NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Legion” are present in this review
Legion really hit the ground running with its stellar first episode last week, immediately paving the way for Fox’s live-action X-Men universe to have a bright future in television. The show’s second episode, “Chapter 2” kept that excellent standard well in place too. Some of the craziness and visual stimulation is toned down this week, with Legion taking the opportunity to clarify a few more things for viewers who mostly felt confused by the pilot, though this also gives us a more coherent chance to really get to know the fascinating David Haller.
With David now having been recovered by Melanie Bird’s mutant sanctuary, he’s immediately put under the microscope, so Bird and her specialists can assess how his powers work. A lot of this is done by Bird’s so-called, “Memory specialist”, Ptonomy Wallace, who is also a mutant, one who has the ability to transport people into their own memories, while also never being able to forget anything himself. Ptonomy is a great new character, one whose sarcastic personality meshes well with David’s confusion, creating a fun dynamic, despite the overwhelming circumstances. Ptonomy’s powers also feel right at home in an X-Men-inspired story, where many mutants’ powers can be burdens as much as they are abilities.
With Ptonomy and Bird’s insistence, David is thus forced to dive into his own memories, where more pieces of his backstory start to come together. We get a look at David’s drug-fueled history with Lenny, giving Aubrey Plaza more welcome chances to add some witty eccentricity to the story, even as it’s a little more straightforward in this episode. We also see David’s therapy sessions with Dr. Poole, the therapist alluded to in last week’s pilot episode, where it becomes apparent that David’s memories have holes in them. Not only do time skips happen during the therapy session that Ptonomy probes, but we also see that the face of David’s alleged father is obscured. Marvel fans obviously know that David’s biological father is X-Men leader, Professor X, though it’s wisely left unclear whether the father in this memory is Professor X, or simply an unidentified adoptive father. The latter is most likely, not just because of the consideration for the show’s pacing, but also because Professor X isn’t consistently aware of David’s existence right away in most accounts of Marvel Comics canon.
We also see more development given to the twitchy, laboured relationship between David and Syd. Syd opens up a lot more and becomes more forthcoming with David, now that she appears to be in something of a comfort zone, and it’s interesting to see the two interact, after Syd acknowledges a brief stint with David’s powers. The show remembered to inject some really superb visual imagery whenever the question of how David’s powers work came up, with things like a visible giant sound dial and creepy doors helping to create just the right amount of surreal style in a vision that otherwise appears to be incredibly real. Fortunately, the style didn’t overwhelm the heart too, which really shone with David and Syd trying to make their romantic attachment work, despite both of them having very volatile mutant abilities.
After he sat out the pilot, we finally get to meet Bill Irwin’s lead character, Cary Loudermilk as well, who vaguely shares a name with Kerry Loudermilk, his daughter, whom we already glimpsed last week in her portrayal by Amber Midthunder. Irwin’s playful style fits in very well with this character, who injects some welcome levity in an MRI scene as David is poked and prodded throughout his memories and confusion. This manages to lead into an effectively scary turn later on as well, when Cary briefly steps away from the MRI machine that David is stuck in, only to have David sense his sister from a long distance, and teleport the entire machine outside in a fit of panic, when he sees his shadowy tormentor again.
As with just about all of these scary moments where David’s powers go out of control, we see the glimpse of the mysterious obese bearded man with the yellow eyes more than once. This continues to hint that Marvel fans’ speculation about this mysterious character is correct, as I’m also getting the distinct impression now that this character is indeed Astral Plane menace, Shadow King from Marvel Comics lore, a particular nemesis of both Professor X and David Haller in the printed panels. We’ll have to see, but the inclusion of Shadow King as a psychological antagonist for David would certainly give Legion a logical added connection to the rest of Marvel and X-Men lore.
David’s powers are beginning to expand to boot, since he begins to sense the presence of Amy, like I said, as Amy starts poking around the mental hospital that David was at in the present, only to have the hospital completely deny the existence of David and his doctor. This is fairly creepy on its own, though Amy soon after being captured by the mysterious Section Three asset, The Eye also sets up a menacing final note for the episode to end on before next week. This is especially true after Syd convinces David not to leave the sanctuary, and instead keep refining his powers so that he has a better chance to liberate his sister later, ironically leaving Amy in greater danger right now.
Legion eased up on the mind-bending narration quite a bit in the end this week, but that certainly doesn’t mean that the show started to skimp on quality. This remains a brilliant and highly psychologically engaging show that still feels right at home on an esteemed premium cable network like FX. Some viewers may even appreciate the fact that Legion dials back the craziness here too, since it now allows us to more sensibly get a sense of who David Haller is, and where he came from, without convoluted questions that would just weigh down the story. Sure, Marvel fans already have some idea of where this character came from, but the journey through David’s past is just as appealing as the one in his present at this point. I look forward to Amy becoming a much bigger part of the story next week as well, especially since she’s bound to have quite the reaction to the twisted truth about what her brother truly is!
- Smart, more coherent exploration of David's memories
- Continued blossoming of David's and Syd's eccentric relationship
- New mutant sanctuary personalities contribute well to the dynamic
- Somewhat lacks the trippy punch of the pilot