Okay, so. We’re gonna give it to you straight, right off the bat, which is certainly more than you can say about this mind-fuck of a show. We’re both completely befuddled (once again) by what just happened this episode, although it was probably the most straightforward one yet, and our tanks are a bit low, so to speak, after that massive Feud costume recap. Hiding behind those two dog-ate-my-homework excuses, we present the following stream-of-consciousness, vaguely nonsensical semi-recap of the latest episode of Legion.
In other words, it’s basically our notes, with an introduction tacked on. Sorry. Anyway, here we go.
There is no special effect, camera or editing trick as effective as Aubrey Plaza’s face, which is utterly terrifying this episode. We can’t remember one instance where we didn’t enjoy her work over the course of her career, but this truly is next-level stuff. For all the various effects and flash of the filmmaking, she only really needs her eyes and a couple of strong musical stings to make your blood run ice cold. This really is a slightly cleaned-up version of our notes, but here is what we banged out verbatim when she came through the mirror:
“OMFG LINDA BLAIR HEAD SPIN TIME”
Which really does make about as much sense as it needs to, right? Terrifying, horrifying stuff. A newfound respect for her as a performer. And also a worry that her character might not make it to a second season, which would be a shame, as much as we want the vile Yellow-Eyed Devil vanquished like a bad dream.
In fact, this makes a better introductory observation than we intended because among the many motifs we obsessively noted, which we’ll get to in a minute, the one that really clicked into place with us this episode was the “super-imposed faces” one, which has been a mainstay, come to think of it, since the very first episode.Long fade-ins on one character’s face with long fadeouts of another’s on top of it. Multiple scenes of reflections in glass speaking to people on the other side. Super-imposed faces as a form of telepathy or memory recall. Over and over again. It really came to the fore with that gleefully comic-booky communicator watch scene, which looked fabulously weird, despite the utter comic book cliche of its roots. One of the many great things about this show is Hawley’s commitment to making a superhero story that is both artfully inspired by the source material (as we noted last week, this is as much a mindfuck as any classic X-men comic) while at the same time being wholly unlike any other filmed superhero story. So communicator watches filmed in a style you’ve never quite seen before while also reinforcing one of the series’ most persistent motifs, the super-imposed face.
Once that clicked into place, we realized that there are two major themes at play here and the super-imposed face motif symbolizes them both. Perception and Possession.
Once again, we have characters openly and even casually discussing the idea that the very world around them might not be real (“There’s a chance we’ve left the real world.”) or that they can’t or shouldn’t trust what they’re seeing and hearing, since it may be both malleable and in the hands of someone who shouldn’t have that power. The very question of whether or not what you perceive is the truth is at the heart of the story and the Big Bad at its end has the ability to warp both perceptions and truth at will. Not only can the Yellow-Eyed Devil appear in many forms and make you forget that you saw him at all, but he can warp reality around him when he has enough power to do so. The scene where the YED simply removed the element of sound was engrossing, bizarre, creepy and funny as it played out. The scene when The Meanest Boy came running out of nowhere straight at Syd, was a jump-out-of-your-seat moment entirely because of the way the sound was used.
So that’s Perception as Theme One. Right on the heels of that, and all tangled up with it at the same time is the highly repetitive Possession theme – and by that we mean both ownership of one’s own body as well as the devil-like ability to possess one. Think about how many people have some power based on this idea. Cary is a man with a young women living inside his body. David is a man with a demon (disguised as a young woman) living inside his head. Syd can take possession of another person’s body. The Eye can shape shift into another person’s body. All of these super-imposed faces and repeating power motifs led to the reveal this episode that David is not schizophrenic and not just a powerful mutant, but also someone who is literally possessed by a devil.
“It wears a human face.”
“The Rainbow Connection” called back to the use of The Rolling Stones’ “She’s a Rainbow” in the first episode, as well as being a wholly terrifying moment stunningly acted by Dan Stevens.
Which reminds us, we need to insert the required “Dan Stevens is doing the best work of his career” statement here. Because he is.
Verbatim obsessive motif-spotting from our notes:
“there’s another X in the background – will they mention X-men?”
“why tf is there a tree in the bathtub”
“there’s another O – are these the O-Men?”
“yellow triangle on David’s t-shirt = YED?”
“THERE IS AN X INSIDE OF AN O IN THAT PILLOW OMG TIC TAC TOE-MEN”
After that, we kind of passed out.