TV Recap: Legion - Chapter Two
Starting off Legion’s second episode made me realize how very little we really knew about the show we were getting into. The characters established in the pilot were, aside from our two leads, already dead, and we had left our main setting for an unknown one populated by unknown characters serving an unknown purpose - essentially rebooting the show by the second episode. Of course, as it turns out Legion IS David Haller and coupled with what we know of how the show treats its narrative and visual style, that’s the drive as is.
What “Chapter Two” introduces us to in its dreamlike, quick recap of the scenario David’s rescuers have dragged him into, is a thinly described basic conflict of: “We’re mutants, and there are bad guys who are after us.” Led by Melanie Bird (or Jean Smart as the Standard Wise-Old Guru character), these mutants on the run live in a mental health commune seemingly not unlike the one Haller had just escaped in the episode prior. This time though the group therapy sessions have been replaced with memory-viewing superpowers, placing the subject directly into visions of their past.
It’s essentially a flashback episode here, when Melanie has her “Memory specialist” Ptonomy guide Haller through an exploration of his memories. There’s not really that much information dropped, mostly just teases of Haller’s darker past, and some more visions of “The Devil with Yellow Eyes” (is this going to be the Legion equivalent of Bob from Twin Peaks?). This all serves more as further character work for David, as well as a method to explore both the new group he’s found himself in and his relationships with the people there.
As rushed as it is, David and Syd’s relationship can’t help but feel real and genuine, and continues to come off as something that’ll end up a major driving force for the show. It’s the characters and character moments that shine here, not the reminders that they’re superhuman and of some grander conflict. For every forced and awkward dialogue exchange retelling us that there are bad guys out there looking for them (Divisions, they’re called apparently), there’s a quiet character moment between David and one Melanie’s specialists, or a memory that helps us learn a little bit more about the person David Haller truly is.
The superhero story that Legion keeps reminding us it is comes to the forefront at the end when David has a vision of his sister being kidnapped by The Eye, a worker for Division 3 on the hunt for David. There’s very little clarity about any of this Division nonsense so there’s not a lot of dramatic weight to his sister’s kidnapping. Instead it comes from Syd convincing a desperate Haller to stay and work on himself and his powers instead of running off to try and rescue her. Ultimately, the fact that the show is so much stronger with its characters than its plot is something I can forgive just based on my own priorities in shows, and to be fair we are only two episodes in. There’s a balance it still needs to strike, but considering only two installments in we’ve already gotten a character building flashback episode I’d say Hawley is fully aware of where the show’s strengths lie.