You’re going to read a lot of reviews about how astoundingly amazing the second season of Legion is. This isn’t going to be one of them. It’s not that I don’t like the show—I actually enjoy it quite a bit—I just wish it had more… something, anything beyond surface appeal. Let me put it this way: up through the Admiral Fukuyama interrogation I was cruising along not hooked but not turned off either; by the dance off I thought, “alright, this is pretty cool;” and then I fell asleep during the light conversation with future!Syd.
The last time we saw David (Dan Stevens), he had been sucked into some sort of floating metal orb and taken away by unknown persons. Now he wakes up thinking it’s only been a few hours when nearly a year has passed. During that time, the Summerland crew joined up with Division 3, the tactical arm of an organization that gathers, studies, and sometimes eliminates mutants. David insists he remembers nothing from his time away, just fragments of lost memories, but Ptonomy (Jeremie Harris) and Clark (Hamish Linklater) have their doubts—Ptonomy sees more memories in David’s brain than he lets on, and Clark spent too much of his childhood watching tawdry soap operas with amnesia and evil twins. David already is his own evil twin, even without the Shadow King taking up brainspace. Between his personality switching and the voices in his head, I doubt even David knows who the “real” David Haller is anymore.
It’s not like they don’t have reasons for doing a double-take on his claims. Everytime David, the Shadow King (Aubrey Plaza), and Oliver (Jemaine Clement) appeared together in the same location, human adults were infected with the Catalyst, leaving them motionless save perpetual teeth chattering. Did David cause the Catalyst or is it a side effect of something sinister between Farouk and Oliver?
Syd (Rachel Keller) is thrilled to have her man back, but she, too, is a bit suspicious. Not so suspicious that they don’t spend a sexy night getting it on in David’s mind palace, but whatevs. Her one-sided conversation with a strung-out Melanie (Jean Smart) reminds her that both of them love powerful men with a nasty habit of disappearing for extended periods of time, and that they are the ones who end up suffering from the loss, not the men.
Eventually David is brought to meet the mysterious Admiral Fukuyama and Vermillion, the trio of androgynous androids through which he speaks. Why does Fukuyama wear a basket on his head? Why do his droids have mustaches, speak in automated phone line voices, and wear pseudo-dominatrix outfits? Who the hell knows, man.
Sussing out whether David does or doesn’t remember, whether he’s lying or telling the truth is further complicated when Cary (Bill Irwin) and Kerry (Amber Midthunder) shove David into a strawberry-flavored Cerebro in an attempt to psychically locate Oliver and Farouk. In another one of Legion’s classic dance numbers, David, Farouk, and Oliver square off in a (psychic?) nightclub, turning the patrons into their own personal dance crews. Like in the Feist fight scene from last season, the dance routine bleeds out into Cary’s laboratory. It’s a stunning scene, one I rewatched several times. When showrunner Noah Hawley gets it right, he really, really gets it right.
The premiere ends as David recalls to Syd some of his time in the orb. While trapped in there, he met a future version of Syd who, for unknown reasons, could only communicate with light. She wants to help him find the Shadow King and stop him from reuniting with his body. He wonders if future!Syd sent the orb to collect him.
Throughout all this, Jon Hamm’s smokey, sultry voice pops in and out to narrate stories about a desert maze, a Chinese man dreaming about butterflies, a man who saws his own leg off, and baby chicks. Each story plays back into last season’s theory that David really is crazy and may not be the good guy hero we think he is, but the last of the tales gets pulled directly into the main plot when it drags it’s sticky, inky, misshapen form under David’s bed in the room he shares with Syd. Lenny still has her claws in him. To what extent is still up in the air, but she’s there, burrowed deep enough that even David may not know she’s there.
If you loved Legion’s bonkers attitude last season, you’re really gonna love it this season. Apparently Hawley didn’t think the first season was weird enough and doubled—nay, tripled—down this year. Don’t get me wrong, the visuals are breathtaking. The season two premiere is a fever pitch of cool shot after quirky scene after kickass dance routine. Every single element of production is phenomenal, particularly the cinematography, set production/design, and costuming. Wonky camera angles add an air of discomfort and a lot of times take what would normally be a rather dull scene and turn it into a powerhouse moment. And I can’t get enough of the design work. The sets and costumes blur a dozen mid-century styles together in a delightfully discombobulating manner.
Hawley plays with perception on a complicated level. Nothing we see can be taken as truth, and no one is what they seem. Everything is a living, breathing puzzle, even the characters’ personalities and motivations. On a scene-by-scene basis, the premiere is loaded with gorgeous shots, bizarre scenes where the visuals are more impactful than the dialogue, and talented actors pushing their skills to the limit. But taken as a whole, the ep feels frenzied and disjointed. There’s more weirdness this time around, but the same thin substance. I’m willing to chalk the imbalance up to wanting to make a splash for the premiere, but if the entire season is a replication of last night…
- “This is a conversation about time. I try never to have conversations about time.”
- I mean, if you’re going to use Jon Hamm, it seems a waste to not show his lovely comic book hero face.
- Kudos to the sound editing and mixing crew. That teeth chattering set me on edge. Utterly evocative.
- Someone needs to pull Kerry aside and talk her out wearing of that terrible leather top. Girl. No.
- Whew, Jean Smart.
- They/them jokes? Really? No one else has an issue with Fukuyama’s pronouns, but David has to take time out his day to twice be shitty about them. I won’t tolerate a whole season of misgendering and punching down on genderqueer people.
- Part of what made the first season Legion work as well as it did was its tight, eight episode schedule. Expanding that to ten increases the risk of padding episodes that do a whole lotta wheel-spinning and not much else.
- Jemaine Clement dancing is my everything. I think I’ll go rewatch that Feist scene. See y’all for a midseason check-in.
Alex Brown is a YA librarian by day, local historian by night, pop culture critic/reviewer by passion, and QWoC all the time. Keep up with her every move on Twitter, check out her endless barrage of cute rat pics on Instagram, or follow along with her reading adventures on her blog.