Legion continues to be inscrutable in “Chapter 13”, where a fan-favorite character returned in mysterious circumstances and many characters took the opportunity to monologue, but the show’s usual MVP kept this episode watchable.
You’ll have to forgive me for not recapping last week’s episode of Legion. I had a lot going on, and this site doesn’t pay me enough (or at all, really) to factor this show’s nutty goings-on into my real-life strife. It wouldn’t help anyway, as anyone who has been with the show since the beginning can probably attest to. Luckily nothing much happened last week, which was basically a visual reiteration of all the random stories about her past that Syd has told David, and if it wasn’t for the last-minute reveal that Aubrey Plaza’s Lenny had returned to Legion in a more corporeal form, there wouldn’t have been any reason to mention it at all. Besides, the immediate fallout of Lenny’s return was dealt with properly in this week’s episode, Chapter 13, which now that I think about it didn’t do all that much to advance the main plot either.
It must be said that I’m getting just a bit sick of the philosophising characters do in Legion, especially when it’s to distract from the fact that very little is actually happening. That feeling was exacerbated by Chapter 13, in which Lenny, trapped in some weird upside-down room in Division 3, was visited in turn by Clark, Ptonomy and eventually David. Plaza, who has been excellent in this weird role since the show’s inception (but especially a couple of weeks ago in “Chapter 11”), obviously relished the opportunity to monologue about her junkie past and drag the plot one increment forward with her fidgety babbling. But, much like large chunks of the show thus far, without her it wouldn’t have amounted to much.
You get the sense that Lenny is only here thanks to the demands of fans that rightly attached themselves to the character in the first season and never really let go. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – I mean, who doesn’t want more Aubrey Plaza? But practically, there’s really no sensible reason for the character to still exist; there wasn’t when her spirit continued to live in the Shadow King’s mind alongside Oliver, and there isn’t now that she’s back telling stories about her alcoholic grandmother. Not that there’s a sensible reason for anything that happens in Legion, but still. As the physical manifestation of David’s mental parasite, she’s spent time as whatever version of the character was needed for a particular scene. Now I’m wondering if any version of the character is needed at all.
The only important information that Lenny imparts is that Farouk knows where his body is, although how he actually learned that is left mostly unclear. Chapter 13 is naturally interspersed with flashbacks of Farouk and Oliver bumbling around having circuitous conversations, but they also dig up Lenny’s remains, take a sample of her DNA, and use it to transform David’s sister, Amy, into a new body for her. This is a reveal that takes the entire episode, two timelines and three interrogations to make itself known, which strikes me as overkill. The wheel-spinning in Legion is becoming somewhat egregious.
Its Lenny’s conversations with David that are the most involving, partly because of their shared history, but mostly because they’re when the show is able to cultivate legitimate interest about their unstable psyches and what that might potentially mean for the existence of both. David ultimately believes that Lenny is being truthful about not knowing the origins of her new body, but the show flirts with the idea that perhaps Lenny, body or not, is just a figment of David’s fractured imagination. She isn’t, obviously, but broaching the idea seems more in-keeping with the show’s identity than having Ptonomy fret about that scabby chicken thing that crawled into his ear a while back.
Only in Legion, really, could a conversation between two characters feel like two characters just talking to themselves. That’s the **** I’m getting sick of. Gentlemanly discussions of morality, of the past and present, of atoms, and those one-sided interludes narrated by Jon Hamm – it’s all becoming insufferable. Every character in the show feels like a mouthpiece for the writers’ highfalutin ideas rather than three-dimensional people with their own goals, flaws and personalities. That it turns out Oliver is planning on doing away with the Shadow King constitutes less a decision he’s made for his own good that him facilitating another opportunity to lecture us about something. Maybe the nature of betrayal or the merits of spending 25 years in a floating ice-cube bachelor pad.
When Chapter 13 begins, it does so with the words “apparently on Legion.” It’s a refreshing change from the TV-standard “previously on” recaps, but it’s also symptomatic of the show’s smarmy, nebulous attitude, and of how it uses the implication of narrative unreliability to mask the fact that nothing is happening. The show’s plot has barely budged an inch since the second season’s premiere, and the fact another episode has been ordered suggests it hasn’t left itself time to tie all the bullshit together before the end.
Chapter 13 might posit itself as a self-contained episode with only one burning question, but really it’s rife with the same, larger questions that we’ve all been wondering for a while now. And chief among them, at least for me, is whether Legion is ever going to get out of its own ******* way.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.