Legion Recap S01E06

I’m tempted to draw a parallel between personal taste and the many discussions Legion indulges in about how so much of human experience is actually neurology. I can’t imagine anyone who tuned into this show expecting epic battles and truckloads of references to canonical mutants is still expecting that, though hopefully they were pleasantly surprised by how their expectations were upended. If this show is for someone, it’s because that person has the same conviction the characters have about certain story elements: How does Melanie know Oliver will return? How does Syd know David was schizophrenic? How did Ptonomy know he and Syd were really in Dr. Poole’s office a couple of weeks ago, not David’s mind? They "just know."

WARNING: SPOILERS

Legion has not been shy about dropping us into David's psyche to experience his fractured perspective and experiment with narrative structure. Once more making Syd our point-of-view character for the majority of the episode before turning back to the astral plane, we are back in David's head, but in a simulacrum of Clockworks that recalls several moments from the pilot. Or is David’s head being controlled by Lenny, the parasite that's infected David’s head and wants the use of his powers?

The latter would seem to be the case, at first. We're reintroduced to the main cast via individual therapy sessions with Dr. Lenny, as it were, who diagnoses everyone in ways that erase their powers. But if Lenny is really in charge, why create this elaborate fantasy? Why does David say he feels more in control? Nothing can be taken for granted on this show, given how often it teases us with visions, dream sequences, and body switching. My guess is David has created this ersatz Clockworks as a defense mechanism, but has gotten to the point where he's forgotten what's real, and Lenny is trying to fight back. She may have finally won, overthrowing David into a tiny box near the episode's end.

If this episode has one glaring misstep it's the treatment of Kerry, the resident ass-kicker of Summerland, here reduced to a stereotypical "Woman in Peril" as she runs crying and terrified through the hallways from a predatory Walter. The Eye is given an odd bit of backstory about puberty hitting him later in life, and even though we’ve never seen him show any sexual aggressiveness before, he begins to assault Kerry in her room. I've refrained from dealing with the problematic depiction of female characters so far, thinking Legion might correct itself before the season is over, but this begs comment. If Kerry had defended herself, it wouldn't have excused this development entirely, but she would have been in character. It could be argued that she's traumatized from being separated from Cary, but there would have been better ways of expressing that. To alter a villain's motivation to be more of a rapist is bad enough, but to dilute a female character for cheap scares is inexcusable.

As for Melanie, arguably the strongest female character on this show since she's the leader, she's worse off than the rest. Taken in by the fantasy of Clockworks to a disturbing degree, she spends most of her time on screen in a near catatonic state, absently watering flowers and musing on the blue of the sky.

Last week, I likened the Devil with the Yellow Eyes to internalized homophobia and the lasting psychological damage of society shaming queer people. One could interpret the return to Clockworks, therefore, as something of a commentary on conversion therapy. The authority figures are all doctors and family members, as Amy gets trapped in the role of nurse and tells David that no one wanted him and how he makes her physically sick. Ptonomy goes by "Paul," and Kerry and Cary are in separate rooms. When the outside forces that tell queer people they're garbage are in charge, they can end up hidden away in asylums and made to forget what really makes them happy.

In the end, the way out appears to be internal. Melanie escapes because of her love for Oliver, and Cary is led out through the astral plane. It's possible all the questions raised by this episode won’t be answered next week, but as we near the conclusion, I admire the audacity of the show to pose them.

Devin Whitlock's picture
on March 16, 2017

I've enjoyed comics since I was ten years old, but won't reveal how long ago that was. I'm a freelance writer and editor based in Chicago, and can usually be found at a local bar with a book in one hand and a drink in the other. I'm so happy to be contributing to Geeks OUT!