The irony of the current situation on Legion, as the Shadow King points out in this episode, is absolutely delicious. “The villain is a hero and the hero is the villain?” he purrs, the words rolling off his tongue like whiskey mixed with honey. It’s enough to make even a man desperately trying to find his own body laugh.
Amahl Farouk isn’t just needed to save the world from some random threat, as it turns out. He’s saving it from David. Future-Syd doesn’t tell us why, or how, or the path that leads David on a course to eventually threaten all of human life. She doesn’t need to: We’ve seen enough to know that dark and distorted endings can come from the noblest of beginnings. Much as a delusion begins life no different than any other idea, only to swell and distend and end up causing the very suffering it’s ostensibly trying to prevent, so too can a hero become a villain. David has been quietly assisting—or at least not actively working against—Farouk for most of the season, the warnings from Future-Syd guiding him to the uneasy decision to help the Shadow King find his body. But the death of Amy changed that; it pushed David toward vengeance, toward an animalistic rage that consumed his rational plans. And by the end of the story here, we’re still uncertain whether he was persuaded back to the cause of helping Farouk. Just as Legion itself plays coy with the nature of its reality, so too do its characters bob and feint between truth and fiction.
The key exchange in “Chapter 15" isn’t Farouk and Future-Syd’s discussion, however. And neither is it what appears to be the conclusion of Jon Hamm’s psych 1010 lessons, despite the show doing its best to lean into those little monologues as thematic guideposts for the narrative. (Tonight’s “So what have we learned?” was a little too pat; Legion needs to trust its audience to pick up on ideas without quite so much hand-holding, though the rest of the season will bear out whether this was in service of something more.) No, the really significant line came early on, when David confronted Farouk at the dinner table, growling and issuing death threats. Farouk calmly parries, and insists he was merely fulfilling David’s wishes when he killed Amy Haller. Whereas David sees a clear demarcation between thoughts and action, Amahl Farouk takes those feelings and emotions as literally as a blow to the head. For someone who turns ideas into reality, the line between the two has ceased to exist. Like the murderous friends in Hitchcock’s Rope, turning Jimmy Stewart’s thought experiments into actual practice, Farouk takes the frustrated dreams of David’s troubled old self and makes manifest those ugly, fleeting desires. “I’m not like you,” David insists. “I don’t hide behind masks.” Farouk reverts to his native tongue: “Everyone hides behind a mask.”
That little statement conveys worlds in the narrative of this episode and season. All the discussions of delusions and insanity are really a variant of this key theme: That we all wear masks in different ways. This is demonstrated by the brief moments when David reaches out to the others, and we see the delusion creature in their heads before he rips it out. There’s no such thing as a “true” self beneath all the layers of personalities and behaviors we perform for others. We are those layers. We’re one person for our friend, another for our lover, another for our parents or children or coworkers, and on and on. Future-Syd is both genuinely caring for David and hiding behind that mask as a way to get him to work against his future self. David is both there for current Syd and Future-Syd even when they conflict, a mask of conviction hiding his insecurities. Really, the most honest anyone can be is when they acknowledge the ever-shifting nature of these relationships. David and Syd both say it best when they’re lying in bed together, pondering ground rules for his interactions with her in the future: “It’s weird.”
And those masks form the spine of the story here, as the manipulations between David, the Shadow King, and Future-Syd fly fast and free. Is Future-Syd simply trying to trick David into again doing what she wants when she apologizes for asking too much of him? Or is she genuinely torn? Does David feel guilt over that kiss as a violation of the ground rules? Or is he trying to learn more in his own sneaky way? “All of the above” seems like the most reasonable answer. More interesting is the way the two primary narratives overlap. When Hamm’s narrator summarizes all the parts of his little lessons throughout the season, saying, “We don’t believe what we see; we see what we believe,” the assumption is that he’s discussing the delusion creatures plot. But the voiceover doesn’t begin on that scene. It begins over Future-Syd staring through her porthole into the past, watching David wrestle with himself. Which elicits the question: What does Future-Syd believe when she sees?
The events of the delusion creature were certainly a lively distraction, however! It was fascinating seeing this literal egg planted way back in episode one come to fruition, as Ptonomy went from room to room, infecting everyone and igniting the delusional attack on Fukuyama and Vermillion. David’s enervated response to the bug (“You picked a really shitty time to attack us”) was a funny highlight of a frenzied sequence that was more rewarding for its imagery than its outcome. Ptonomy was never really filled out as a character to begin with; Jeremie Harris has done what he can with an underwritten role, but the death of Ptonomy’s body, and his rebirth inside the organic/synthetic hybrid of the Mainframe, doesn’t carry much emotional impact. Luckily, all that spectacle made up for it: The Vermillion appearing under Ptonomy’s bedsheet, the game of “Red Light, Green Light” played with Clarke in the hallway, and Syd and the others seeing a monster under Fukuyama’s lampshade instead of his all-too-human head were great moments that made for an engaging struggle.
With David’s killing of the massive delusion creature (via that great change of perspective that recalls the end of Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s “Fear Itself” episode), it would seem that the delusion creature storyline is complete. But as I noted above, it seems like the black gooey creature might actually be a red herring; this was a distraction, as David notes, but the real source of fear—those who are afraid, and what they can do—may be yet to come.
- It sounded like this was the conclusion of Jon Hamm’s “Monologues About Psychology” narration, but next week will show if it continues in a new form or not.
- Legion significant music cue of the week: During Ptonomy’s egg-and-whisper campaign, that ominous pulsing and drum-heavy song was “Mi Mujer” by Nicolas Jaar.
- Perhaps an even better example of “simultaneous honesty and mask” than the one I cite above is Future-Syd responding to David when he tells her, “You’re not Syd—not my Syd.” “I wanna be,” she replies.
- It’s been too long since Kerry’s had a good opportunity to kick some ass. And the “Regenerating” lines from Vermillion were appropriately cool.
- David in old-timey little kids’ shorts was a delightful image.
- Lenny’s situation is awfully dark, and gets even darker here, with her statement that Farouk raped her, over and over, while she was trapped in his psychic prison. It’s an ugly scenario that doesn’t have any good answers. “But whatever, bros before hoes, right? Girl power, I guess.”