WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for this week's episode of Legion, "Chapter 23," which aired Monday on FX.
On last week's Legion, we saw the immediate consequences of David (Dan Stevens) meddling with the past, as his family’s contented life deteriorates, and the Shadow King, Amahl Farouk, (Navid Negahban) gains a foothold into David’s mind. In this week’s episode, the failed stunt becomes everybody’s business as its catastrophic side effects gradually emerge. Time travel, it turns out, is dangerous for more than just the time travelers.
The team at Division 3 is still on guard, but they don’t understand what’s happening when time begins to “glitch,” which is portrayed through a series of looping clips, stuttering bursts of stop-motion where objects and people are displaced in the timestream. The only ones capable of providing some kind of explanation are the computer-brained Vermillion and the new robotic version of Ptonomy (Jeremie Harris), who pinpoints the source of the mayhem on video and shows it to the others.
This is our first full introduction to the Time Eaters, who were merely a vague threat in the season’s first episode. They’re humanoid, blue-skinned creatures in ragged clothing that giggle constantly but never speak. An unknown number of them have been released by David’s trip into his past, and now they’re wreaking havoc on the timestream. Syd (Rachel Kellar) quickly connects the dots, saying, “This is how [David] does it… This is how he destroys the world.”
While that dire possibility already gives the proceedings some serious stakes, the really frightening thing about the Time Eaters is that nobody has a clue about how to fight them. Cary (Bill Irwin) asks Ptonomy a reasonable and straightforward question about their nature -- are they purely animalistic predators, or do they have an agenda?-- and is informed that the answer will require over three years of processing.
Meanwhile, David is doing his own investigation of the Time Eaters and the damage they’ve caused, with a panicking Switch (Lauren Tsai) as his main source of information. Clearly he isn’t trying to destroy the world, but when it comes to cleaning up his own mess, he leaves a lot to be desired. He gathers his followers around him and informs them that he made a mistake, but then cranks up their brainwashing to ensure that they all forgive him and continue to pad his ego.
The exception, who seems to have some degree of immunity to his influence, is Lenny (Aubrey Plaza), who stays alert amidst the group sedation and demands solutions. It’s not a fluke -- earlier on, she suggested leaving the commune with Salmon (Vanessa Dubasso), the “orange fish” and “pregnant virgin” of the trail of riddles once laid out for Switch to follow. Whether or not Lenny actually returned her girlfriend’s devotion had been in some doubt, but it’s not anymore. She wants Salmon and the baby regardless of what happens in David’s world.
In that context, Lenny’s brush with the broken timeline is especially disturbing. Everything around her fast-forwards through decades, with Salmon giving birth and then vanishing so that Lenny is left with a little girl, then a teenager, then an adult woman who has a daughter of her own, grows old, and dies. All of it takes place within a single room, and Lenny herself never ages, just helplessly watches the momentary life of a woman who calls her "Mom."
She’s not the only one left reeling from the fallout. Syd encounters a teenage girl who turns out to be herself, at the tender age that she had her catastrophic first sexual experience, and the two of them have a painful conversation that ends in a sudden attack. Switch is so overworked that her teeth begin falling out, and David wants her to take him back in time again and finish the job anyway. She’s adamant, but the only thing that actually stops him from forcing her is that he finally comes face to face with the threat at hand.
As the only one with any shot at defeating the Time Eaters, David puts on his game face, proclaiming, “I eat monsters for breakfast!” He’s confident in his godlike powers, but the monsters are too quick, and David is tossed out of time with an ordeal of his own: a meeting with his mother while she’s imprisoned during the Holocaust. Still fixated on his own desires, he makes another attempt at warning her about Farouk, which does nothing except convince her that he’s a madman.
Eventually, David makes it back to the present and wins the fight, putting the timestream back in its proper place, but some of the damages caused are irreversible. After Lenny’s compressed journey through parenthood resets to relative normality, David finds her writhing in the middle of the street. She refuses his help, and there’s a sense that their friendship won’t recover.
He’s also lost Cary, who snapped out of his mind control during a time glitch, and Switch, who escaped with Cary and seems to have joined Division 3 for now. The news infuriates David to the point that he declares war.
David’s control is slipping more and more as he isolates himself, all the while denying the reality of anything he doesn’t want to be true. He needs friends and allies, not disciples, but for that he first needs something currently far out of his reach: humility.
Airing Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX, Legion stars Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Jean Smart, Bill Irwin, Amber Midthunder, Jeremie Harris, Aubrey Plaza, Jemaine Clement, Hamish Linklater, Navid Negahban and Lauren Tsai.