Tuesday, June 5, 2018

REVIEW: 'Legion' - David Confronts His Inner Monstrosity While Syd is Forced to Watch in 'Chapter 18'

FX's Legion - Episode 2.10 "Chapter 18"

Reunion, ruination and rage.

This season of Legion has been breaking down the constructs of heroes and villains. Those designations have always been so common in the comic book genre. It's easy for the audience to tell the difference. Sure, it's important for there to be a rationale in order to explain why the villain would see themselves as a hero just taking very different actions. But it's always important to have that firm understanding of who is right and who is wrong. Legion has been doing things in such a different way. Again, it would be easy to say that David Haller is the hero of the story who will save the world from destruction and win the girl in the end while Amahl Farouk is the parasite that wreaked havoc on David's brain and is now trying to do even more damage to the world by being reunited with his physical body. But once again, the show wants the audience to have empathy and understanding for both of these characters while also keeping them at a distance as well. That's such a tricky balance for the show to pull off though and has left a lot of this season without a strong emotional hook to it which has been troubling. Farouk has done some monstrous things. He could be labeled as the monster that needs to be stopped. And yet, he's also quick to craft a tale of the cruel and oppressive world attacking the labeled other simply for doing something different from the norm. That in turn forces the audience to question whether or not what he's doing is actually bad. Meanwhile, David has the best intentions. He wants to save the world because that's the narrative that has been flung upon him. But he hasn't really wrestled with his own darkness while trying to figure out what his identity actually is now that the parasite is out of his head. "Chapter 18" is such a climatic episode heading into the season finale. It seems like the villain emerging victorious in his quest and easily being able to stomp out the hero and his allies. But it's so sinister to watch just how effortless all of this really is and just how powerful the motivations are that may be setting the characters on their future paths to the destruction of the world.

A version of Syd from the future made contact with David in order to change their story. She wanted him to help Farouk find his body. She saw that mission as being the thing that would unify the two of them together. With Farouk out of David's head, he would spiral into insanity and darkness until he became the monster that would end the world. Throughout this entire season, future Syd has talked around the fact regarding what exactly caused the apocalypse in her timeline. Sure, her conversation with Farouk was very telling in that regard. He was very boastful of the fact that it appeared that the hero of the story is actually the destroyer of the world. So, Farouk may not be the villain after all. That has only emboldened his moves even more. It has made him even more dangerous because he sees all of this information as being vital to proving his point that he's not so bad after all because David is just as equally a monster. Those are concerns that Syd has voiced about David as well. She confided in Clark that she worries about David and what he is capable of doing. She believes that their love is powerful enough to shine through all of the chaos and manipulations. They need to save the world in order to keep their love. But right now, that love appears to be broken. Future Syd has talked about how simple and loving this version of David is. It's not like who he is in her timeline. That has always been an ominous note as well. But it also appears as if this meddling from the future is informing the actions of the present in such a way that it inevitably leads to the future anyway. As such, it appears to be a narrative loop where it's impossible for anything to change.

That makes it seem inevitable that David will destroy the world after he kills Farouk. Syd will lose her arm in this battle while also losing her faith and love in David that he could be anything more than a monster. That's the note that this episode starts on as well. The hour begins with a flash of lightning that eventually pulls in on a shot from someone unknown point in time with Lenny stretched out on the floor with David sitting on a throne of bones and Syd apparently trapped inside some magical orb. It's such a strange and menacing sight to open the hour with. David has never looked more like a villain. That's not the character the audience has seen in action for two seasons now. And yet, it may be his character trajectory at the moment. The audience has seen moments of immense monstrosity within David. Yes, it has been easy to blame Farouk for that behavior. He twisted and warped David's mind for his entire life. He has never known how to be normal because everything he has ever known was so atypical and destructive. Farouk has been playing the long game with David. He stored away in his mind only making his influence known from time to time. His presence and strength grew alongside David's powers. David found these allies that helped vanquish Farouk from his head. But now, Farouk and David are locked in this battle. Again, it's already been said that David will succeed in killing Farouk during this showdown. But that seems like such a daunting task at the moment because Farouk is successful in reuniting with his body. That's the objective everyone has been trying to stop from happening. It's what future Syd pushed David to do. And now, it has occurred and David has emerged as a monster ready to battle his enemy. It's just unclear of what kind of reaction the audience should be having to any of this. It's easy to see the manipulations to push a new narrative that could be very persuasive. But it also feels difficult for the show to produce any ending in the finale that will ultimately feel rewarding - and that could be very troubling.

All of this really begins the moment that Syd falls down a hole and into Farouk's trap. Once she encounters someone, it's not Oliver and his devious ways. Instead, it is Melanie. She is able to welcome Syd in once more with talk about just how destructive the men in their lives can be because they are always craving power. It's a story that Syd doesn't want to hear again. She doesn't see the parallels between their relationships. She doesn't believe that she is Melanie and David is Oliver. David didn't run away like Oliver did. But he did leave and was expecting to pick things up again the moment he returned. However, Melanie isn't herself anymore. She is now the vessel under control by Farouk. That switch has occurred in order to surprise the other characters. The audience knows that Melanie is now under Farouk's control. That's absolutely devastating. But it's so cruel and punishing to see Melanie chip away at Syd's trust and love for David. Melanie and Farouk understand that it takes more than just presenting unquestionable facts to persuade someone into changing their mind. It's much more important to tell a story with physical images that can be seen and felt. In this moment, Farouk is just showing Syd a series of images that show the lengths to which David has lied to her and kept his true identity a secret. She has always known that he was capable of being a monster. She loved him anyway. But now, she is seeing him become the monster just in order to save her. He is willing to do anything in order to rescue the love of his life. He is torturing a friend to the brink of death just to get answers as to what has happened to Syd. It happens so quickly and suddenly. As such, it only adds more fuel to the story that Farouk is telling. He is able to manipulate Syd into losing all faith in David. That's such a daunting task that he makes seem so easy to do. All he has to do is present her with the scenes of David's life throughout the season and showing that he just wants to be the monster. There is no more denying it or trying to rationalize it away. This is simply who David is.

Of course, the audience can see this as the manipulation it clearly is so that David becomes the monster he is meant to be in future Syd's timeline while Farouk has enough time to reunite with his body. Farouk doesn't need to break down Syd's love for David in order for him to succeed with his ultimate goal though. He found the monastery long before David did. But he still feels the need to have his fun and play with the people also embarking on this journey. It shows that he still has very little regard for the vessels he hid away in for years. He has no problem letting David torture Oliver for information. Oliver is no longer the target. Farouk is already operating so far ahead of David. That's even more frustrating to David. He put all of this time and effort into crafting the perfect plan to surprise Farouk out in this desert. He hid memories and information in his friends' heads so that they only knew a piece of the grand puzzle. And now, it's so surprising to see just how easily they are mostly dispatched here. Syd is broken down by these violent and monstrous images of David. Cary and Kerry are battling with the various monks as well as the newly strong minotaur. Moreover, Farouk easily tosses away the weapon that Clark brought to the battlefield that would render all mutants human for a couple of minutes. It was in that moment where David was planning to strike. That won't happen now. It just appears as if it will be these two powerful individuals going head to head with one another. That could be very exciting. Of course, there's also the uncertainty of Lenny throughout all of this as well. She's just waiting for the perfect moment for her to get her revenge. The tease from the future proves that she may be David's closest and most trusted ally during the end of the world. But if the two of them are simply fighting for personal vengeance and destruction, then they truly have become the villains of this world.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Chapter 18" was written by Noah Hawley & Nathaniel Halpern and directed by Dana Gonzales.
  • Even David is starting to believe that he is a monster who must become a villain in order to kill his enemy. After torturing Oliver and enduring all of that pain because of a trick, David is thinking about all of the ways he would like to kill Farouk. But more important than that, he notes just how much he loves thinking about that pain and suffering. He is perfecting the most enjoyable way to do it which definitely worries him as well because it shows him embracing his inner demon.
  • When deconstructing the narrative of David in order to break Syd, Farouk refers to David as "Legion, the world killer." That seems like the first time the show has ever featured its title in dialogue. It also presents the way forward for how the show will be handling the identity of its main character. David has always been a powerful mutant. But now, it seems like his destiny is to become the one who is capable of destroying worlds.
  • So many characters are left in precarious positions heading into the finale. Cary fell down the hole and has managed to escape the minotaur so far. Syd and Kerry are fighting with the minotaur because they need something to punch. Melanie passes out the moment she makes the transition for Farouk and his body. Oliver is tortured to the brink of his life. And Clark is knocked out of the way as soon as Farouk makes his presence known to the outside world.
  • Those monks have some shifty and changing motivations throughout this hour though. They point Lenny in the right direction. But then, they have to attack as soon as Cary and Kerry arrive. Sure, it's fun to see Kerry do what she does best and fight her way out of any situation. But it appears that they are doing so to delay help from getting down to David and Syd in time to actually stop Farouk from reuniting with his body - which is the thing that the monks didn't want to happen at all.
  • The minotaur has always been a very scary and threatening presence throughout the season. It was clear that the creature was about to attack in some way. But it's notable that it was in a weakened state in Melanie's mind this entire time. It had a walker to move around in. But now, Farouk is able to give its strength back with the intention of killing the weak who threaten Farouk and his mission. That's just as terrifying.