The last three episodes of Legion have been thoroughly creative, artfully conceived and shot, and extremely well acted, with peak performances from Rachel Keller, Aubrey Plaza and Dan Stevens in turn. “Chapter 12” and “Chapter 13” packed an emotional heft, with a pair of gut-punch reveals at the end. “Chapter 14” explores alternate realities, providing insights into both protagonist David and the parasitic villain Farouk. They’ve been clever. They’ve been creative. My only complaint is that unlike virtually every episode that came before, they haven’t been very fun.
The series that often has me laughing out loud at its audacity and the way it gleefully revels in the bizarre has taken a much darker turn lately, to mixed results. The pace has slowed. The tone has shifted. But it feels difficult to judge without knowing where this all is headed.
“Chapter 14” presents a series of different Davids, varying paths among infinite timelines, as explained by a drugged-out David eating cold fries in a diner. “There’s this thing, this multiple worlds theory from like quantum mechanics, right? And every thing we do, there’s like a million possible outcomes, choices. And each outcome actually happens, like a tree growing branches. ... In another timeline, I’m like a billionaire or homeless or married in the suburbs with like 2.3 kids,” he says. And we see all of those possibilities and more. A couple are candidates for the darkest timeline.
The first three we see are old men, one homeless, one about to become the richest man in the world and one an invalid being lovingly tended to. We also see various younger versions of those old men, all struggling to deal with both his powers and his demons. We also see a mouse on David’s desk singing Bryan Ferry’s “Slave to Love” at one point, for some reason. All props to Legion music supervisor Maggie Phillips, who also keeps finding creepy covers of recognizable songs, this time with Ten Years After’s 1971 hit “I’d Love to Change the World,” and R.E.M.’s “Superman.”
David’s sister Amy, the subject the cruel twist in “Chapter 13,” is a frequent thread in these alternate realities, struggling to care for her unstable brother and a witness to his violence. In one, David works a menial job, mind clouded with pills and still plagued by Farouk’s monstrous appearances. We see violent ends, but worse, we see a successful old David still inhabited by Farouk, and his cruelty is terrifying.
In the end, we see that one of the young Davids is our David. We see his sister drop him off at the mental institution where he’ll meet Syd and eventually free himself of Farouk’s hold on his mind. Until, of course, we’re brought back to the present and Farouk’s betrayal from “Chapter 13.”
Legion’s second season has been Great Television. “Chapter 14” is Pretty Great Television. The sense of risk-taking and rule-breaking is still there. And yet, I miss the playfulness of the first few episodes. I miss the Jon Hamm interludes. And I desperately want to see where this is all heading.