Legion recap: When David’s memories bite back

LEGION -- "Chapter 3" – Season 1, Episode 3 (Airs Wednesday, February 22, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: Dan Stevens as David Haller. CR: Michelle Faye/FX
Dan Stevens as David Haller in Legion Chapter 3. Credit: Michelle Faye/FX

In Chapter 2, the memory artist Ptolomy (Jeremie Harris) only scratches the surface of David’s complex psychosis, which include a traumatic bedtime book, a burnout friend (Aubrey Plaza) and a tight bond between David and his sister Amy (Katie Aselton). Last we left David, he discovered the ability to psychically travel to his sister and see that her life may be threatened by Division 3.

The third chapter of FX’s Legion, digs deeper into David’s mind to try and get past the road blocks that he’s putting in Ptolomy and Dr. Bird’s way. There is one memory in particular that Ptolomy wants to investigate, where David uses his power to empty his kitchen cabinets and keep everything afloat.

TV Critics April Neale and Ernie Estrella discuss Chapter 3…

Ernie Estrella: April, here we are, beginning to break down the walls that David Haller is putting up. I think the most immediate takeaway I have from this episode is that what appears to be a typical safe exercise of visiting memories, Ptolomy and Dr. Bird are discovering that in David’s mind, he can manipulate his memories and inflict psychic harm.

That last scene in particular, Dr. Bird comes out of the sleep study thinking her hand has been deformed by that book, but it was all in her mind.

April Neale: This chapter for me turned the corner. The interactions between David’s “new” family and the preservation instinct to protect his “old” family, Amy, were wonderfully juxtaposed between telepathy, memory, hallucination and even tele-transportation.

The way Lenny is used almost as his guilt and regret mechanism too. I find Jean Smart’s character Dr.Bird to be reacting in the perfect combination of awe and fear, as well as Ptolomy trying to piece together the limits of his own powers up against David’s. This was an exhilarating episode of discovery and there’s more!

EE: Ptolomy believes that it is just memories and reminds Bird of that, but I think that David is able to mentally scar you if you try to venture too deep into his mind. This might have felt like an extension of “Chapter 2” but I found this episode to have more focus, as we explored one or two specific memories in David’s mind but go beyond what we already know.

AN: Yes, Ptolomy I think as you said is realizing that his memory work is fraught with real physical danger when it comes to David. This episode crystallized the transition of David as mental patient to David as to be examined, evaluated and potentially feared until his full realization and discipline to harness these extreme gifts is managed.

His new “family” is in a freefall of sorts trying to understand exactly what David’s actual gifts are and with that excitement is an edge of real danger too. They have pressures from the outside- the war and Division 3- and now are in a time crunch trying to unravel David’s Gordian knot of gifts.

LEGION -- "Chapter 3" – Season 1, Episode 3 (Airs Wednesday, February 22, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: (l-r) Dan Stevens as David Haller, Rachel Keller as Syd Barrett. CR: Michelle Faye/FX
Dan Stevens as David Haller and Rachel Keller as Syd Barrett in Legion Chapter 3

EE: This is the first time that Syd gets to travel into his mind as well and we see David as a young boy constantly haunted by the book “The World’s Angriest Boy” and two images in particular, the murderous boy from the book and the fat demon with yellow eyes.

However, Syd sees things that neither Ptolomy and Bird sees. What was your reaction when you saw that?

AN: Perhaps Syd’s gifts enabled her to do this although I got a sense that Dr. Bird will in time also see things too. The scene where she could finally hug David and not become him was great, as was their exchange about how it felt to be inside each other’s body.

I feel like Syd will always have a different insight and ability to connect to David that the others will not but it’s early in the story for me, Remember too, that I come from a place of zero insight from comics or source materials. I have 100% fresh eyes for this story in total.

EE: That’s true and I agree, both of those David and Syd moments were ones too remember. I have to remind myself after seeing this show the first time that we can’t always trust our channel into this show. David is after all an unreliable protagonist and the rules remain a mystery.

I’m fascinated by Syd being able to “see” more than anyone else. She is the only one he allows in, but I’m reserving part of my own mind to believe that Syd is some kind of manifestation of David’s. Hence why she’s unable to touch others and yet see things that only David has been able to see thus far.

AN: Bird calls out for Sydney, so I think that she is very real. Lenny, I feel is his shame and guilt manifested in a memory only he can see. Again I think the nature of Syd’s gift and the emotional connection that she has with David allows her more range within his brain.

EE: Now understand that would have to be a helluva psychic trick because other characters are interacting with her. They thought they rescued David when in fact it was Syd in the body switch in the Pilot, but because we never see her undergo any training yet, or any kind of exploration of her powers of any kind.

I wonder if he’s created a person that’s idealized for him, someone he can’t touch yet understands him in ways that take him away from his reality. Then again, I might be psyching myself out with theorizing too early because I do want believe that Syd is real.

AN: I thought that too initially but the more I am into the story, the more I feel Syd has to be real. I want her to be real!

LEGION -- "Chapter 3" – Season 1, Episode 3 (Airs Wednesday, February 22, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: Dan Stevens as David Haller. CR: Michelle Faye/FX
Dan Stevens as David Haller in Legion Chapter 3

EE: If the first three episodes are any indication of the rest of the series, David’s main adversary is not Division 3 but his own mind and gaining control of it and its numerous abilities. His mind destroying Cary’s equipment seems like just the tip of the iceberg of destructive power David is capable of.

AN: Right, his demons are literally scaring the hell out of anyone (including David) that tries to tinker with his locked, loaded and layered psyche and memory bank.

This ability David has is so convoluted and multifaceted, it is going to take an extremely methodical unpacking for him to start harnessing any of it. I really want Syd to be real and not a coping apparition of his!

EE: Let’s take Amy’s danger at face value for a second, the Eye did in fact use the leeches as we feared to get a submission of knowledge but it’s apparent she’s a dead end.

The Eye hasn’t yet suspected her of having any powers though which may or may not be a good thing. She’s literally defenseless and that’s good enough reason for David to worry but that’s the one thing Division 3 has that can draw him to them.

AN: Amy is a place holder and motivation in the story for David to interface once again with Division 3 in some capacity. The eye – or Walter as I guess his name is – has a working knowledge of Dr. Bird’s camp for special kids.

He saw David and Syd. That is a fascinating element of the story to me, he was known and part of the mutant subset then split off – his intentions completely at odds with the others. Honestly it is his backstory as the one that I am most interested in at this point.

EE: Without delving too much further in my half-baked theories let’s take a quick vote on whether you’re sold on the first three episodes to see the rest.

My curiosity is piqued and even though the second episode was clunky because of all the information, I think with the guesswork the viewer has to do to keep up with what is “real” and what isn’t, keeps me on my toes.

I love the production design, the mood and atmosphere that Noah Hawley has created here so I’m on board for the long haul.

I’ll remind those out there reading that while I do have some knowledge of the comics Legion is based on, I honestly don’t remember much because it’s been 20 plus years since I read them. I wasn’t particularly moved by them then (they were confusing reads too) but I do like what I see so far of this treatment. April?

AN: I always assess the crafts along with the actual acting and writing so yes, the camera and art department (which houses production design and set decoration) is phenomenal and top of their game with this visually loaded series.

I was initially keyed up after the premiere, then really was lost after chapter 2 and I was ready to give up and throw in the towel. But this episode was fantastic and I am completely in. I want to know more of all the backstories-not just David.

The mystery of Syd too has me hooked. I’m grateful that Aubrey Plaza’s quirk is still part of the story even if she is a manifested hallucination of David’s.

For someone like myself who has no knowledge of the comics and little insight from previous source materials, this story is holding me interested and eager for more, and that is a huge tip of the hat to Noah Hawley and company.

Chapter 4 of Legion airs next Wednesday on FX at 10pm ET/PT.

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