After a season of intricately threaded loose ends and crafted visual textures, Legion’s first episode of a two part climax pulls out all the stops as it heads towards closure. This is densely layered and needs to be given all the parts in play. The plate spinning includes Syd’s journey through a nightmare-filled mental institute, Cary and Oliver hatching a rescue plan, David’s attempts to escape his mental prison and work out what’s going on, all the while as the Shadow King is looking for... something. This all happening on the astral plane while most of the characters involved are actually frozen in time in the real world, with bullets mere inches from David and Syd. That none of this gets confusing shows just how well the various narratives are handled.
There is still a misfire though, with the Eye pursuing Kerry. It’s great as a distressing horror moment and does pull various characters and elements together, but it makes little sense, given all the Eye’s wanted so far is David. Okay, it goes on to create a later confrontation between Kerry and Cary that needs resolving, so perhaps it still has a job to do but it still feels like a loose end that couldn’t be tied down.
It shows the strength of the ensemble cast, however, that they can hold all this together in the opening half while David doesn’t appear until 20 minutes in, trapped inside a ‘mental coffin’ (although Ptonomy has ultimately been left as a narrative McGuffin now his purpose has been played). Aubrey Plaza is great, finally in full monster mode as the Shadow King revealed. As is Jemaine Clement’s Oliver - somehow enigmatic and as enthusiastic as he is fractured and incoherent. He’s both the expert and the crazy man in the astral plane, aware of exactly what’s happening but unable to remember basic words; a belligerently charismatic oversized Yoda in a safari suit, with a martini permanently clamped in one hand.
While David takes his time to appear, when he does it’s a great moment involving a double dose of Dan Stevens as his mutant powers create a copy of himself to help him out. It’s a great little scene as the original David and ‘rational’ David spar in a classroom to piece together the puzzle, that by now we’ve all worked out - the Shadow King fought David’s father in the past, and tried to hide David as a child. The blackboard cartoon used to reveal this is another nice touch in a show so full of visual flair and ideas. That, combined with a brief flashback from his sister revealing an unmistakable x-spoked wheelchair, only nails Professor X’s place in the canon.
This episode also continues to build brilliantly on the ideas of perception; of people awake and aware, but trapped in a dream they can’t trust - constantly having to reinstate themselves on a reality trying to break them. The climatic Bolero sequence is also a crazy and brilliant peak in a show with plenty of moments to choose from. Again it brings together multiple simultaneous threads - Oliver weaving a shield against the bullets, David trapped in looping memory locations as Syd tries to find him, and Kerry, grabbed by the Eye and fighting monsters. All while the rest of the cast mount their rescue in the real world.
The lack of dialogue throughout this sequence is inspired, using silent movie style cards instead to let the music and action build and breathe uninterrupted. Performing without words really focuses on the physicality and expression of everyone’s performance and there’s a touch of old screen cinema and vaudeville to it all. Especially from Aubrey Plaza’s brilliant performance as the Shadow King, now unleashed in full maniacal mode.
If this had been the finale it would have been satisfying enough. But the final sting of Division 3’s return teases a final episode with everything to play for. It’s only fitting for a show that’s consistently answered questions with more questions that, one episode away from closure and apparently with so many answers revealed, it's still keeping us guessing.