Tuesday, May 22, 2018

REVIEW: 'Legion' - David Formulates a New Plan to Outsmart Farouk in Their Race in 'Chapter 16'

FX's Legion - Episode 2.08 "Chapter 16"

The path forward is revealed.

There is such a strong main story flowing throughout "Chapter 16." And yet, it is hindered significantly by a bunch of random plots and details that are also happening in this hour. It immediately presents as the creative team having a lot of these big ideas for the story this season with most of the setup for the final section being done in this particular episode. As such, the audience gets more of the backstory on Admiral Fukuyama, David and Farouk make a little bit more progress in their search for Farouk's body, Lenny escapes from Division 3 and The Narrator makes his latest grand moral lesson. It's all very important. It also just feels thrown together in this hour so that all of these themes and plot developments are apparent as the show heads into the final stretch. That's not inherently bad either. All of these stories are very interesting. Most of the supporting ensemble has gone in and out of focus this season. Melanie hasn't been important for most of this season so far. And yet, the end of this episode suggests that she's about to be a huge disruption to David's plan simply through her connection with Oliver. Meanwhile, Cary and Kerry are largely just waiting to be activated so that their story of not being able to merge may come to a satisfying conclusion at some point. And then, Clark and Ptonomy are suddenly given new importance here because they are the ones who get such huge information and truth out of the people who are currently driving this story forward. Everyone in this world is necessary and has value. David is simply the only one who has been consistent throughout the year. And now, the show is even presenting the case that he has actually been very deceitful and may not be able to keep his promises because he is emotional and volatile. No one truly knows what he'll do next. Yes, that can be exciting. But it also feels like the show is biding its time a little bit too.

But again, the true highlight of "Chapter 16" comes from the intense focus on the changing nature of David and Syd's relationship. The show has always treated their love story as pure fact. It was just something that the audience had to accept right away. We had to trust that both of them would do whatever it took to save one another even though the relationship was still fresh and new. The show has always presented it that way. There was the tease of distance growing between them at the start of the second season. David returned to Syd as the same man who left her for a year. She had changed and hardened herself to the world because she was forced to fight not knowing what happened to her greatest love. She still believes that love is what's worth saving the world for. It's her motivation through everything. But there was always the fear that the two of them have simply changed too much. Their circumstances are no longer as simple or conductive as they once were. They were perfectly fine and happy in the asylum and Summerland. Their relationship was pure and healthy there. The show didn't need to spend too much time and focus on it because it was just an inherent fact that the two of them were in love. They were the grand love story of this piece. That continues to be apparent throughout this season because David was willing to trust whatever future Syd said without any hesitation because of his blind loyalty to her. He didn't want to even entertain the notion that it could all be a trick. He just wanted to see future Syd's motives as pure even though it seems so destructive to the current mission of needing to stop Farouk.

David was willing to go along with this crazy and secretive mission because of his love for Syd. But now, he and future Syd got into a fight and David is keeping the truth from Syd about what happened. She is desperate for answers. She wants to get into that personal space and know what he's currently dealing with in this crazy world. Instead, she just sees a man trapped in his own mind trying to figure out what's real and what's a delusion. He is such a powerful mutant that the attraction is so intoxicating. But it can't be blinding either. She just can't accept whatever he tells her to do. She needs to have her own agency and ensure that this relationship is something that is still worth fighting for. The episode's most revealing and moving sequence is when Syd and Clark are simply talking about her relationship with David. She is able to articulate all of her fears and worries about what they are becoming over time in such a calm and understanding way. She has made her decision to follow him into the unknown. She wants to be there by his side when he's protecting the world. But now, she doesn't know if he is helping or fighting Farouk. She doesn't know if he's still determined to change the future because of this warning from her future self. She no longer trusts him because she thinks it's apparent that he's keeping secrets. She wants to believe that he'll always remain honest to her. And yet, Clark rightfully points out that David is a very powerful mutant who could destroy the world if he wanted to or if Syd hurt his feelings real bad. That's such a tragic statement that is also so incredibly timely with the horrific reports coming out of Santa Fe this week. David may be too blind to the realities of this world and that could force him into making some very dangerous decisions.

Of course, it's also clear that David has put more thought and attention into his plan to retrieve Farouk's body. He is able to locate it because of Ptonomy getting a message out from the mainframe after getting a glimpse of the monastery from the Monk. David has also set timers for thoughts and actions for his friends at Division 3 to take. It all seems very complicated and potentially smart of him. He's doing this to ensure that Farouk doesn't just read their minds and figure out their plans. But right now, it's also dangerous because the other characters are slow to get those realizations that David needs their help at this moment. It's mostly just an excuse to provide a way out of the building for Lenny. She makes her grand escape which could be such a huge risk considering her former connection to Farouk. And yet, those fears are lessened in the earlier scene where she is confiding to David that her greatest fear is that this is all just some elaborate trick orchestrated by Farouk and none of it is actually real. Meanwhile, Clark is knocked out by Melanie once he gets his call to help David. That shows that Oliver has been trying to take over her mind this entire season. That's an ominous tease that ensures that there are still monsters and enemies within the walls of Division 3 for the characters to face. It means that David's plan is already going awry. But that pales in comparison to the new puzzle he faces in the desert outside of the monastery. It's an ever changing environment. Whenever he feels like he's getting closer, he actually just gets pulled further away. The environment is able to gift him with the supplies and shelter that he needs to survive. But it's also a grueling place that presents no easy solution. It's a place where travelers could get lost and die in this puzzle. That's not the end to their story that Syd wants. She doesn't want to be trapped in that cycle with David where they eventually die in the middle of this maze not actually solving it. She wants to know that he has a plan and will ultimately do the right thing for their relationship in the end. But it's also apparent that David is going to do whatever suites him in the moment based on how he is feeling about Farouk. Syd can see that but she is desperate to form an even stronger connection with the man David has become as well.

Elsewhere, it's fascinating that the show is continuing the structure of Jon Hamm's Narrator still presenting examples of morality and philosophy to the audience. Last week seemed like all of those little segments from throughout the season were all being wrapped up with the huge complication coming in the form of the delusion monster that bursts out of Ptonomy. The Narrator makes a concluding statement trying to tie up everything he has previously mentioned this season to see if the audience has actually learned anything. It felt like a strong resolution to that plot device that didn't necessarily need to be mentioned again. And now, The Narrator is back talking about delusions and just how destructive they can be once someone actually starts thinking about them for too long. It's just an example presented in the most basic and lame way possible. It's the Narrator explaining that technology is essentially making humanity meaner because we are seeing the world through the filter of our own relationship with the Internet instead of seeing the humanity behind the other screens and accounts. As such, the world would become a much richer and eye-opening an experience if humanity just set down the technology every once in awhile to marvel at the beauty and nuances of this world. It too is a very timely story because technology has gotten so ugly and invasive over the last few years. It's the show once again presenting ideas to make the audience think. But this is an example and solution that many other shows have also discussed with not much nuance being added to the subject here. That means it's a little lackluster to hear Jon Hamm pop up again. It ensures the audience is aware the device will continue. But it might also make us worry that things may not be able to feel resolved in a satisfying way by the end of the season. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Chapter 16" was written by Noah Hawley & Jordan Crair and directed by Jeremy Webb.
  • Admiral Fukuyama was recruited into being the secret keeper for the government because of his test scores and beliefs at a young age. At 17 years old, he made the decision to have this procedure done on him so that he could serve his country. Of course, it's also apparent that the government is taking advantage of his young and naive mind in the hopes of defeating this new threat that can invade a person's most intimate thoughts and desires. They needed someone to be completely secure.
  • Of course, it's also so fascinating to see Ptonomy continue getting his lay of the land inside the mainframe. He has no idea what's going on. And yet, he's experiencing everything and remembering all of it too. His body may be dying. But his mind is being allowed to live. He is probably even more useful in the system than Fukuyama because he's the one who discovers the Monk and is able to get a message to David through the Vermillion regarding where Farouk's body actually is.
  • Future Syd told Farouk where he could find his former driver. She was the person who took him to where his body was buried before. She is able to see him in his true form which teases that she's very powerful and insightful as well. However, all she wants in return for giving him this vital information is to simply be placed in a perpetual dream where she is allowed to enjoy driving once more. Farouk giving that to her actually makes him seem compassionate.
  • Sometimes all it takes is the show's direction presenting something in a different and fun way for it to be seen as stylish and entertaining even if the characters really aren't doing much. Here, the show dramatizes the race between David and Farouk to find the monastery and the puzzle in the desert simply by using multiple split screens to show the various walks they are doing hoping for the correct path to be revealed. It's a blast to see unfold.
  • The episode closes on that terrifying sight of the minotaur that has been plaguing Melanie's mind throughout the season. Like the delusion creatures, that monster has been an outside threat that has defied any explanation so far. It now seems tied to whatever control Farouk now holds over Melanie. Perhaps she's the one becoming that beast in the hopes of attacking her friends. Or maybe the creature is literal and Melanie will be uploaded to the mainframe as well after it bursts out of her.