Legion S2– Episodes 8-10: “Chapters 16-18”
Starring: Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Aubrey Plaza, Navid Negahban, Bill Irwin, Amber Midthunder, Jean Smart, Jemaine Clement, Jeremie Harris, and Hamish Linklater.
Written by: Noah Hawley, Jordan Crair, and Nathaniel Halpern
Directed by: Jeremy Webb, Noah Hawley, and Dana Gonzales
”I got this.” “No. I need to hit something.”
Hello again, my beautiful Legionaries. It has been a minute, hasn’t it? That is entirely on me. A week or so ago I got crazy sick and fell even further behind on this wonderfully weird and engrossing show. I am back now, and I hope you all are too. But while I slacked, Legion certainly bloody didn’t. It steadily ramped up its back half, heading into what will surely be an apocalyptic season finale. Written by longtime Fargo AND Legion script coordinator (a testament to Hawley’s loyalty to his staff) Jordan Crair, along with regular writers Hawley and Halpern, “Chapters 16-18” form a compelling triptych of episodes. Ones that slot the pieces and characters together for a tight puzzlebox of an incoming finale.
In “Chapter 16”, David has a plan and he isn’t above using all his friends to implement it. Of the three episodes, this first one is definitely the weakest. It serves a very vital function to the story this “trilogy” is telling. Out of options, and quickly running out of time, David goes full superhero (or maybe villain? ANTI-HERO!) and starts hatching an elaborate scheme to take the fight to the Shadow King. He uses his friends and colleagues at Division 3 as pieces on a psychic chess board.
Writers Crair and Hawley, along with director Jeremy Webb, the of “The Wedding of River Song” fame and the upcoming Umbrella Academy Netflix adaptation, give us vital check-ins with the overall cast. Including a creepy, Matrix-like update on Ptonomy’s new “life. The tragic origins of Admiral Fukyama, and a poignantly stark scene between Syd and Hamish Linklater’s Clark. The latter of which explicitly reveals that Clark is gay, having lost a lover on a mission when his parachute didn’t deploy. All in all, its a fine episode anchored by some slick direction by Webb, especially in the scene of David planning his assault on “Le Desole” with fun little cardstock character tokens on a vast Dungeons and Dragons like map.
But “Chapter 17” is when things REALLY kick off. Focused mainly on Jean Smart’s rapidly unraveling Melanie Bird and a newly free Lenny, the middle episode ratchets up the tension and interpersonal dynamics with the characters before the big blow up that is “Chapter 18”. When “17” started, I was slightly worried that it was gonna be another solo effort centered around Melanie. Not that that would have been horrible, as Jean Smart hasn’t had much to do this year. But “Chapter 17” shows that Hawley and company had bigger plans for her and her looming Minotaur from the opening episodes.
Given a keen eye by Hawley behind the camera, the middle episode takes us back thirteen days. Showing exactly what Melanie has been up to while the hunt for the Shadow King’s body has been happening and exactly how she finds herself in the clutches of Farouk and Oliver. Not only does this give Jean Smart some much overdo time in the spotlight, but also gets her mixing it up with the co-stars like Amber Midthunder and the ultra-smooth Jemaine Clement.
The flashback is another trademark of Hawley’s work, and he makes really great use of it here, smartly cutting between Melanie’s despair and Lenny’s gleeful spiral into partying now that she has a new body. And a new “guardian angel” in the form of Amy Haller, marking the triumphant return of Katie Asleton. Lenny is ALSO revealed as bisexual. Furthering Legion’s commitment to being super X-Men-y and doubling down on its diverse cast, just like the best mutant epics.
“Chapter 18” is a fever dream of fun. Everyone has gathered in the desert of Le Desole and are gunning for Farouk. David drops his human mask and goes FULL LEGION MODE, which includes his gravity-defying hair and signature vinyl vest from the Si Spurrier era. Here everybody gets a ton to do as the production team and cast races toward the final showdown and the fate of the future. I have seen some people online complaining that the show is headed for an “Its not real.” kind of conclusion. The stakes being so high. The heavy dread that Hawley and Halpern have threaded through this episode and the season as a whole makes me think that they have much bigger (and deadlier) plans for the incoming third season. Just please protect my mutant children. They are good people.
Verdict: Watch Them. This is a Damn Solid Run of Episodes.
The die is cast, and our heroes, villains, and everyone in between is now primed for some manner of conflict. Yet again, I haven’t the slightest idea what is going to happen. But therein lies half the fun of Legion and its vastly improved second season. Armed with rich characters, sharp visuals, and weaponized aspect ratio changes, these final episodes before the season finale turn the screws tight for David and company and in doing so, making some pretty goddamn compelling TV along.
Until next time (which will be MUCH sooner this time, I promise), happy Pride, my fellow gene scene kids. I’ll be seeing you.