Due to its protagonists’ telepathy and ability to shape reality, Legion has often explored worlds inside people’s minds. But “Chapter 11” spends more time inside people’s minds than it does in reality. Of course, this being Legion, even reality is filled with the stuff of dreams, from disappearing cows to a deformed chick that crawls into your ear.
The episode begins with Jon Hamm continuing his narrated psychology (parapsychology?) lesson on the subject of ideas. This time it’s the Nocebo Effect—adverse placebo experiences, like the Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic of 1962 or the Alsatian Dancing Plague of 1518, historically documented instances that parallel the teeth chattering disease that’s infected the world of Legion.
Like the interstitial segments of the last two episodes, which dealt with delusion and the concept of Umwelt, or human perception, the introduction is shot in brilliant colors on crisp white. The Danforth Dunes Ditch Devils cheerleading squad develops a contagious mental tic in response to stress. “If the idea of illness can become illness,” Hamm asks us, “what else about our reality is actually a disorder?”
The teeth-chattering nocebo infection, we learn, is caused by one of the Monks of Migo rather than Shadow King, Amahl Farouk. When Farouk died, his body was buried underneath the Migo Monastery. But it takes more than the reportedly impenetrable minds of these monks and a metal egg-shaped coffin buried deep underground to hold back the Shadow King.
There are plenty of disturbing visions in this episode, but there are also charming moments, like Syd wandering Division 3 in the body of a cat or Cary encouraging Kerry to become self-sufficient. Kerry (Amber Midthunder) usually retreats into the body of Cary (Bill Irwin) when there’s no action, but now she has to learn how to eat (unappealing), drink (more cream soda) and defecate (“disgusting!”). Theirs is a relationship unlike any other on TV—or elsewhere.
David, still torn about helping Farouk at the direction of Future Syd, confronts the Shadow King about his intentions once he has his body. David wants the simplicity of hero/villain, but Farouk challenges him on that very term (it comes from “villager”; “Do I look like a peasant?”). Farouk was a king until David’s father—a white man who didn’t speak the language or understand the customs—deposed him. Feeding off of David’s energy for all those years was his only way to survive; he was a refugee without a home.
He also reveals that the Typhoid Mary of the teeth chattering infection is the monk, not the Shadow King, who has merely been following the monk in search of his body.
When David returns from Farouk’s mind, he finds Division 3 dark and the hallways deserted except for dead and infected bodies (and that inexplicable cow). Only Cary, who’s “not physically brave,” is unaffected. When he finds his friends with their teeth chattering, he and Cary enter their minds to free them from the mazes of their own making. First is Ptonomy (Jeremie Harris), the memory artist.
His maze is a perfect garden—a floral astral plane—except for a pile of sludge that Cary steps in (likely evidence of the tar chick that crawled in his ear). He has no short- or long-term memory; he lives perfectly in the present, a fantasy for someone who remembers every detail of his or her life.
Questions of perception abound as David and Cary discuss whether the reality inside his own mind is real to him. When he’s freed, he doesn’t remember what happened, something that causes a glorious moment of joy for him.
Melanie’s mind is completely black except for a single keyboard and an old-school computer adventure game. It’s a virtual maze with a Minotaur in the doggie wheelchair she saw while tripping. She’s been trying to escape her reality since the end of Season One, and her fantasy is to control the world totally and to be detached from it. It’s David’s understanding of her pain that convinces her to re-enter the world.
David is eventually captured by the child soldiers, and the Monk looks into his mind. But we also see into the Monk’s mind, and his memories of his brethren going crazy as Farouk tried to escape his tomb. Farouk knew the secret of penetrating the monks’ minds, and we see them laughing uncontrollably, hanging themselves, losing bodily control and, of course, staring into space with their teeth chattering. Only one monk escapes, introducing the infection out into the world.
Ptolemy and Melanie find the monk, and he’s commandeered the androids in an attempt to communicate the same way as Fukuyama. He believes Division 3 has a weapon that can destroy the Shadow King’s body. But when he learns that David is the weapon, he says he doesn’t trust David because he’s seen inside his mind.
So David is torn between trusting the Monk, who carelessly has been infecting people, and doesn’t believe people matter, and Farouk, who made him think he was insane all these years. The deciding factor is Future Syd, who has sent him messages making up a single word: “Hurry.” Watching David ramble to a monk about having a girlfriend—or two (same girlfriend in two different times)—is an example of the show’s quirky humor.
The ending is abrupt when David finds Syd infected and enters her mind, a snowy landscape with an igloo. We’re not done exploring internal fantasy worlds.