TV Recap: Legion - Chapter Three
Perhaps I was being a bit presumptuous when I called last week’s episode of Legion a “flashback episode”. I was stretching the definition even then, but considering how the series’ third installment spends an equal, if not larger, amount of time in David Haller’s head (literally) this time around, it seems less like an episodic style choice and more like a series-wide one. Showrunner Noah Hawley seems to be very clear on what he wants this show to be, and it seems like we’re going to go as deep into the mind of its’ main character as possible before something implodes.
My biggest issue last week was how rushed the larger plotting aspects were. The audience was told about the antagonists, this mysterious Division Three, in some expository dialogue that felt like it should be out of a “Previously On” segment. We saw Haller’s sister get kidnapped and I guess that was supposed to be dramatic, but considering all we know about these characters is that they are bad guys it’s hard to actually feel much of anything. But in tonight’s episode, when Melanie Bird was giving some backstory on Division Three agent known as The Eye, Haller responds with “I don’t care who he is, he has my sister”. Which pretty much hit me as being equal parts a testament to Haller’s character as well as Hawley’s priorities.
There’s continued great work from Dan Stevens and Rachel Keller, and their small quiet moment where they discussed having switched bodies in the pilot marks the second episode in a row where the two’s chemistry and tangibly growing relationship proves the highlight. That said, getting a little deeper into Haller’s mind (the slightest little bit of depth is still depth) was entertaining and insightful, considering this episode had the benefit of building on the previous one, an advantage the re-pilot, “Chapter Two”, didn’t have. The Devil with Yellow Eyes remains an unclear but heavily felt harbinger of something far more sinister and immediate than Division Three could hope to be. I appreciated the chance to see how other characters would react to him if he appeared while they were visiting the inside of David’s mind. The fact that only Syd could see him at all both added an extra layer to the being’s mystery and her connection to David.
If Legion has an antagonist problem, it’s probably only because Hawley doesn’t think it’s time to fully plunge that depth yet. In “Chapter Two” the plot-to-character ratio was off not because it opted to focus more on the latter, but because it wanted to ultimately address an equal amount of both while giving character exploration more of the running time. This is the simplest and most obvious statement in the history of television criticism, but ideally the two would weave together simultaneously. The two can’t exist without each other and my hesitation with the show from the beginning was that I wasn’t sure Hawley recognized that. “Chapter Three” went a long way to assuaging that concern of mine, by digging into the story possibilities of infiltrating David Haller’s warped mind, and not spending as much time on the Mutants-on-the-run aspect.
Finally, just because I haven’t brought it up yet, perhaps my favorite way Hawley has visually represented shifts in David’s mental state has been those aspect ratio shifts. Both Hawley and Michael Uppendahl, director of “Chapter Three” and the previous episode, have done an excellent job of utilizing that unique tool in their cinematic arsenal, to really sell these moments of higher stakes for the characters. I need to try and pay more attention to that next week, because it’s so unobtrusively done I can go almost an entire sequence without picking up on them even doing it.