“My memory’s a bit … oh, what’s the word? Dishes? No.”
— Oliver Bird
If you’re looking for a good example of how to convey a significant amount of exposition in the most engrossing, and charming, way possible — and, who knows, maybe you are — you could do far worse than this week’s episode of “Legion,” which devotes much of its 45 minutes to bringing the characters, and the viewers, up to speed in time for the season finale.
With a TV promo spoiling confirmation that, yes, Lenny/the Devil With Yellow Eyes is indeed longtime X-Men enemy the Shadow King, there are no major surprises left in “Chapter 7.” However, there is a significant nod to David Haller’s Marvel Comics roots, as well as a couple of new wrinkles to the drama’s overarching story.
The task of assembling the pieces of the puzzle falls largely to Oliver Bird, David Haller, Cary Loudermilk and Syd Barrett, who must not only reveal the identity and motives of David’s “monster,” and its connections to his past, but also lay out how they intend to escape their current predicament: Their minds are trapped on the astral plane, primarily in a mental re-creation of Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital, while their bodies are frozen in time (and in imminent danger from a hail of bullets) in David’s childhood bedroom. They accomplish both in delightful and creative ways, with Jemaine Clement’s Oliver and Bill Irwin’s Cary in particular providing a quirky antidote to the creeping, and increasingly unhinged, menace of Aubrey Plaza’s Lenny.
Or should we call her Amahl Farouk? That’s how Oliver refers to the psychic parasite in his offbeat conversation with Cary, who’s no stranger to the entity, and even quietly admonishes himself for missing the clues. “Of course, I should’ve known — the dog,” he says. “In David’s memories, he’s disguised himself as a really cute little beagle. But the name King, I should — Amahl Farouk, the Shadow King.”
It’s a name familiar to Marvel Comics readers — CBR related the Shadow King’s comic-book history earlier this week — but why he’s known to Cary and Oliver is a mystery for another day. Or perhaps another season. But how he fits into David’s murky past becomes just a little more clear, first through the probing of a frantic Lenny and then through the work of David himself.
Ensconced in what could be characterized as a fun-house version of Cerebro, Lenny tracks the activities of the “animals” on the psychic map that surrounds her, even as her grip on the carefully crafted re-creation of Clockworks slips away. Asking “What did he do with it?” again and again, she presses Amy Haller to recount the night, many years ago, when David came to live with her family. Admitting that “For a long time I thought it was a dream,” Amy recalls sneaking out on the staircase landing and seeing a man deliver the infant David to her parents. The most important detail to X-Men fans is, of course, the flash of memory to the wheelchair, with the signature X design of its spokes, confirming that on “Legion,” as in the comic books, Charles Xavier is David Haller’s father. While it’s not exactly a surprise, fans will undoubtedly cheer the visual connection to Marvel lore and to Fox’s larger X-Men franchise.
His identity is slyly reinforced by David, whose seemingly futile attempts to break free of the mental coffin he was trapped in by Lenny receives welcome assistance from his logical mind, manifested as another version of himself, only with an English accent. Explaining the coffin is merely an idea, he instructs David to envision a classroom and a chalkboard so he can work through questions about his past and his current dilemma. “Now, I want you to forget all the tricks — the memory work, the MRI, all the lies,” the logical mind tells David. “It’s your mind. You know everything the monster knows.”
Starting from the revelation that he’s adopted, David adds what he’s learned: that Lenny (well, “Lenny”) knew his biological father, which likely means he was a mutant, and, more specifically, a psychic. However, this isn’t just a simple information dump; David’s chalkboard drawings come to life in animated form, with the rendition of his father (bald, naturally) doing battle with the monster on the astral plane. The reenactment evokes Charles Xavier’s first encounter with Farouk, as depicted in 1979’s “X-Men” #117, and like that standoff, it ended with the Shadow King vanquished to the astral plane but not destroyed.
Briefly hampered by insecurity, David quickly moves past doubts about whether his biological parents wanted him, and realizes they gave him away in an attempt to hide him from this revenge-seeking mutant parasite, this Shadow King. “Somehow the monster was watching, and found me,” he says. “And like a haunted house, possessed me.” That conclusion is followed by the realization that it was the monster that made him “sick” as it fed off his powers, growing stronger as the years went by. But then Syd entered the picture and woke up David, “and the monster realized it couldn’t hide anymore.”
“Melanie was wrong,” David concludes. “I was sick, but I’m not sick anymore.”
David isn’t the only one spurred into action, however, as after not being able to agree on the nationality of Melanie Bird — “Melanie? My wife? Is she, for some reason I want to say … Chinese?” — Oliver and Cary hatch a plan to rescue their friends and confront Farouk. Dressed in the vintage diving suit, which Oliver refers to as “Jules Verne,” Cary wakes Syd and attempts to apprise her of their situation, only to find she’s already figured it all out. “I’ve been paying attention,” she beams.
Equipped with eyeglasses created by Oliver to allow her and the others to see what’s “real” in the mental projection of Clockworks, Syd sets off to find Kerry and, hopefully, the rest of the Summerland crew. Cary, meanwhile, materializes in David’s childhood bedroom, where he and Melanie are soon joined by “Oliver Bird, dedicated follower of fashion.” Although Cary’s much-touted halo device promises to at least temporarily separate the Shadow King from David, the matter of what happens to the hail of bullets once time unfreezes poses a major obstacle, one addressed by Oliver as he begins to conduct Ravel’s “Bolero,” which seems to affect the fabric of reality. Or at least what passes for reality. The endgame, like so many things on “Legion,” isn’t exactly clear, but the music and visuals are arresting, if regrettably short-lived.
That’s because, at Clockworks, Syd and Kerry locate the nearly catatonic Rudy (the telekinetic guy whose name I’m not sure has ever been mentioned), only to be confronted by a homicidal Lenny, who uses her powers to fold The Eye like human origami. She then turns her attention to them before being distracted by developments in David’s childhood bedroom, and pops off there to swiftly stop Oliver, leaving us with questions about his intent — and with “Bolero” stuck in our heads. Returning to the hospital, Lenny runs into her own problem with Rudy, whose physical form lies stabbed and bleeding in David’s old house (thanks to The Eye!), but whose mind is more aware than the drool might indicate.
David, now free of his mental coffin, frantically searches the halls and offices of this imagined hospital for a way to escape. When that fails, he uses his powers to begin to dismantle the projection, even as Cary places the halo on the head of his physical form. With time unfrozen, David turns to shield Syd from the gunfire only to seemingly be shot in the back. Of course, that’s not what really happened; he reached around and caught the bullets, because he’s magic, man.
With the Shadow King/Lenny momentarily vanquished and The Eye dead, everyone heads back to Summerland, with Rudy on a stretcher, Amy Haller in tow, and Melanie once again in search of Oliver. Making a beeline for the basement, she discovers the diving suit empty within the cryogenic chamber. Somberly returning upstairs, she finds her husband cheerfully making breakfast and reciting beat poetry. It’s a heartwarming moment that, of course, doesn’t last. A chasm has formed between Cary and Kerry, who’s upset that he left when she needed him, and while David is downright bubbly, he quickly discovers the halo isn’t a permanent solution to his problem; heck, it may not even last through breakfast.
Just as most everyone hurries with David toward Cary’s lab (to do what, exactly, we don’t know), they’re set upon by Division 3 soldiers, led by none other than The Interrogator, disfigured by his encounter with the Summerland crew in Episode One but determined to complete his assignment. “We have so much to talk about,” he tells David before barking to the soldiers, “You can kill the others!”
It’s a heck of cliffhanger, made even more tense by the cutaway to Lenny/the Devil With Yellow Eyes, screaming from within a mental coffin but able to create a crack in the lid. We knew, of course, the monster wouldn’t be subdued for long, but its escape could very well be the key to rescuing David and the Summerland gang from Division 3. Now that would be a twist.
Odds and Ends
- Lenny’s refrain of “What did he do with it?” raises two obvious questions: 1.) What is it?; and 2.) Who is she referring to, David or David’s father? I’m going to guess it’s the latter, who may have been not only secreting away his son but an object. Will we learn the answers next week, or will we have to wait until Season Two?
- Kerry Loudermilk has been poorly served for the past couple of episodes, in which she’s been depicted as little more than a frightened child and a victim of The Eye. Although it was initially interesting to discover there’s a vulnerability behind the veneer of the action-seeking fighter, we need to be reintroduced to that bat-wielding, butt-kicking character. Perhaps that aspect will return for the season finale.
- The black-and-white sequences with the silent film-style title cards were a nice touch, particularly when it came to “The Monster Arrives!”
- “I am pretty. I am loved.”
- I would watch a “Legion” spinoff called “Oliver Bird, Dedicated Follower of Fashion.”