If you’ve never in your life taken psychotropic drugs, no worries; Legion‘s Chapter 7 sent you reeling on (your first?) what can only be described as a wonderfully weird acid trip.
A Clockworks hallway … medication announcement, crying, smashing lightbulbs, The Eye whistling a hauntingly familiar tune; these aren’t scenes from the diary of madman — rather, a mutant’s monster-plagued mind. Plunged into the world of David’s making, the audience swims alongside Kerry through the thick, dreamlike haze, slow-mo running, our own hearts pounding as if chased through haunted corridors, ourselves. There is a special kind of genius to Noah Hawley’s dreams that they can be so brilliantly translated from director to director; this week’s outing was both written (Jennifer Yale [Dexter]) and directed (Dennie Gordon [Power, Empire, Bloodline, Rectify, Under the Dome]) by women.
Lenny, Blenny, the Yellow-Eyed Devil; whatever you like to call her, him, it, they — officially confirmed Amahl Farouk aka the Shadow King — morphs between forms, searches for something, in between keeping an eye on the “animals” and terrifying Amy. “What did he do with it”? (Our resident comic expert, Craig, believes Blenny may be hunting for Cerebro, a device created by Professor X/Charles Xavier to detect mutants, and which amplifies the power of its user).
Having discovered The Fabulous Oliver Bird’s (all hail The Fabulous Jemaine Clement’s return!) icy hideaway in the astral plane, Cary engages with Melanie’s lost husband in the kind of conversation that makes us wish for a spinoff series. Oliver’s dialogue alone is worthy of its own podcast; who among us wouldn’t subscribe?
When I woke up this morning, I thought, it’s gonna be daylight saving soon. Then I realized, I don’t know what that means. (Cary explains setting the clocks forward or back…”) Huh. That’s not very interesting I thought we were literally saving daylight”.
His memory — “Dishes” — loss is as quietly devastating to Cary (and us) as it is to Melanie, who later discovers her husband’s empty Jules Verne suit. The hour’s opening scenes flew from one to the other at breakneck speed; when Cary laments to Oliver “Sorry, having a little trouble keeping up”, who could help but respond, “So say we all”? As the boys expositorily catch each other up — Cary describes his electromagnetically charged halo that should block the Shadow King — plan David’s rescue, and head out from the frozen mindtundra, it becomes clear that even cricket-induced dreams haven’t clouded Syd’s sharp intuition.
Aided by Oliver’s noise-canceling glasses (which helpfully turns clarity black and white), a girl sets out to rescue her panicked, banging, screaming man, aiding a likewise terrified Kerry along the way.
Melanie, who’s still slowly investigating the stuck-in-a-moment scene back at David’s childhood home, remains unable to influence the situation. Painfully reintroduced to Oliver again (“Have I seen you before? At the poetry slam?”), we’re left to wonder what she whispers in the injured Rudy’s (spit-drool dude) ear.
In the chapter’s obvious best, chalk-boarded and wonderfully-animated nod to comic and X-Men history — and hilariously executed by Double-David/Dan (Stevens) — David’s rational British mind forces his scattered American mind to think through what’s happened to him. Realizing the reality (“If there’s no body, there’s no ground, and no coffin”) of his situation, the two sides of David’s brain work in sync to clarify his family history, David realizes he’s been possessed since a child by the angry, vengeful mutant parasite that is Blenny/Farouk/The Shadow King monster, and sets his mind on getting his body back. David mistakenly believes both his parents gave him away — “Oh, boo hoo. Focus.” “You’re right; I am pretty. I am loved.” — when, according to comic lore, Charles Xavier actually had no idea David’s mother, Gabrielle (in flashback, played by Tatyana Forrest) was pregnant.
Aubrey Plaza continues her fantastic performance as the creepy entity that is Blenny — the Blexorcist monster — who makes quick work of The Eye, twisting his imposing body into a pretzel, and preparing to do something similarly horrific to Syd and Kerry in the darkened corridor of David’s mind. “Okay kids, prepare to die”. Happily, by this time rational, British David helped confused, lost, American David enough that he’s able to break through the walls he created.
In simultaneous flashes of the unfrozen scene back at his home, David is able to absorb and expel the bullets that threatened his and Syd’s real bodies, and suddenly … we’re all back at Summerland in recovery mode, wishing we could have a taste of Oliver’s presumably delicious omelets. For most this would have been a perfect ending, that moment in the sunshine of (temporary) escape from the horror movie world of David and Blenny’s shared brain. Then again, that wouldn’t have been quite right for the penultimate episode of a Hawley series. For, just as the melancholy of Melanie’s terrible (empty suit) discovery sets in, the group finds themselves surrounded by Division, under threat of death by the nasty, burn-scarred Interrogator (Hamish Linklater). On the plus side, Blenny’s trapped in David’s coffin box; on the minus — the rest of the mutants and friends are trapped, with nowhere to run.
I cannot overstate how enjoyable this chapter was — between Oliver and his glorious dialogue, the super-fast momentum and quick scene changes that forced us into the multiple perspectives — while somehow not being overly confusing — the excellent drawings and animation, David’s conversation with his rational side, and Blenny’s ridiculous antics, this was the funhouse trip of a lifetime. I immediately wanted to watch the whole thing again.
Of all the wonderful, standout performances — and it’s very difficult to stand out when Jemaine Clement is around — I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight Jean Smart’s incredibly nuanced take on Melanie. Her quiet, broken-hearted reactions when she thinks it’s Oliver under that helmet, or when her husband doesn’t recognize her, are simply stunning. Smart and Keller are the emotional heart of this series, and they’re both wonderfully evocative.
Likewise, in that small moment when Kerry let out her feelings to Cary for leaving her behind, Amber Midthunder’s talent shone.
Why so little of Ptonomy, this hour? He was missed.
Does Melanie have powers; is she a mutant? She navigates through David’s mind; is that his power, or hers?
When Oliver inexplicably, without his JV suit (instead, Cary wears it), appears in the room where David and Syd are frozen, he recites this well known Limerick:
On the chest of a barmaid in Sale,
were tattooed the prices of ale
and on her behind
for the sake of the blind
was the same information in braille.”
Back at Summerland serving breakfast, Oliver again recites Allen Ginsberg, this time from Sunflower Sutra: “And deliver my sermon to my soul, and Jack’s soul too, and anyone who’ll listen … to look at the sunset over the box house hills and cry. You were never no locomotive, sunflower, You were a sunflower …”
Oliver had all the great lines this hour. To Cary: “You’re not in any way a tenor, are you?, by chance? We’re starting a barbershop quartet, me and David and myself, Roll Out the Barrel and that kind of thing, nothing serious, just fun ...”
Oliver speaking about Farouk: “Didn’t think to watch his sex. and by sex I mean. What do I mean“?
Here’s all the animated goodness of David and the monster’s history in gifs: