Tuesday, May 15, 2018

REVIEW: 'Legion' - David Battles Insanity in Its Purest and Most Monstrous Form in 'Chapter 15'

FX's Legion - Episode 2.07 "Chapter 15"

A delusion starts like any other idea. But ends in disaster.

There are two very powerful and potent reveals that occur in "Chapter 15." The first is just a mere suggestion. Future Syd has been very coy about the reason why her timeline is apocalyptic. She just knows that it's important for David to help Farouk find his body. And now, there is the tease that it may actually be David who has destroyed the world. That has definitely been a theory I've seen floating around on the Internet. And now, it's important to get some more context about this conflict as things are still just slowly building up to the climatic moments in this storyline. The second big reveal pertains to what is happening with the delusion creatures that have crawled into the heads of various characters. Ptonomy was the most notable character being infected by these new delusions. They were having an impact on his powers and his sanity. The audience was questioning what exactly was going on. Was it an attack from some more dangerous player that was making the group turn against one another. Was it some element of Division 3 that was turning on their new allies? Is it somehow connected to the various stories that the Narrator has been telling us this season about delusion, perception, conspiracy and morality? The creature first appeared in those sequences. And now, it is all over the latest one that kicks off this episode. The two worlds are more crossed than ever before with the existence of this creature plus the the Devil with the Yellow Eyes tormenting this latest example of ethics and insanity. But it's also just one twisted joke as well. This creature is insanity in its purest form. It wasn't sent to this place under the control of anyone else. It's the show personifying the idea that delusion can fester until a person acts irrationally to something they can't understand or rationalize. Here, that means many of the characters slowly turning on Admiral Fukuyama and the Vermillion.

The audience can also tell that the show wants to be addressing the big picture story of Farouk trying to find his body and become more powerful. But it's also been delaying that journey as well so that not too much progress is made too quickly. Those side adventures could become annoying over time. It's definitely felt like the show has been more hit-or-miss with its theatrics this season - especially if there is no true context with which to see it through the characters and their emotional journeys this year. "Chapter 15" at first presents as an episode that will bring the focus back onto that mission. David delved into the idea of the multiverse to see the many lives he could be living. He was pulled back into this one knowing that he can no longer work with Farouk. Killing Amy was such a personal betrayal. Farouk sees it as him doing what David always wanted to do but never did. He knows that David has had these thoughts before. He can even provoke him with Amy's image in an unsettling way to make him seem like the monster once more as well. It's all just a game to Farouk because he sees himself as the king and the god making the rules of this world. He believes he's playing with someone also willing to change the world to fit the reality he needs it to be. Instead, he just sees David as a petulant child who doesn't understand what he is truly capable of. That's a fascinating balance. David wants to have a vicious almost animal-like response to this personal attack on his family. Farouk is still elegant and poised. He can rationalize everything while also making significant progress on his pursuit of locating his body.

Farouk does that by having his own conversation with future Syd. That's such a powerful sequence because it's two characters interacting with each other who never have before. There is still so much unknown about this future timeline. Farouk understands that David is risking everything because he has placed his complete faith in Syd. He is loyal to her even when she is appearing to him from an apocalyptic future missing one arm. She's a much different woman. And yet, she's still Syd. In the present, Syd doesn't necessarily think of it as cheating even though she does come to the realization that she is a little jealous of the bond that David has with this other women. She does know her. In fact, the most meaningful conversation of this entire story may be the one that takes place between Syd and her future self. That would be very entertaining to see. But here, it's David and Farouk interacting with her. It gives Farouk such a confidence boost because he has the awareness that he may actually be the hero of this story. He has talked so much about his oppression and being labeled as a villain in connection to the color of his skin. And yes, it has been such a fascinating conversation to see him dismantle the idea that the hero of the story needs to be a straight white man. Of course, Farouk has done some horrible and monstrous things over the course of the series. He's not a hero. The show ultimately states that everyone has heroism inside of them as well as villainy. Future Syd doesn't want to completely crush David by telling him he's the reason for this apocalypse. He's angry because she didn't warn him about what would happen to Amy. He blames all of these people for taking her away. And in the end, he pushes future Syd away too because this is a relationship that isn't healthy for anyone involved. And yet, future Syd is still keeping watch over the past from a distance yearning for different actions to be made.

And then, the show immediately gets distracted by needing to fight this new enemy - the delusion creature. It's a creature that doesn't get an official name. No one knows exactly what to call it. It is simply insanity. It's this creature that warps a person's mind and makes them see things that aren't there. With Ptonomy, it has been a slow moving progress. Of course, not a lot of time has actually passed over the course of the season. But the fall into delusion and insanity happens much more quickly with Clark, Kerry and Syd as soon as they are infected. It's such a creepy and unsettling story as well. It once again plays with what's real and what's not. The characters all enter dreamlike states where they believe they are living things in their reality only to eventually wake up and realize it was all just a nightmare. The Vermillion play such an effectively terrifying role throughout all of that as well. It's so shocking and disarming to see one of them crawling up on Ptonomy from between his legs. It's then so amusing that they only seem to be following Clark around when he isn't looking at them. When he does turn around, they simply just strike a pose and the music stops. It's a very playful story that plays into how this infection is allowed to grow and become more dangerous the more people believe in the delusion. At first, Ptonomy was the only one who had these fears. And now, he has a group that is ready to strike and attack the person they believe is responsible for all of this monstrosity. They attack the Vermillion and force Fukuyama to remove the basket from his head. That moment doesn't reveal any familiar character. It is simply a man with this horrible procedure done to him. He's not the enemy. Instead, it's these monsters in their heads.

David is fortunately able to defeat these creatures very quickly and effectively. He also has to take note of just how complicated and unnecessary it is for this creature to be attacking now. There is already so much going on. David didn't need one more thing he needed to be in charge of. He wants to be focused on Farouk and ensuring that he pays for the pain he has inflicted on him. He wants Farouk to suffer. And now, he is running around Division 3 pulling these creatures out of his friends' heads and battling the monster that soon breaks free from Ptonomy. That visual is so gross and alarming. It's a sight that basically proves that insanity and delusion can ultimately kill and cripple a person. Ptonomy doesn't die from these injuries. But his mind needs to be rescued by the Vermillion hooking him up to some mainframe that exists within a tree. That's an unusual and mysterious visual that will need to be explained more in the future. But right now, it's just more important to have that moment of levity where David is trying to reason with this creature by saying now isn't the best time to have this fight. It's a strategy that doesn't work in the slightest. David doesn't know if the creature understands him or if it simply doesn't care. It's probably the latter. It has already grown to the size where it could do a great deal of harm. It's terrifying to think of what else this creature could have forced the characters to do. And now, it's defeated simply by David becoming empowered and standing up to the fear. That makes David big and the creature small. He can trap it in a cage and crush it. Again, it's such a simple solution to this problem that has been building throughout the season. It's a fine payoff to all of these moments of narration that have forced the audience to think about the way we perceive the world. It has had dangerous repercussions for the characters. And now, their lives will change because of this brief moment of insanity that they've had.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Chapter 15" was written by Noah Hawley & Nathaniel Halpern and directed by Charlie McDowell.
  • David snaps the creatures outside of Syd and Clark's heads. Then, the master bursts free of the cocoon that is Ptonomy's body. And yet, there is still the creature inside of Kerry. David doesn't pull it out of her after he convinces her not to attack. Perhaps it's because the delusion no longer has power. Or maybe that one is destroyed once David kills the big one. Or it could also be an ongoing concern to be aware of in the future if Kerry starts acting weirdly.
  • It seems like Ptonomy and Admiral Fukuyama's fates will now be intertwined. He has always found the Vermillion to be deeply unsettling. He's so nervous around this man who apparently sees everything happening within this building. And now, his mind is being uploaded to the main frame. He sees the shushing woman just like Fukuyama does. Of course, this is such a tragic outcome for Ptonomy as well who just wants to be again to forget once in awhile.
  • Lenny can still hear Amy's screams as she was being transformed into Lenny. This body is not her own. She still has memory of that event and the torture Farouk inflicted upon her. She's forcing herself to remember it. She's not horrified by it either. That tips the audience off that she probably is still working for the king. Meanwhile, she just tries to convince Syd that they could actually be friends because they've both spent time in David's head.
  • Amy's death really could be the tragic backstory for David's turn into a supervillain. He has the powers to completely cripple the world if he wants to. He is able to defeat this creature that absolutely scares everyone else at Division 3. And yet, he feels powerless against Farouk. It feels like he could be willing to do anything to enact his vengeance. Killing Farouk would put him on the path towards the apocalypse. But if future Syd knew all of that, wouldn't she have also tried to warn him so he could make better decisions?
  • Is this the last piece of narration that Jon Hamm will get to deliver this season? It seems unlikely because that plot device has been used so effectively used over the course of the season. Not every episode has featured it. It has told a story with a purpose that did ultimately affect the actions in the main story. But now, it feels like a conclusion has been found. That doesn't mean it won't appear again. I just wonder if it will?