I've often described Legion as a puzzle, by which I mean it often looks incomprehensible in pieces but forms a satisfying picture that makes sense thematically if not practically. By contrast, I would overgeneralize to describe a mystery as more concerned with the latter than the former. It is no less valid as a genre, but the pieces become overwhelmed by the need to be practical. There may be an occasional red herring or flight of fancy, but, more so than something comparable to a painting or a puzzle, we have a story. The cast is pared down again this week, but instead of getting a delicate and intense character study like last week, this equates to a list of suspects and a twist ending.
We begin with Clark back in the role of Interrogator, this time with Lenny. It won’t be the last time the series premiere is invoked. Words and numbers are painted upside-down on the walls and a skylight provides a bird’s-eye view of a busy street somehow. "Chapter 13" mostly divides itself between this room and Farouk and Oliver searching for "the body."
Of course, we're meant to believe that they mean Farouk's body, which is supposed to lend the episode some urgency, especially since no one at Division 3 seems as concerned as they should be. Lenny says that Farouk knows where the monks have hidden it, and we don’t see her with him and Oliver, so this all seems more like suspense.
Except the Narrator laboriously explains cognitive bias to show how people see patterns that aren't there. And everyone at Division 3 is primarily concerned with where Lenny’s body came from. And then we're finally reminded that David has a sister. I'd honestly thought the show had forgotten she existed. Flashbacks to the earlier attack on Division 3 fill in some blanks, like the last five minutes of a Murder, She Wrote episode recontextualizing everything you've watched for the last 45 minutes in terms of the crime.
Navid Negahban continues to amaze as Farouk, and this time he makes for a good foil for Jemaine Clement as Oliver. Their scenes are a highlight, despite the interrogation scenes having all the surreal delights Legion should be delivering. Oliver says he's discovered Farouk's weakness, and promises to kill him. We know Future Syd has said that David will crush his skull in the desert. Was she wrong? Lying? Or has the timeline been altered already? I guess we'll find out.
I feel as though I'm being overly critical of an otherwise solid outing, but, the conventions of the storytelling aside, my biggest problem is with its treatment of the female characters. Syd and Kerry are sidelined entirely, and Melanie is reduced to a wordless damsel in distress in Oliver's mind palace. Ostensibly a showcase for series-favorite Lenny (and Emmy-deserving Aubrey Plaza), an overlooked female character makes a hasty return only to be literally transformed into the woman a male character has in his head. As Clark calls her, "a consciousness without a body."
On some level, I'm grateful that Legion veered away from traditional superhero beats and into a different genre. Director Tim Mielants makes the transformation scene genuinely tense and horrifying, and the rape undertones are clear. But this is a step backwards in many respects, and the show and its characters deserve better.