Legion: 2.03 Chapter 11
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This week's Legion opened with a cool little nod to the wider X-Men world, with an otherwise engaged Amahl Farouk enjoying the company of a couple young women, as images of the chalkboard representation of his battle with David's father from season one flashed across his fancy sunglasses. Just as I thought we might get to see something of this epic mental battle on the astral plane, Farouk face-planted into his desert. This wasn't going to be that story, but instead the story of what immediately happened next.
It's odd but even though I always liked Legion, I distinctly remember season one's Chapter Three being a stand out; the one to make me start texting friends telling them they had to watch this show. Why? Because it was when Legion went horror and I loved it. Back then it was the introduction of the World's Angriest Boy, one of the many creepy forms Farouk took on as a defence mechanism to ward off others from trying to free David's mind. This time however, the horror wasn't in anyone's mind but was very real, stalking the halls of Division 3. Not Oliver or Lenny this time though, but the mysterious monk hinted at across this last few episodes, leaving an air of pure creepiness in his wake.
The vignette's of Legion are masterfully employed not only to mess with our heads with what may seem to be random asides, but to teach us the philosophical, psychological, bordering on paranormal concepts which run through the show. Tying a comic book television series to such real world Fortean phenomena as the Tanganyika laughing epidemic is a great way to ground the show in our reality while always keep us slightly off balance.
You see, after Farouk's body was exorcised of his malicious mind, it was given to an order of monks who swore to seal it away forever. But Farouk's body lived on, somehow pounding away at the confines of his undead entombment. The monks, seeming to have sworn not to acknowledge Farouk's presence beneath their very feet, fearful to even open up his crypt to see what they would find, were driven mad.
One by one, living in such proximity as they did, they would succumb to the tick of chatting teeth. Perhaps it was a failsafe from Farouk's soulless form, to drive his captors mad, but like Poe's The Tell-tale Heart the monks were driven to madness in their complicity in Farouk's imprisonment. Finally when all the monks were gone, having taken their own lives or left with the teeth chattering symptoms of what we've come to know as The Catalyst, the last remaining monk set off to find Division 3, remembering a promise that they would create a weapon to destroy Farouk once and for all.
The revelation that The Catalyst had nothing to do with Farouk was in my mind, a mini masterstroke. The monk instead being revealed to be an asymptomatic carrier of this teeth chattering tick was, frankly, creepy as all hell. Having the bulk of the episode confined to the base, all dark corridors and unnerving noises was a thrill. I was put in mind of Doctor Who's The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. When horror doesn't rely of gore or jump-scares but a growing sense of unease to slowly set your teeth on edge. Literally.
David of course, with his ever growing magic bag of psychic tricks is able to free his friends from The Catalyst, but each of these moments play out as personalised side quests into the psych of each of the supporting characters. Ptonomy living in a world where he can't remember a thing and truly live in the moment. Melanie's inner maze taking the form of an old-school text adventure video game. Even Syd's icy wasteland glimpsed briefly at the end of the episode gave promise of a deeper introspection of her character. When dealing with the tropes of telepathy, there's really no reason not to make it literally all about character, especially in the hands of Hawley.
The confrontation with the monk lead to his expected yet still dramatic suicide, as he realised there was no way out for him. But as is usual for Legion now, we were left with more questions then we started with. Flashes of Future Syd crying out for David to hurry only mounted on the tension but, if The Catalyst wasn't the great evil unleashed on the world of the future, what exactly is she trying to prevent?
A dalliance into the realms of Farouk's mind by David saw Lenny trying to bargain her way out before attempting to take her own life in a series of comically dark moments. Also we also got to see Cary teach Kerry the finer points of living outside of another person's body, from eating to going to the toilet, something she never experienced before considering it to be “boy stuff”. Again, as surreal as all this reads it's story driven by character, even as messed up as they all are, again elevating Legion above other comic book TV fare. And with news of an extra eleventh episode added to the end of this season emerging this week, I look forward to seeing what Hawley, writer (or co-writer) on every episode this season, has in store for us.