TV Review: The third episode of ‘Legion’ dives deeper into David’s muddled past


This week on Legion we have creepy story time from Jemaine Clement, a really amazing coffee machine, Dan Stevens’ bare ass, an adorable dog, and torture involving leeches! And that’s all in the first five minutes!

Let’s get down to business, Legionnaires — but first, catch up with our previous recaps: Premiere, Episode 2)

We open with flashes from the lab from A Cure to Wellness, and then we cut to a lovely little pup playing with his ball in the grass set to the most commonly-used stock laughter of children. This, of course, is back in David’s past, and he’s meditating on it near the compound. Bird, attempts to get a cup off coffee, and the disembodied voice of Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords tells her a fairy tale while she gets her coffee, one about a Woodcutter and his wife who weaves beautiful fabric, and upon reaching the conclusion of the story, Bird dumps out her coffee and asks to hear it again. We’ll find out later that the disembodied voice is actually Bird’s digitized husband, and yeah, you are watching a show about a telepath so just roll with the punches here. We get some beefcake, with David showering, and Syd showering, supposedly a glimpse of “Life At The Complex.” Lots of butts. His sister is being tortured by the Eye, and we see Amy covered in leeches, screaming. That’s some interesting cross-cutting, Mister Hawley.

Syd interrupts David’s meditation, and she takes him back to the room with the handled-table, where Bird and Ptomony are hanging out. They challenge him to try and tackle his hardest memories so that they can save his sister quicker, and David agrees. Of course, they flashback to when his kitchen exploded in an array of psychic energy, because that was a big effects moment and they really need to get their money’s worth. Bird is amazed, and she’s excited to find out that he can do telekinesis instead of just being a telepath, and she asks if they can try to find his triggers prior to that moment of power. Finally, we put two and two together, and find out that the scenes with Aubrey Plaza and David smoking drugs came right before David and his former girlfriend got into the fight that caused the kitchen to explode, and said fight was about him doing drugs with Plaza. She’s just as annoying as always, and thankfully her scene ends shortly, as the Man with the Yellow Eyes starts to fuck shit up. Nobody can see him, and David slams the door on them, the man’s image hanging in his eyes. Ptonomy tells David to stop fighting him, and David tells him that he isn’t. We jump cut to David and the gang sitting in another room, outside of the dream, and Ptonomy remarks that David teleported the three of them through two solid walls and across six hundred feet from the room they were in originally. “What are you?” he asks David. Commercial!

Syd finds David sitting alone on a dock, and they chat a bit about their pasts. Syd’s from the city and had a famous mother and a rotating cast of dads. David’s from the country, and he talks just a little about it before changing the subject to the lingering effects of their transformation into each other (he feels like his hair’s long sometimes, and there’s a super awkward conversation about him touching her boobs as her). Syd doesn’t think her body is her body, and that anyone can come and go — she believes that she has proof that the soul exists, given her condition. It’s an interesting observation, perhaps one of the true moments of interesting superhero insight we’ve been given so far. Part of me often wishes Syd was the protagonist of this show, because there’s a fascinating story to be told there. Anyways, Amy’s getting tortured by the gubberment, and she says to them that she doesn’t know where David is, and we cut right back to the compound. David’s being experimented on by Cary and Kerry in a much nicer doctor’s office than last week. “Could you maybe not break everything this time?” Cary asks him, and David can’t promise anything to him. They ask him to think of the most stressful moment in his life, and David flashes back to a Halloween long ago, walking with his sister and his pup around their neighborhood. The pup runs through the fence of a nearby house, and David and his sister have to go hunting for it. We get an excellently creepy bit of young David hunting around for the dog, and David stumbles upon a man dressed as the evil boy from the storybook in the last episode. Spooky shit!

Back in the present, David seems shocked that he hasn’t destroyed anything yet. Plaza’s ghost returns, saying “kid” a bunch and asking him if he’s safe here, and if that he thinks he can help them. She says his sister might be getting raped right now, and Aubrey Plaza transforms into Amy so that she can actually say enough to suggest that she’s getting raped before David gets pissed off and such. David begins to levitate, the room’s lights go red, and Syd and David disappear. Cut to Amy, going through the same CCTV filter that’s used in the Matrix movies. The big boss from the first episode is interrogating her, telling her that her brother is a psychic god, and that she failed him by putting him in the mental institution. He asks her where David is, and she tells him she doesn’t know. Syd and David are there in their astral forms (though not called such because they’d get sued by Disney), and the Eye reaches out at them, though for a second it looks like he’s about to strike Amy. Commercial!

David and Syd find themselves in the lake, freaking the hell out about their jump across time and space. We move to a yellow room, where the gang is all assembled, talking about David’s jump through time and space. It’s a handy exposition dump, where Bird talks about her husband for a second, and we learn that the eye’s name is Walter. At the end of it, Bird tells David that she doesn’t know if she can properly train him, that she’s never seen a mind like his, and David gets frustrated. Lady Bird pulls the same “We’re at War” nonsense she always pulls, but Syd asks what we’ve all been thinking: you’re going to use him? And Bird says in no uncertain terms that she’s here to help him first and use him second. She asks David if she could potentially sedate him, to try and lower his mental defenses to the point where they can actually do the work. David says yes. The day ends, and we get a montage of David doing drugs with Aubrey Plaza and a nice jump scare from the Man with the Yellow Eyes, and Syd wakes up. She finds David sitting in the bathroom, reflecting on his time as a junkie before he met her. He fucked up a lot, he says, and Syd tries to tell him that it was okay. David warns her about coming along with him on the mental journey they’re going to go on, and Syd asks him if he loves her in that “stop patronizing me” way that means that she’ll support him. David wonders why everyone’s so confident he’s sane. Commercial!

When we get back, David gets sedated, and we get more Plaza, pushing pre-hospital David around in a shopping cart. Ptonomy, Bird, and Syd wonder around David’s memories, accompanied by a young David, who represents the emotional mind, not the sedated rational one. They follow him as he breaks into his psychiatrist’s office, and David starts hunting around for the tape of him talking about his father. Syd starts freaking the hell out, as the walls start to collapse around her, and Bird and Ptonomy can’t see what’s going on. They can’t leave the memory, and young David runs away, into other memories: him fighting with his sister, him boning Plaza, I think, until they reach his childhood home. Syd asks David if they have a safe space to hide, and David opens a grate in the wall. The boy from the storybook appears, and stalks them as they climb through the vents of his childhood home. The Man with the Yellow Eyes comes through the vent, and Syd yells for David to wake the fuck up. Syd wakes up panicked, and wakes Ptonomy up in turn. Bird, however, can’t wake up, and she’s still trapped in David’s memories. Commercial!

Syd’s trying to get David to wake up, in order to save Bird from whatever is lurking around in his brain. Inside the 16:9 past, Bird wanders through David’s childhood home, and finds the his childhood copy of The World’s Angriest Boy in the World, and thumbs through the pages. The book fucking bites her and breaks her hand, and we see the encroaching visage of the Man with the Yellow Eyes. Bird awakes with a jump, and clutches her hand, thinking she’s broken it in the waking world. She hasn’t. Syd wonders why David hasn’t woken up yet, and we see him, surrounded by yelling people and the noise from their shouting, clutching his ears to silence them, as the image zooms in until it disappears. CREDITS, yo.

Stray Thoughts:

— The Aubrey Plaza scene in which she suggests to David that his sister is getting raped is some horrific writing, and it’s hard not to be a little disappointed in Hawley and company for stooping to that level. Of course, the source material was never pristine with that shit either (Poor Ms. Marvel) but you’ve got the benefit of hindsight here, guys. It’s just lazy writing, which the show really hasn’t indulged in that much. What does this show gain from Plaza and from that scene?

— Some choice horror moments here. The Man with the Yellow Eyes keeps on being super creepy, and the introduction to The World’s Angriest Boy in the World cosplayer was sufficiently spooky. Clever misdirect with the dog there, guys (IF YOU WRITERS HARM ONE HAIR ON THAT DOG’S HEAD I SWEAR TO GOD). The aspect ratio changes worked really well this episode, and the claustrophobic feeling we get when the bars appear is excellent.

— There’s a lot of exposition in this episode, and some of it didn’t land well for me, especially because it could have been tackled earlier to the benefit of everybody. It also fucks with the pacing.

— Nice to see some character bits for Syd, who as I mentioned in the text of this recap, deserves the chance to have her story explored. Honestly, I like her powerset just a little more than David’s (I mean, given that we’ve seen his pretty much a thousand times before on the screen), and there’s a lot of storytelling potential there. Female-oriented reboot of Quantum Leap, guys?

— I really have to wonder why Jemaine’s disembodied voice wasn’t introduced sooner. Might have made the information dump that comes this episode feel a little more earned, and honestly might have made Bird’s character more sympathetic and less like a generic mentor figure.

— Dan Stevens has one heck of a butt.

— So, all in all, a pretty mixed bag of an episode. Probably the strongest yet in terms of direction, but perhaps the weakest in the writing department.

NEXT WEEK: “David faces trouble as his friends search for answers.” Second verse, same as the first.

See you there, Legionnaires.

Follow Nick Johnston on Twitter @onlysaysficus.