Part of what made Legion such groundbreaking television in its first season was its deft application of David's powers as a metaphor, whether for mental illness, identity, alienation, or a host of other themes. Part of what has made this season so disappointing is its lack thereof, replacing metaphor with plot. There’s a reason the best episodes of season two have been ones in which technically nothing happens or the same thing happens over and over again; the mutant abilities stood in for real human anxieties instead of engines.
The Narrator bookends this episode like Rod Serling, laying out the definition of moral panic and expounding on the nature of mass hysteria. The former provides visuals of varying effectiveness, including witch-hunting Puritans and parents condemning comic books patterned after old EC horror comics and featuring the Devil with the Yellow Eyes. The use of contemporary news footage among these scenes betrays a desire for depth that I'm not sure pays off, though.
We then see Amahl fiddling with his car on the astral plane, now the same blank whiteness as the Narrator's segments. Whatever he's working on is interrupted by David for their confrontation about Amy, and the scene that follows is one of the episode's best. Farouk inverts the given narrative of Amy as a doting sister who was brutally killed. He says David wished for her death several times for locking him up and thinking he was crazy.
The whiteness of the astral plane is a subtle twist of the white room that Syd and David use to be alone, since Farouk is turning the car into a variation of David’s sensory deprivation chamber that allows him to talk to Future Syd. Their conversation is charming and portentous, as The Shadow King is both seductive and menacing, but we finally learn the world-destroying villain of the future is none other than David himself. I heaved a sigh of relief at this revelation.
I'm sure it was obvious to many other viewers, and maybe I would have figured it out if I hadn’t been distracted by my own worst-case suspicions. I can’t help but feel this would have better served the show for us to have known it sooner, providing us with personal stakes in place of what we ended up getting by wondering "who" instead of "how." When Future Syd later implores David to "make good choices," it's that much more affecting because we understand the weight behind it.
Farouk reiterates his perspective on his story from a few episodes ago, casting himself as a victim of colonizers with "white skin and blue eyes" who saw him as a villain and were out to destroy him. Now the villain has become the hero, and the hero is the villain. As much as I liked this attempt at depth, I still find it disingenuous. This episode is dealing with the fallout of him manipulating one person’s body to destroy another person and clearly relishing it. His dismissive attitude of humans, even calling them ants at one point, reveals he probably wasn’t a benevolent ruler. Subverting colonial narratives is one thing; having your villain do that only to reinforce a colonial narrative is something else.
Also, the "bad idea" that took root in Ptonomy's head spreads to more main cast members. Ptonomy and Kerry mow down Vermillions while Syd and Clark go after Admiral Fukyama, and David barely stops them from killing him. It was cool to see his powers in full force as he dealt with the metastasized insanity that burst from Ptonomy, but odd that this was apparently unrelated to the overarching narrative. Unfortunately, Ptonomy’s body can’t be saved, but his mind is downloaded by the Vermillions into "the mainframe," which at first recalls Summerland, but transitions to a dark room covered in binary code.
The motif of rooms is clearly no accident, and I do like how that tied the narrative threads together. Also, the more action-oriented plot gave us the sequence of Clark walking down a hallway to Nicolas Jaar's "Mi Mujer" while being followed by Vermillions striking various poses. Director Charlie McDowell made what could have been a very disjointed episode flow nicely. Despite my misgivings, I’m excited for the finale in a way I was not at the end of season one.