Legion Chapter 3 is everything the second episode should have been: interesting, dark, and weird while progressing significant parts of the story. And that’s with this being an almost beat for beat rerun of previous ideas, as David Haller continues to explore his memories to unravel his past. On the one hand it’s a return to form, but it also makes the last instalment even more pointless.
Most importantly, this recaptures some of the visual creativity that made the show’s opening such an interesting start. Its intro loops a repeating phrase, “Shall we begin?” (the last line from the previous episode) over brief flashes of childhood memories, a story being told by a coffee machine, and montages of David’s sister being tortured to create an interesting tapestry of images. And with an unsettling tone just menacing enough to set you on edge before anything really happens.
From there we return to the ‘memory work’ that, in episode 2, achieved nothing. This time, however, this is a far more active and creative wandering through David’s past. Answers are starting to form, if not reveal themselves fully, as the much referenced kitchen explosion finally gets some context. It’s a moment that also gives us more of the Yellow Eyed Demon - the malevolent, fat bogeyman haunting the insides of David’s head. We still don’t know who or what he is, but the show’s starting to coalesce around his presence. He’s not a motif, or a hallucination, he is, in some way, crucial to David’s broken past and uncertain future.
The show is also starting to reveal David’s powers and play up to the previous promise that’s he’s ‘the most powerful mutant alive.’ To escape the monster (only he can see) he accidentally teleports himself and two other people 600 feet and through two walls. “What are you?” whispers the psychic Ptonomy, just in case we weren’t sure it’s a big deal. Later, when David astrally projects himself and girlfriend Syd (Rachel Keller) to view his sister’s imprisonment and torture, she responds with “if you ever learn to control that you're going to be a world class badass.” We’re quietly having the way paved for god-like potential somewhere down the line.
Elsewhere, themes are definitely still playing with the repercussion of powers, rather than the use of them, as Syd and David discuss the episode 1 moment where they swapped bodies. The talk of needing the toilet and jokes about masturbation throw a nice ‘yeah, but what if you could?’ line of reasoning into the fantasy, before taking a much more metaphysical turn: “It’s not my body if anyone can come and go,” remarks Syd, adding a sad cost to her power, before deciding it proves the soul exists: “I've been Chinese, a 200 pound man, a 3-year-old girl; everywhere I go I'm still me.” After the last show’s perfunctory script there’s a sparkle again in their relationship and moments like this. Although this is totally Dan Stevens’ show as his timing and delivery make him a joy to watch throughout.
As well as these more philosophical moments the series is also taking a much darker turn. Joining the Yellow Eyed Demon’s expanding presence is the Angriest Boy in the World, stepping out of the children’s book we previously saw him in to become a pursuing monster as a bulbous-headed grimacing illustration brought to life. The image of his leering face stamping petulantly around the halls of David’s childhood home is pure nightmare fuel. As is the moment Dr Bird - the therapist attempting to unlock David’s mutant potential - finds the book itself in David’s memory. For her troubles the pages chew and mangle her hand into a mess of broken fingers. It might not be ‘real’, and when she wakes up and leaves David’s mind her hand is fine, but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch.
There’s threat throughout this episode and I’m starting to get the feeling that Aubrey Plaza’s Lenny, appearing to David after her death as a hallucination, might not ‘be’ his friend. Initially a zany, imaginary companion, her suddenly aggressive demeanor here, involving bullying, threats, and insinuations of rape and harm towards David’s kidnapped sister, make me think this could be someone or something using her likeness - another expression of the darkness intent on suppressing or hurting David. Like many things introduced here, it’s planting elements of doubt into almost everything we think we know at this point.
If nothing else this proves the show can do fear and horror surprisingly well when needed, and that it hasn’t revealed all its tricks just yet. The final implication that what we’ve seen so far may possibly not be David’s true memories gently opens a whole kettle of WTF? There’s been a few moments previously that have addressed what might or might not be real, and feels like this episode’s momentum and setups could be putting us on the road to a game changing revelation. The main thing is that this has restored my faith in Legion’s potential and I suspect we’re going to be getting a few surprises very soon.