Noah Hawley’s fearless creativity with “Legion,” presenting a show that doesn’t dumb itself down for viewers, has already established a strong reputation for the show. While the pilot was a frenetic splatter painting of information, the Marvel series has transformed over time into a more relatable and understandable abstract art.
But like the premiere, Wednesday night’s (March 8) “Chapter 5” creeps back up to the line of being perhaps a bit too much. While it creates visceral reactions and the brilliance is apparent onscreen, there’s still a worrisome vertigo here about just how much is unexplained and unexplainable — “Lost” was a show that, while not as artistically ambitious or intellectually rigorous, often relied upon this expressionism to provoke us, without managing to catch us when we fall.
Specifically, there’s a bit of anxiety hanging around the final scene in “Chapter 5,” as Melanie Bird (Jean Smart) herself points out that she’s not sure if they’re in real life or in David Haller’s (Dan Stevens) mind — and then all of a sudden the entire crew is back at the Clockworks Institute.
As if Summerland never existed, all of them are sitting in a circle, ready for therapy — with their therapist a put-together, concerned and firm Lenny (Aubrey Plaza).
So let’s backtrack, and take this step by step. Lenny/Benny/David’s dog/the cartoon from that awful children’s book/the spooky large-headed looking monster — they’re all one and the same: Each a different mask for a very powerful psychic parasite that at some point long ago entered David’s life and brain.
This exploitative organism alters his memories, and create memories that never existed, in order to cover for its own existence as it works on using David’s unprecedented power for its own purposes — which explains why Melanie, Syd (Rachel Keller), Ptonomy (Jeremie Harris) and Cary/Kerry (Bill Irwin/Amber Midthunder) are having such trouble sorting through David’s mind.
They were never fighting with David’s subconscious — David wasn’t lying when he protested that he wasn’t actively blocking them from seeing anything. It wasn’t his fear of abandonment that kept his confidants from seeing his true unfiltered thoughts, but was a series of trapdoors and distracting explosions set up by this parasitic monster.
What’s brilliant about this move is that it doesn’t change the basic metaphor: Our illnesses and addictions are not us, they don’t define us: They are parasites, left over from another trauma — but that doesn’t mean we’re free of the consequences of their actions, any more than David would be able to turn back time if any of his beloved friends were hurt or killed. He doesn’t need to be ashamed of this illness, merely aware of it — which is the one thing the parasite, like any personal demon, is the best at keeping from happening.
The fact that David’s even still alive with such a massive beast in his brain is impressive. He remains as the most powerful mutant Summerland and Co. have in defeating Division 3 in the war — but to use his abilities for good, they have to figure out how to rid David of this parasite. And as they search through David’s mind for answers, the lurking parasite is watching, taking notes, and finally renders them silent — and the last thing we see before everyone is suddenly in Clockworks scrubs is that large-headed monster chasing Syd.
Now, we’re not positive, but this is a community of psychics. Isn’t it entirely possible that the parasite would try to infect everyone? While David’s powers are nothing to sneeze at, imagine what this thing could do with the powers of the others… Perhaps even without their knowledge.
Clearly we’ve found ourselves into another alternate universe of David’s — where else would Lenny ever be working as a therapist? — which we hope is the key to getting free: Because if Lenny’s in total control after all, everyone is doomed. D3 won’t even have to fight through them to get to David.
On the other hand — we didn’t actually see what happens while the monster is chasing Syd. While David could safely touch Syd in their personal White Room reality — which we’re still worried could prove addictive for her — we don’t know how Syd’s powers work throughout the whole system. If her powers are somehow intact when the parasite tries to attack her, could Syd and the parasite switch “bodies”? Because if so, perhaps the “Lenny” we see at the end, offering therapy, could be Syd, working on a way to get everyone out and take down this monster once and for all.
We’re now halfway through this genre-bending, mind-screw of a series, and there’s no turning back. And like most viewers, we’re holding out faith that Hawley can steer us home — that the story can meet its own ambitions, and blow our minds. And given the show’s trajectory so far, we’re thinking that’ll probably happen a few times.
“Legion” airs on Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.