Lenny’s Got A Brand New Bag In A Frustrating ‘Legion’ Mystery

FX

A review of tonight’s Legion coming up just as soon as I buy a doughnut from a submarine in the desert…

“Chapter 13” is the first episode of season two where the larger style-over-substance issue with Legion had a major impact on its entertainment value. It has some of the show’s cleverest visual flourishes yet, but the episode is built around a big mystery and twist that has much less emotional weight than it’s intended to, because Legion‘s not great on characterization in general and has skimped on two of the characters in question in particular.

On the positive side of the ledger, this was another sensory delight. The resurrected Lenny is being kept in an interrogation room where the laws of gravity are inverted, with the camera rotating on its axis as needed as characters enter and exit. Amy’s husband runs a mobile doughnut-selling submarine in the desert, and the couple is hiding out on a ranch dotted with windmills. The notion that Admiral Fukyama has a bird head under that glowing basket was unsettling — even if it’s probably just an irrational idea the tar creature put in Ptonomy’s head after crawling into his ear — as was Amy’s fantasy vision of herself as one of the Vermillion. And even something so simple as fitting Aubrey Plaza with a pair of light blue contact lenses made every Lenny scene feel off even before Ptonomy pointed out that her eyes should be brown.

But despite some really good work by both Plaza, who effectively channeled Lenny’s desperation to get back to living her life (and also did some great physical work in showing Lenny struggling to walk in her new body after escaping the grave), and Jemaine Clement, who brought Oliver’s own frustrations with being a prisoner in his own body to the forefront, “Chapter 13” was primarily a mystery box story about how exactly Lenny was brought back into the land of the living, and whose body she might be occupying, if not her own. The whole thing is meant to be a devastating surprise for David when he realizes Lenny is essentially the animated corpse of his murdered sister, but the impact of that revelation is muted by how minor a figure Amy has been throughout this series, especially of late. This was Katie Aselton’s first appearance of the season, and Amy was only mentioned once in passing, when David and Syd are catching up late in the season premiere. As I mentally rifled through possibilities of women on the show who could have blue eyes, I was startled to remember that Aselton had even been on the show in the first place, and I watched The League regularly and have seen several of her movies.

Even when Aselton was a regular in season one, Amy was a very minor and thinly-written character: a symbol of the normalcy David craved, as well as the one constant source of happiness from his difficult childhood, but not really a person in her own right. And even that aspect of our hero has been largely left behind as the series has moved along; all David’s been worried about lately is saving the world and hanging out with Syd. His grief and horror at realizing who and what Lenny is makes sense for the David Haller we know, but it should have felt like a punch in the gut, when instead it played more as a process of elimination involving the only available female character the show had no future plans for.

I’m excited to see Lenny be out in the land of the living some more, and to find out whether David, Oliver, or neither gets to live up to their promise to hurt Farouk for what he’s done to them, but “Chapter 13” as a whole really pushed the limits of how much the series’ remarkable technical design can compensate for weaknesses in other storytelling areas.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@uproxx.com. He discusses television weekly on the TV Avalanche podcast. His new book, Breaking Bad 101, is on sale now.

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