Breaking The Darkness: Exploring Legion Season 1, Episode 3

By

D. F. Lovett

Something to praise immediately is the use of perspective here. We learn about Amy’s capture and situation through David’s visions of it, while David shows himself to be an unreliable narrator. He continually tries to hide his past as a drug user and his hallucinatory visions from Melanie and Ptonomy, just as he previously hid his drug use from ex-girlfriend Philly.

J. H. Gardener

It’s not even just Philly. He hides his drug use from Dr. Poole, too. He even “corrects” Melanie. She says, “you were a junkie.” He says, “I was HIGH.”

Sort of getting ahead of things, but later on he admits to Sydney that he was a junkie and “high all the time” in the middle of the night at Summerland. So I think you’re correctly picking up on this theme of addiction (in the show and literally), it being hidden from others but shared in moments of clarity.

Lovett

Even when they see his telekinetic episode in his memory, he tries to play it off like maybe he doesn’t remember it. It also tell us a lot about David: he’s been conditioned to not trust his own mind, his own memories, and other people. What narrator is more unreliable than the one who does not trust himself?

Gardener

Mr. Robot comes to mind.

Lovett

True Detective is another good use of the unreliable narrator, and we see echoes of that here. The protagonist is saying one thing that we see directly contradicted onscreen. We previously compared this to Faulkner, and I’d say that comparison still stands. The stream-of-consciousness storytelling being used is very effective when paired with a narrator we know can’t be trusted through what we see contrasted with what we hear.

One other filmmaker comes to mind, whose influence can be seen on this latest episode: Christopher Nolan.

Gardener

I like where you’re going with this.

Lovett

The Dark Knight is the one film that even superhero-haters often admit is pretty good, but that’s not the corollary I’m seeing. I do think it’s worth noting, just momentarily, that Jeph Loeb is the Executive Vice President of Marvel Television and an executive producer on Legion. A few decades ago, he wrote The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, the two Batman comic books that had the strongest influence on Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. So if Legion reminds you of Nolan’s Batman, it’s for good reason.

Gardener

Nice pick-up on The Dark Knight. I haven’t heard Hawley specifically mention Nolan as an influence, but it makes sense. I guess it could also just be that Legion is a superhero TV show that’s much more than just a superhero TV show, and so there’s a comparison there at least.

Lovett

I’m surprised I haven’t seen more comparisons between Legion and Nolan’s films. Maybe it seems too obvious? Either way, the stronger connection, in my opinion, is to Nolan’s non-Batman films, particularly Memento and Inception.

The line “memories within memories,” uttered by Ptonomy when they’re in David’s mind, feels like a specific callback to the “dream within a dream” theme of Inception. Meanwhile, Legion’s Chapter 3 is rooted in the idea of evolving and unreliable memories. “I’m not so sure those are memories” is Syd Barrett’s last line of the episode, before we jump back to seeing David surrounded by the shouting crowds who’ve haunted him throughout his life. Consider the premise of Nolan’s Memento, a “dis-linear” film in which Guy Pearce tries to find a murderer while unable to form new memories.

J. H. Gardener

Frankly, I agree. It’s interesting Hawley and Nolan aren’t mentioned together more often. Perhaps it’s starting. Neither were really superhero-inclined to begin with. Both are clear worshippers of Kubrick. Another thing they share in common is obsession through the careers so far of dealing with certain themes, even if in contradictory ways. But they aren’t obsessed with the same things, I don’t think.

There’s a very, very big difference between what Nolan is attempting by tributizing Kubrick with an experience like Interstellar and how Hawley (and company) are making Legion. But there’s interesting shared DNA. Both went to special lengths to get Bill Irwin on these sets, and we’re about to talk more about his character in Legion (in Interstellar, he voiced and puppeteered the robot character – something a team of specialists would normally do on a big budget movie).

One reason I love the Nolan comparison (there are a lot more we can talk about in coming weeks) is because of Memento, as you said, and playing with that chronology. That film is in a very clear and easy to understand way (when you’ve finished watching it) an illustration of what narrative nerds call fabula and syuzhet. Basically, it’s a fancy way of saying that the story on screen is not linear in the same way that the “real story” is for the characters. And I feel like Legion is going to teach a lot more people about those terms.

Lovett

Fabula and syuzhet. Okay, those are new terms for me.

Gardener

Simply put: the fabula is the story’s “raw material” and the syuzhet is how it’s organized.

Lovett

So the fabula in Memento would be the narrative of the protagonist trying to figure out who killed his wife, while the syuzhet is the telling of the story in reverse?

Gardener

Exactly. And what’s exciting about Legion is that, like a lot of non-linear narratives, we don’t know what that raw material of the story is yet. There are so many gaps in what we know about David Haller’s past, present, and future, along with the characters and places surrounding him.

Lovett

Well, in terms of fabula, if I’m understanding this correctly, one of the things engaging the audience in Legion so far is not knowing what is real and what isn’t. There’s a level of mounting paranoia as you ask: Is any of this real?

We know that David has believed himself to be a schizophrenic his entire life, that he has extraordinary powers, and that he sees demons and dead people. His dead friend Lenny cannot be explained away through telepathy. In that case, does it mean that David is suffering from schizophrenic hallucinations? I’m not normally much for “it was all in his head” twists, but I’d expect that we’re going to have at least one or two reveals on that level, and I’ll be okay with it. Such reveals will be well-earned, if and when they do arrive.

The last question: is there going to be a Tyler Durden moment, like in Mr. Robot? Is Syd one of David’s personalities? Was Lenny always a hallucination, even before she died?

Gardener

Speaking of Tyler Durden moments. How cool was that moment in this episode where Kerry suddenly appeared, to hand Cary the “thingy”?

Lovett

That’s actually the word he uses, right?

Gardener

It is, but Kerry knows what Cary is asking for. It’s a blink-and-you-miss-it thing for sure. We’re clearly shown that Kerry isn’t there, in a deliberate way. Earlier episodes have pointed at this but not in such a cool way yet.

I think the various characters in the Summerland could provide interesting commentary on mental “health.” We have a memory artist, an unconventional therapist, someone with an aversion to being touched, and what appears to be some sort of split persona. In chapter one we were in a literal psychiatric hospital, so it’s established ground for Legion to point at these questions. But I wonder what else it could mean.

Lovett

So far, Melanie believes that David is not, and never has been, mentally ill. All his symptoms of schizophrenia are manifestations of his superpowers. But if he is suffering from some kind of mental illness, as suggested by his dead friend Lenny and the Devil with the Yellow Eyes, what does that mean for the other people at Summerland?

Gardener

I think we’re going to find out.

That concludes this edition of Breaking the Darkness, but be sure to check back next week, when we recap and discuss the fourth episode of Legion!

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