The third episode of Legion takes us farther into the history of David Haller, the man who is either a schizophrenic, a “mutant,” or both. It opens with three minutes of what would be nonsense on almost any other show, but here, it’s right at home.
David sits on the dock of an opaque pond while someone repeatedly asks, “shall we begin,” the mutants of Summerland begin their day, random images come across the screen (David’s childhood dog, leeches in a tank, and his sister’s apparent kidnapping and interrogation by the sinister Division 3) and the disembodied voice of Melanie Bird’s husband Oliver (Jemaine Clement) tells her a parable. What makes it so odd is that, when the episode opens this way, we still don’t know who Oliver is or why his voice comes from a machine, and we don’t know what many of the images in this montage mean.
From here, the instalment becomes a series of explorations into David’s mind with escalating stakes. Melanie explains that they’re on a tighter timeline because they need to get Amy back. First, he does memory work with Melanie and Ptonomy (Jeremie Harris), during which we see the revelation that he’s a recovering junkie, the disintegration of his relationship with Philly, and – to the masked delight of Melanie – confirmation of his telekinetic powers. The Devil with the Yellow Eyes interrupts this first session, but only in the eyes of David, who does not admit to having seen said Devil. When they leave the memory session, David has teleported them into a different room, prompting Ptonomy to ask what he is.
The next exploration of his mind is with Cary (BIll Irwin), whose purpose is apparently just to track David’s body and mind as David remembers stressful things. The memory in question is a Halloween face-to-face with the Angriest Boy in the World, the character from the children’s book his maybe father maybe read to him as a child. This derails when David’s dead friend Lenny (Aubrey Plaza) shows up in the present.
Lenny seems to represent David’s own fears, assuming that she’s a hallucination. She tells him that they’re using him, he shouldn’t be wasting time here, and he needs to go save his sister. Naturally, David responds to all of this by levitating and sucking himself and Syd (Rachel Keller) into a wormhole, where they see Amy’s ongoing interrogation.
Their brief adventure leads to a confrontation between Melanie and David, with Syd, Ptonomy, and Cary present. This argument scene comes as a good chance for exposition, further explanation of Melanie’s character and motives, and a way to get to know David better. Melanie admits that, yes, she wants to use David, but she also wants to help him. We get to know David a little better in this scene, too: his conversation with Lenny has obviously taken hold in his mind, as he declares his only motivation is to save Amy.
The final act is a trip into David’s sedated mind, where they learn very little more than that his memories are haunted and complicated and, once again, there’s someone in his head who’s not him. They’re accompanied by a child version of David, as they watch his remembered escapades. Each of the three escape his mind – first Syd, then Ptonomy, then Melanie – with the episode ending with the three of them shocked at what they saw and David not waking up.
In our first installment of Breaking the Darkness, J. H. Gardener and I looked at Legion‘s homages and references, including William Faulkner and Pink Floyd. This time, we continue the conversation, including a close look at how Christopher Nolan’s films may have influenced the tale of David Haller.