A review of the Legion season two premiere coming up just as soon as a boat brings me my waffles…
Picture yourself reading a recap of an episode of television. It’s written by your friendly neighborhood TV critic, but in your mind it’s being read aloud by someone more impressive — let’s just say Jon Hamm. Your reviewer, through Hamm, is attempting to break down all the memorable images and themes of this episode, to untangle all the strands of plot and characterization. He’s contemplating the most esoteric verbiage he can think to apply to the problem, and maybe opting for a meta device where he begins the recap by writing about the process of writing the recap.
Jon Hamm gets a calendar alert and realizes that he has three other cameos(*) to film that day, so he gives up his voiceover duties, leaving only your reviewer to fumble around in this vast, gorgeous, empty white space to fill with whatever thoughts he can cobble together about this weird, hypnotic, deliberately opaque hour-plus of TV. He comes to understand that the recap will also be something white and infinite: an egg, and until you crack it open, you won’t know if it has insight, insanity, or neither.
(*) Or, as James Poniewozik has dubbed them, Hammeos.
The critic considers the durability of this device and goes back to reread his review of this show’s new season, where he argued that it was ultimately a triumph of style over substance, but with such abundant style that the lack of substance didn’t much matter, and he recalls the many dazzling images and soundscapes featured in this episode alone:
* He thinks about how the episode opens, for instance, on a beautiful, sun-dappled swimming pool where Lenny and Oliver float peacefully, imprisoned in some lush and peaceful mental jail by the Shadow King, everything only as real as it needs to be, so that a Butler’s arm appears to bring Oliver a fresh drink, even though there’s nobody — and no body — around for miles. And then how we pull out through the many layers of Farouk’s mind and David Haller’s until Clark and his men find David in a nightclub surrounded by a dance floor filled with mentally frozen individuals;
* He remembers all over again the chills and nausea he felt the first time he heard hundreds of teeth chattering against each other in unison, and how such a familiar sound increased exponentially could be so unsettling;
* He thinks about how matter-of-factly the episode presents the idea that Syd is now using her powers to swap bodies with a housecat, and how well Rachel Keller is able to adopt feline mannerisms to quickly get the idea across;
* He marvels at all the strangeness filling every corner of the frame at the new Division 3 headquarters, from Admiral Fukuyama having a basket on his head (obscuring the face of actor Marc Oka), to his cadre of catsuited and mustachioed fembots(*), to all the child soldiers, to the artwork on Fukuyama’s walls creating the illusion that everything is tilted 90 degrees, to something as relatively innocuous as all the food in the cafeteria being served by tiny boats floating along a little river cut down the middle of the tables;
(*) The critic pauses this device to point out that there are six different mustache women who appear in various combinations, played by Jenna Borrenpohl, Jelly Howie, Ashli Dowling, Caitlin Leahy, Brittney Parker Rose, and Lexa Gluck. The reviewer wonders what the casting call notes looked like, and how each actress responded when she was shown their wig and mustache.
* A broad smile crosses his face upon thinking about the animated tale of the man who dreamed he was a butterfly (or vice versa), and how that led into more disturbing explanations of how an innocuous thought can lead to madness, and to a filth-covered creature (much like Lenny looked by the end of season one) devouring a clean and innocent bird (much as Lenny looks now), and a shudder hits his spine as he recalls the crippled Minotaur-like monster limping its way through Melanie’s room while she gets high from her elephant vaporizer;
* An even broader smile appears at the thought of the elaborate dance-off between David, Oliver, Lenny, and their respective dance teams at the nightclub, with Cary of course empathetically dancing in his lab, because why wouldn’t you want to let Bill Irwin move like only he can?
The critic thinks about the deeper meaning of all of this. He considers how deftly the premiere sets up a structure for the season — a race to find Farouk’s original body, which could make him more powerful than ever if his mind returns to it — and then how just as swiftly the final scene, featuring David communicating with a one-armed Syd from the future, flips it on its head by having Future Syd tell David to help Farouk in his quest.
What is happening? When is it happening? Are we better off, like Oliver in the pool scene, refusing to think about time? Is Future Syd trustworthy? Is David, for that matter, or is he still under the sway of Lenny/Farouk somehow, as Ptonomy worries, and as hinted at when Lenny kisses David in one of the episode’s closing shots?
And, ultimately, does any of it matter? Or is the madness just the method by which this show delivers all these remarkable images?
The critic only knows that he was entertained. And that he’ll need a new gimmick to try to unravel all the strangeness happening next week. So for now, he puts “White Rabbit” on the turntable, busts out a few dance moves, and invites the rest of you to make sense of it all if you can — or if you even want to.
What did everybody else think?