“My theory is...there is no present. There’s only past and future.” Ptonomy is explaining this to Lenny Busker as a way of describing why he feels it’s impossible to determine the present, but he’s on to more than he knows. The memory maestro has an unexpected passenger in his brain, but it’s hiding well.
We can’t know for sure the degree to which the delusion creature has infected Ptonomy; at first, it seemed safe to assume the little hatchling was connected to the Catalyst virus. But now, with the monk dead and everyone freed, we’re still getting glimpses of the delusion, here standing on the pillow next to the sleeping Division 3 agent before jumping into his head. Ptonomy is expressing to Lenny some ideas reminiscent of the philosopher Henri Bergson, who tried to prove will. See, time for Bergson isn’t experienced as a chopped-up thing, able to be divided into discrete quantities that definitively separate past, present, and future. The present may not exist in the abstract, but it’s all we know—a constant duration, things happening one on top of the next. It’s heterogeneous, in other words, and we get confused when we try to strip it of that, to make it a singular thing. It can’t exist on its own, as Ptonomy rightly notes; it’s only ever comprised of what comes before and after it in an ongoing movement. But how do we know what’s happening now, versus what we’re told happened before? We only experience in the present—but what if that changed? Would we see our past selves as other people? They’re not quite us, after all.
That differentiation between who you were and who you are/who you’re constantly becoming is getting more and more important for this season. It’s most keenly felt in the storyline with Future-Syd, who is telling David something very different than what present Sydney has been up to (trying to take out the damn Shadow King), and even though she reacted calmly and with a general understanding that her future self should be heeded, last week’s focus on Syd showed that she has some strong views of her own coming into play. And in “Chapter 13,” that tension between the past and now takes center stage as the various members of Division 3 interrogate Lenny, trying to figure out to what degree she’s still a pawn of Amahl Farouk—and more importantly, where the hell that body came from, a question whose eventual answer hits David like a tidal wave, albeit the audience slightly less so.
Part of the reason for the muted emotional impact is because Katie Aselton’s Amy Haller hasn’t been around at all this season. Combined with her only sporadic appearances last year, the show never really gave us much of a chance to develop a bond with the character. And so, despite the huge traumatic wound it inflicts on David to learn that Lenny’s new body is actually stolen from his poor sis, there’s not a lot to engage with beyond feeling sympathy. It was interesting to watch the attack unfold: Learning that the “Deep Sea Donuts” food-truck business Oliver and Farouk were tracking was actually en route to Amy Haller’s guarded homestead, presumably the result of some sort of witness-relocation program enacted in the wake of David’s disappearance, was a clever turn. And the realization that “finding the body” ended up with a double meaning—Amy’s being forcibly turned over to Lenny, as well as Farouk knowing the general location of where his own has been hidden—was the kind of nicely executed twist that received just enough foreshadowing to land effectively.
The actual scene itself was fairly unsettling, with three-time Legion director (including that stellar season premiere) Tim Mielants staging it like a horror film, first with Amy’s partner vanishing (presumably turned to dust, no?), then with the understated appearance of Oliver, washing his hands, fairly oozing with resigned menace, the result of his imprisonment to Farouk. By the time Amy begins screaming as she’s first lifted into the air, then forcibly plunked onto the table so that the device Oliver stole from Division 3 could do its violent work (all set to the strains of a malevolent cover of Tom Petty’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” performed by series composer Jeff Russo and Noah Hawley himself), the events have taken on the air of a Hostel-esque torture scenario, designed for maximum squirming.
But if the back half of this episode was a steady march towards the painful big unveiling of where Lenny got that body, the first half was even more elliptical and elusive than a normal installment of the series, especially given how much this new season has been delivering fairly steady advancements of the plot and explanations of what’s happening among our major players. The reasoning behind the interrogation room having upside-down instructions on the wall and a gravity-defying view can be inferred from the ways everyone tried to keep Lenny off-balance, from Clark’s use of a blank white card that somehow turned into an infinite loop of Lenny’s perspective on him to Ptonomy’s insistence that something in Lenny’s head was wrong. She may have memories of her grandma and drinking soda as a kid, but those are about as trustworthy as Lenny herself. Hell, even Lenny is scared of what’s happening; it’s unclear if David’s mental unearthing of the attack on his sister paved the way for Lenny’s own understanding of her situation, but between her being used as a courier by the Shadow King and her own outspoken desire to be free of him, even she probably wouldn’t trust herself.
David never really knew what silence was until Farouk was out of his head. That’s one of the many little throwaway lines which Legion often slips into its dialogue that actually has a great deal to say about the character. The idea that anyone who grew up with a constant buzzing in their ears would think silence was something far different than everyone else, only to suddenly realize, when confronted with actual silence, that they’d been deprived this whole time, like a person who suddenly learns they’ve been wearing a blindfold since the were born, is a savvy and layered one. Far more so than this week’s fairly perfunctory Jon Hamm classroom lesson about how conspiracy is born of coincidence, the idea that our world is defined by what’s missing as much as what’s there helps illuminate Legion’s theme of loss dictating identity—that we always look to what we know as being the source of influence or inspiration on the people we become, yet there’s a whole world of things missing from our purview that shape us just as much through their very absence.
“I’m going to kill you,” Oliver tells Amahl Farouk, and the line comes out of nowhere in such a way that even the Shadow King himself is startled and delighted by its arrival. After all the speechifying from Farouk about how they are Homo Superior, above humanity, Oliver bringing things back to the flesh and blood of life or death reintroduces a schism between the men. It’s all the richer given Oliver had just ruminated on whether or not life and death themselves were a little irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. The two messages, paired back to back, convey a potent message: None of this necessarily matters, which is why Farouk should take it very personally that his sentient puppet plans to eliminate him. To quote another man often caught in the grips of forces far beyond his control, if there’s no point to anything, and if none of this matters, than the only thing that matters is what we do.
- Oliver’s clue about how he’ll defeat Farouk: One and one don’t always equal two.
- Does the lesson about coincidence causing conspiracy have any bearing on Amy’s dream of becoming Vermillion (the mustache, the musical voice)? Or should we take it as an ominous portent of what Amy—or perhaps Lenny—has in store for them?
- Legion significant music cues of the week: Along with the aforementioned Tom Petty, we’ve got The Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” during Oliver and Farouk’s drive; and Cat Power’s “Werewolf” when they’re digging up the body.
- Ptonomy’s delusion-aided vision saw him confronting Fukuyama with the lamp lit up, and inside the head of a strange...bird-like creature? Bird/horse hybrid? What do y’all think?
- Rare sweet moment of the episode: David: “Why are you really here?” Lenny: “Because I missed you.” I believe her.