If Melanie is hiding her true intentions, she’s doing a damn good job of it. Lenny may have been David’s best friend in life, but it’s unclear what role she’s playing now that she’s dead. She tries to warn him off Melanie and her crew—“That bitch’s secrets have secrets”—but it’s harder to take Lenny’s prognostications seriously when she then taunts David by turning into his sister, mocking his decision to stay and learn his powers before rushing off to rescue his sibling. She may have always been a bit of a devil on David’s shoulder, but now her devilry seems a bit more literal.
And Melanie’s got problems of her own. She gets caught in David’s dream, separated from the others, and then, while reading the story of the World’s Angriest Boy, gets her hand mangled and is visited by the devil with the yellow eyes. “I’m not so sure those are memories,” she says, when Ptonomy tries to reassure her. If she has sinister reasons for wanting David there, giving an honest-sounding speech about how she wants to help him because he “deserves to be healthy and happy…and then I want to use him” is an incredibly effective tactic. Nothing about her in “Chapter 3” suggests deceptions beyond her desire to win this mysterious war, and now that she knows there’s something loose and stalking them in David’s head, even her high-minded talk about fighting the good fight recedes in the face of the internal threat they all face from their newest resident’s psyche.
Besides, in her free time, Melanie’s busy listening to the coffee machine tell stories about a woodcutter. What kind of villain makes time for that?
“Chapter 3” is a sharp integration of backstory and adrenaline-laced narrative, creating more intense stakes for our heroes even as they plunge deeper into the morass of David’s memories. The climactic sequence, in which they’re all trapped in David’s sedated mind, being pursued by the devil with the yellow eyes, manages the feat of making a surrealistic dream sequence into a tense thriller that nonetheless retains the pacing and structure of a nightmare. Syd experiences a chase nightmare, complete with her Angriest Boy pursuer (who then becomes the yellow-eyed being) perpetually at their heels. Melanie has the slow-burn confrontation fantasy, as her examination of the morbid book ends the way so many bad dreams do, with a sudden flash of close-up horror right before waking up. And they’re the lucky ones; poor David is still stuck in his own mind, back in his worst position of being perpetually screamed at from all sides—a return to the mental chaos he endured before Melanie showed him how to block it out.
More and more, it’s starting to become clear that Legion is at least in part a show about trust. David’s condition had previously condemned him to a life of either institutionalization or psychic pain. And now, suddenly, he’s being told that none of that was true. He wasn’t crazy, he was an incredibly powerful mutant. And a group of relative strangers are asking him to let them in, to see the inside of his mind, his deepest secrets and darkest fears. Imagine telling anyone—let alone someone who just shattered your entire self-perception—things you’ve tried to hide away even from yourself. “Everyone keeps saying I’m sane,” he tells Syd. “What if they’re wrong?” Those fears are what he must continually resist; letting others in is the only thing that has helped him thus far, even if it might also be the reason some other issues are getting worse. Even Melanie doesn’t know if she’s helping or hurting by doing the usual memory work. Like David, she can only trust that working with others, and dealing with these problems together, will be the way out of this predicament.
David’s memories have become a trap, a way of sealing in the people trying to help him explore and make sense of his past. And it’s not just the yellow-eyed devil that threatens to derail the memory work—though he’s clearly the biggest threat. (His first appearance in “Chapter 3,” clawing out from the side of the kitchen without Melanie or Ptonomy seeing a thing, is a genuine horror-movie moment. When David sputters, “You don’t see him?!”, it’s unnerving as hell.) David himself is also the culprit, his subconscious mind working to shut down Ptonomy and Melanie’s involvement. This could be warring sides of his consciousness doing battle: Until we know more, the devil, the fight to keep certain memories at bay, and the sense of danger David experiences may all be ways of struggling with conflicting parts of his own identity.
And that selfsame history can’t be trusted. We still rely on third-party observers to tell us when something David sees is actually there or not, a process the devil is rendering untenable with his apparent power to hide in plain sight from anyone he doesn’t want seeing him. But even without that malevolent spirit, we don’t know how much of David’s point of view we can trust. The key memory in this installment isn’t seen by anyone but him, and it’s far from seeming real. We watch David trick-or-treating as a young boy, slipping through a fence to chase after his dog, Cake. (It was “Cake,” wasn’t it?) Which is how he ends up confronting the World’s Angriest Boy, there in what we had previously assumed was a real-world memory. Is this another dream? Can David manifest his fears in reality?
That uncertainty helps explain why Syd is not just the person he loves, but the one who can function as an emotional life raft for him when David feels most adrift. Her power is a testament to the firmament of the soul. It doesn’t matter what body she jumps into when she touches someone. “Everywhere I go, I’m me,” she says with a simple smile. He may feel fractured and scattered, but he’s still all there. There’s no definitive “David” at risk of dissolving; there’s only the continually changing person, the collective of all the memories and experiences and feelings that make up his identity. Sydney is proof of the ability to lose yourself and yet still retain who you are. David constantly feels like he’s losing parts of himself, but the woman he loves shows him that he can endure. That seems like something worth going to war over.
- The entire conversation between David and Syd about their experiences in each other’s bodies was an amazingly warm, honest, and funny exchange, and a testament to the show’s ability to turn its most fantastical elements into grounded and human relationships.
- Cary, after strapping David in: “Could you maybe not break everything this time?” David: “I’m not gonna promise that.”
- It will be fascinating to experience his sister’s take on all this, especially now that she knows (or rather, has been reminded) he’s not schizophrenic, but a powerful mutant.
- Speaking of which, now we know why they call Walter the Eye. Even when David and Syd were incorporeal, trying to communicate with his sister, the Eye could see them.
- Ptonomy: “What happened?” Syd: “Yeah, we’re gonna have a long conversation about that.”