you know they won’t kill her?”
Syd: “Because she’s bait.”
This reversal of roles is particularly important for both characters, since we saw how tense things were between them before. Amy has carefully constructed her life to be neat and predictable. She needs to be put together, to present herself as exactly the opposite of her brother. Could her behavior indicate how traumatized she felt in childhood as the sister of the “crazy” boy? She probably felt really out of control, and now is overcompensating. Certainly for any of us who have dealt with someone in our lives who has suffered mental illness, we can relate.
Meanwhile, David is getting his first taste of what it might feel to be “normal” and accepted, something that his sister has known most of her life. His past experiences have made him distrustful of those who say they can help him. We can see that although everyone at Summerland is friendly, there is a hint of anxiety when dealing with David as well. He probably senses this and struggles to open up. Do we think he’ll really trust them?
With his sister taking care of him for much of his life, this is David’s chance to repay the favor. If he is successful, it will repair their damaged relationship and give each sibling a new perspective on themselves and each other. Of course, the fact that her abduction will likely lead to a mutant showdown of epic proportions isn’t bad either…
A glimpse into David’s past reveals loving parents, a rather twisted bedtime story, and an enabling friend
Having already previewed some of the events in David’s life, we expected his memory work with Melanie and Ptonomy (Jeremie Harris) to uncover even more past trauma. That’s why it was surprising when the first memories we see are of the two Haller siblings running after their dog in a field and our first (back) view of his parents. The family seems loving and carefree, and judging by his reaction, those were happy times for him as well. It is only when we reach the moment in his bedroom that we get quite the shock. While the book his father reads looks harmless enough, we quickly realize that the main character is a very disturbed child who commits matricide. When we jump forward with them to one of the other major memories, we see Lenny urging David to use drugs with her, even setting up in his shared apartment with his girlfriend Philly. We even hear Lenny (Aubrey Plaza) encourage him to steal from his psychiatrist, telling him that the doctor would have access to some really good drugs.
Melanie: “David, your whole life people told you that were sick. What if I told you that’s a lie? What if I told you, every memory you have of mental illness: voices, hallucinations, was just your power? And what if I could do more than just tell you? What if I could show you? Help you re-write the story of your life?”
The memory work that we were privy to this week clearly delineated two parts of David’s life. The first, a happy time with his parents and sister, living out in the country where his father could study the stars. The second, a time of petty crime and drug use with his new family, an enabling and equally troubled Lenny. While we still don’t have a full picture of what caused his life to turn out so badly, there are strange, dark hints of it in his memories. Would David’s father, a seemingly loving parent, truly read him the book about the angry boy? Could this be part of David’s delusions?
No matter what, David is clearly distressed at having to revisit these memories, and Dan Stevens treads the fine line between embarrassment and fear as we transition into his adult memories. We see how torn he is between wanting to know what happened to him and not wanting to reveal all his skeletons. Did the drug use with Lenny fracture his mind, or did David do it unconsciously to protect himself? It makes us wonder just what else there is, and we want to know more about this poor young man. Every time he breaks down, we wish we could be there to soothe him right along with Melanie.
It seems love is the most powerful trigger of David’s mutant powers
It’s clear that as with many untrained mutants, David’s power manifests with intense emotion. While most of the memories Ptonomy accesses this week are unrevealing regarding his ability, there is a single familiar moment that appears once again. It is David, standing in the middle of the kitchen of his old apartment, surrounded by exploding objects as he covers his ears. We saw a glimpse of him arguing with Philly (Ellie Araiza) just before he loses control and sends things flying. We’ve also seen what happened when Division 3 repeatedly asked him about his role in Lenny’s death. Later, after David witnesses Amy being interrogated, he once again exhibits unbelievable power and teleports the MRI machine outside the building.
Ptonomy: “Melanie thinks you’re the key.”
David: “To what?”
Ptonomy: “To winning: the war, and other things.”
At a glance, we are led to believe that David unconsciously calls upon his power when he is frightened or angry, but creator Noah Hawley seems to hint at something more. The editing of the scenes by Regis Kimble gives us just enough glue to piece a theory together, even if we don’t have the whole picture. Every time his power is fully manifested, there is another person indirectly involved. In the apartment, it was the fight with his ex Philly; in the interrogation room, it was about his friend Lenny. In the MRI machine, it was his sister Amy. What if anger is not the true trigger in these situations? What if it’s love? After all, with Philly it was romantic love lost, with Lenny it was friendship love lost, and with Amy, it was familial love lost. We already know that love is a force to be reckoned with, so why not? Steven’s performance also gives us a hint – he’s more than just a little embarrassed when Melanie and Ptonomy see his drug use, and after seeing the kitchen scene, they’re kicked out. What if this was because he needs to keep those memories away so he doesn’t stop loving the one person who is most important right now – himself?
Final Verdict: Unique effects, beautiful cinematography, and careful editing brings more clarity in Legion “Chapter 2”
We had a chance to see things from outside David’s mind this week in Legion “Chapter 2,” and it was a welcome reprieve. While it was a unique and definitely memorable approach to present David’s story from his point of view, it was also a struggle for understanding. With the addition of Melanie, Syd, and the rest of the Summerland team, the storyline was much easier to follow. The memory work intrigued us, and Summerland drew comparisons to a certain School for Gifted Youngsters. Our glimpse into pre-schizophrenia David was enlightening, and made us all wonder what happened to his parents. Michael Uppendaul did a phenomenal job pulling all the different elements into the episode, allowing us to feel as David does during his adjustment to Summerland and subsequent memory work. Overall, we’re glad to see the pace slow down, allowing us to enjoy the details of what we saw this week.
Though we are grateful to see that David is temporarily out of harm’s way, we aren’t entirely sure what’s going on in Summerland. Melanie seems genuinely caring, but she is also the first to admit that she has an agenda. What does she want with David? What war is Ptonomy referring to? We see the relationship between Syd and David develop, but there’s just that nagging feeling something isn’t right. Was her appearance in Clockworks truly a coincidence? Does she truly care for David the way he does for her? Then, there’s Amy and Division 3. If they’re just using her as bait, as Syd suggests, then why bother interrogating her?
There are vast improvements on the structure of this week’s episode, but the memory work scenes are still rather overwhelming for us. There’s so many sights and sounds to pay attention to, and it can be hard to focus on the important pieces of information. At times, it feels as though there is too much being hidden for the purposes of being mysterious, but it’s not so much that it is off-putting.
Despite still carrying some of the issues from the premiere on into this week, “Chapter 2” fleshed out more of the plotlines and gave us more to latch onto as the audience. Dan Stevens makes subtle adjustments to his character to reflect the shift in David’s mind. He peels away the purposefully cheerful mask he used to try to get out of Clockworks to reveal the contemplative, anxious individual underneath. We see flashes of the man he will become, such as when he stands up for himself during memory work, or when he realizes his sister is in trouble.
It’s clear that the memory work will continue, which means we’ll get to see more and more of David’s past and what brought him to this point. This episode also gave us a chance to see how Melanie and Summerland works, as well as setting up the parallel plotline with Division 3. This week set out to start piecing together the puzzle that is David Haller, and we’re excited to see who he will be.
After seeing this week’s episode, it’s fair to say that we are more interested in seeing how this plays out. We’re curious to see what the differences are between Summerland and the School for Gifted Youngsters, and just how Melanie will bring out David’s powers in a controlled way. We might be scared of the yellow-eyed devil too, but we want to know why he’s there and who he is as badly as David does. Most of all, we want to see what he can do, and we’re definitely tuning in to find out next week!
The questions just keep coming…
- What does Division 3 hope to gain from Amy outside of holding her hostage?
- Are Syd’s feelings for David real, or is she just stringing him along to keep him engaged?
- Can Melanie and the others truly make David whole?
- Just what does Melanie mean by David being the key?
- What does the angry boy story actually represent?
- Now we know David has telekinetic powers, but what else can he do?
- Where does Ptonomy get all his sharp suits from?
Legion returns next Wednesday February 22nd, 2017 at 10/9C on FX.
Legion “Chapter 2” Review