Hey, if you learn to control that, you’re going to be a world class badass. – Syd
Of the three batshit crazy Legion episodes, this was the batshit craziest, so before we delve into the twisted mind of David Haller, let’s talk about the poor woodcutter and his wife.
I don’t really want to discuss the content of the Jemaine Clement-read fable, but instead what it says about Noah Hawley’s mode of story development. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Hawley through Fargo, it’s that he has a great affinity for allegory and allusion, and loves to tell stories within stories, especially when he has a narrator.
Occasionally, it’s Billy Bob Thornton’s Lorne Malvo, whether he’s retelling an altered Aesop or something straight out of The Bible. Sometimes it’s through a song, Here, it was Flight of the Conchords star Jemaine Clement, whose monotone voice through the coffee dispenser told a story that related, albeit in somewhat tertiary fashion, to the Legion story itself.
But, there’s something else in this process.
Originally, I gravitated to Hawley’s Fargo because it felt true to what I’ve come to expect from Joel and Ethan Coen. O’ Brother Where Art Thou, which was a long form movie adaptation of Homer’s The Odyssey, is the primary example, but from The Big Lebowski to No Country for Old Men, every tale seemed to have a vivid lesson behind it, and a simple mythology, encapsulated in visual delights. Fargo was no exception, and Legion is in many ways the next step towards the same goal.
It’s the evolution of the Coen model, and Hawley’s variation on it. None of this is a critique, by the way. It’s an explanation. Noah Hawley is quickly becoming a master of it, and his fiction is rapidly becoming unparalleled in many respects.
Okay, I’ve delayed talking about the most terrifying children’s book of all-time for as long as humanly possible, because I watched this episode almost a month ago, and it still creeps me right the hell out. Legion is ruining black-and-white nostalgia, Halloween, striped shirts, and even balloons for me at this point. Because now, when I see or think of them, it’s accompanied by a vision of the whatever-the-fuck that tried to kill people in an upstairs closet.
Legion tells us the war is imminent and the situation is immediately and immensely dire, thus there’s no time to rid Haller of each thetan remaining in his system. No, Melanie tells him they must return to the biggest events, the most important moments, or as she so eloquently puts it, “the shit that scares you most.” So we go back to the kitchen, and this time Ptonomy freezes the action amidst the chaos, which for some reason is always a cinematically effective tactic. Before what was supposed to be a couples dinner, Lenny and David end up stealing money from the psychiatrist in order to buy drugs. Haller has lived a tortured, problem-filled existence, and it could possibly get worse, before it gets better.
Meanwhile, Amy is being tortured by The Eye, and though David and Syd can project themselves into the room, they can’t alter it. Plus, The Eye is, himself, abnormal, and can almost feel their presence. He interrogates her with vigor and ferocity, saying she knew what he was and allowed a god to be turned into a fool. Now that his shackles are gone, he moves unimpeded and out of control. “And if you have any conscience at all, you’ll help me find him so I can turn him off.” She stands tall, preserving what little she may know of her brother’s abilities. She’s not unaware, but the scope of her knowledge at this juncture is completely unclear. Division Three doesn’t buy it, or they’re willing to try and draw him out, using her as bait, which is how she was described last week.
Here’s how I wrote the following in my notes, because reading it back, there’s no more accurate way to describe it. “All of a sudden they’re in the present. Somehow they teleported 600 feet through two solid walls out of the memory cube.” I mean, that’s what happened. With Legion, sometimes (or often) you just have to go with it, trust Hawley, and wait for it to either make sense or reveal itself to be a sequence done simply to demonstrate David Haller’s awesome power. Through the madness, there’s illumination and explanation in the characters themselves. Syd’s mother hosted salons on the 31st floor, and was a literal genius. David was a country boy, which is something we had previously seen, but we get a little bit more of that side of the story.
This damn children’s book is so freaky that Noah had to give us the levity of David telling Syd that when the two switched bodies during the escape, he didn’t take advantage of her body, except one admission that he touched the breasts. Considering he can’t touch her normally, I’d have done the same thing. So would you. She retorted even more inappropriately, saying she did a bit more with his body during the same time frame. And then it’s time to go to Halloween, which is one of David’s worst stressors, as the sci-fi gives way to the horror.
David and Amy with their dog, King, who goes through a hole in the fence during trick or treating. We hear Haller reading the story from the book, about a child chopping his mother’s head off. Young David searches for his furry friend, and sees the shadow of what looks like a puppet, but is indeed the child from the book, and there’s no possible way the show could have depicted this kid in a more frightening manner. I feel like this review is all over the place, and it’s because my brain still hasn’t recovered from the hellscape from Wednesday night…despite the fact I saw it a month ago.
It wouldn’t be the last time we see the creature from the book, but Chapter Three also took us closer to Christopher Nolan’s Inception than at any point thus far, with all of our main characters hanging out in Haller’s head, but for the first time having to operate under conditions of self-survival. Melanie remarks she hasn’t ever seen anyone’s brain actually defend itself against intrusion or even observation, noting that David’s mind actually builds walls to protect memories from others. However, this is the first week where I found myself asking whether or not a majority of what we’re seeing isn’t entirely real. She also tells Syd she believes Haller deserves to be happy, and she wants that for him, but she’s also going to use him. This isn’t a surprise.
One of the difficulties in the Legion character is how much faith it requires, because there has to be a segment of the reading or viewing population that wonders if there’s a final chapter that ties it up. But, David Haller as a breathing entity should always be a mystery, perfectly willing to take the audience down a dead end street. We’re taught watching TV to expect resolution, but in the world of Legion, it might behoove us to expect the unexpected and nothing more. It’s faith in Hawley, much more so than in Marvel or character canon, that should keep anyone questioning “where are we going” from flying the coop. Plus, the show is just so damn wild and entertaining that it would be foolhardy to make any rash assumptions.
David told Syd about his drug issues, coming clean about just how often he was high, and what lengths he went to in order to procure his pharmaceuticals of choice. His worry was that if she sees who he was, while visiting inside his mind, she won’t feel the same way about him. It’s not an outlandish thought, because we’re still scratching the surface of his grey matter, and we’ve got crazy flashing lights and horrifying sounds and mental cuts that defy all reason and structure. There’s a sex scene, there’s a monster attempting to crawl through a red hole, projections of crimes and moments without classification, without explanation, without any semblance of reality.
The kid from the story comes back, and The Devil with the Yellow Eyes appears, crawling towards a victim, then Syd wakes up. We’re all (including her) terrified to discover she’s the only one who awoke from the nightmare. A pillow helps her save Ptonomy from the darkness, but Melanie is left in the very worst of things. She’s climbing stairs, hearing King whimpering, and then she discovers “The World’s Angriest Boy in the World,” the title of the book that must not be named. Our puppet is indeed the kid, and his rationale for murdering his mother is being asked to go to bed. Then the next page. Now our little Chuckie-Omen amalgam has burned down a neighborhood, and of course the book itself then slams on her hand. This is straight up evil. The physical object is attacking her inside of David’s mind, because the memories and his brain have aggressive defense mechanisms.
Ole’ Yellow Eyes reappears, and finally she wakes up, gripping her own hand painfully. Yes, all of this ridiculousness was in the memory, but what the hell kind of memory was this? Oh, an unstable person with a drug problem owns that mind. Got it. David remains under in the episode’s final moments, as we view our protagonist surrounded by all the many voices and vices within his own head. He places his head in his hands, and the rest of the team questions why he hasn’t woken up.
Yeah, that was some shit right there folks. This wasn’t my favorite of the three initial chapters of the story, and as a matter of fact it’s probably third on the list. It got a little weird, and I felt like I was being asked to walk on water during high tide. However, despite the insanity of it all – both literal and figurative – I couldn’t look away, not for a second. While amidst the most uncomfortable and confusing sequences Legion has ever shown me, I was drawn to the nightmare, rather than away from it. What that tells me is Noah Hawley has me hooked. This certainly isn’t Fargo, and I shudder just thinking about what might be to come, but this is one unique show.
It’s taken superhero stories to a new level, visual stimuli to a new level, and broken, stream of consciousness plot positioning into a new galaxy. And the acting continues to be otherworldly, matching the conditions of the subject matter.
But, I do hope David wakes up soon. If I see that kid again, I might be “The World’s Most Frightened Author who Elected to Throw Himself Off a Bridge, Lest He Ever Run Into the Black and White Terror in the Future.”
I’m @JMartOutkick, and I’m turning on the lights.