My relationship with FX’s Legion continues to be somewhat ridiculous, as does Legion itself, if we’re being honest. After last week’s episode took an abstract detour into the addled consciousness of David Haller, leaving the show’s overarching plot more or less untouched, I found myself enjoying the episode’s audaciousness but still quietly hoping for some much-needed forward momentum. In Legion Episode 7, subtitled Chapter 15, we finally got that forward momentum. And I didn’t like the episode at all.
It’s all getting a bit silly now. I’m profoundly sick of David and the Shadow King having fanciful conversations and lengthy stare-downs on various levels of the astral plane; the fact that Legion ordered an additional 11th episode for its second season really doesn’t bode well with how things are going.
So, while Legion Episode 7, “Chapter 15”, does further the plot between David and his arch nemesis, it also feels like it descends into routine and convention, doing very little of creative, artistic note and notably straining under the effort of Noah Hawley and Nathaniel Halpern, the show’s writers, to say something significant and meaningful. The philosophical undercurrent in “Chapter 15” is that of delusion and paranoia, devoting a lot of time to the psychic parasite that crawled into Ptonomy’s ear a while back, and littering those smoothly-narrated Jon Hamm interludes with examples of outsized moral panic in the face of a perceived threat. Those witch trials will do as a metaphor for anything, won’t they?
The drama in Legion Episode 7 comes from that squirming parasite infecting Syd, Kerry and Clark, thanks to an already-deluded Ptonomy, and using them to attack Division 3 from within. It makes for some slow-motion action sequences and includes the reveal of the real face of Division 3’s basket-headed leader, which landed with a bit of a clunk given it isn’t one we’ve seen before. David, true to form, arrived in the nick of time to yank the delusion from his friends’ brains.
That didn’t turn out too well for Ptonomy. The delusion parasite had infected him for much longer than everyone else, so a giant-sized version emerged from his physical body, making a real mess of things. “Chapter 15” evidently devoted a lot of its budget to the CGI creature, as David chased it around and negotiated it down to a more manageable size, which led to certain areas of Legion Episode 7 looking a bit ropey by comparison. No matter, I suppose. As for Ptonomy, he’s not in the best health, but luckily his consciousness is now hooked up to the Division 3 mainframe, allowing him to communicate through the Vermillions like Admiral Fukiyama.
Meanwhile, Farouk somehow projects his consciousness through time to have a chat with Future Syd, a conversation naturally loaded with dreary political subtext that casts David as the blue-eyed white devil who stole the Shadow King’s homeland. “Chapter 15” gets Future Syd on-side with Farouk, both of them considering David to be the harbinger of the apocalypse, and they inexplicably start working together to hamper David’s present-day progress. This includes some kind of weird love triangle involving David and both versions of Syd, which as someone who has been in a lot of nonsensical relationships I could kind of get behind if it didn’t feel like such a significant betrayal of established characterisation for pretty much everyone involved.
I’ve spent so much time complaining that this show hasn’t been going anywhere that I never really stopped to consider how it might actually get to its destination when it eventually decided to get moving. According to Legion Episode 7, it is going to burn contrivance and cheaply manufactured character drama for fuel. Syd whining in the immediate aftermath of David’s sister being killed and used as a vessel for an ancient incorporeal brain-God just strikes me as utterly ridiculous – especially given that she’s literally whining about herself.
I wouldn’t mind quite so much if, when Legion slowed down, it actually bothered to explore characters beyond those of David and the Shadow King. But “Chapter 15” expected us to buy into the horrific physical fate of Ptonomy, who is a character I couldn’t really tell you anything about. The show has spent an inordinate amount of time developing this wacky, surreal world full of outlandish characters and concepts, but thus far, it hasn’t given us a reason to care about any of it. And with an additional episode ordered, and thus an additional hour within which to tread the same murky water, that trademark second-half slump of superhero seasons is very much starting to set in.