I guess it was bound to happen eventually. The honeymoon is officially over, and all those adorable little quirks that once made Legion so endearing now appear pointless, like an ex who tells the same joke over and over. It was funny the first five times, honey, but now I’m starting to worry if you really don’t know why the chicken crossed the road.
Actually, it’s unfair of me to say that the show’s quirks aren’t endearing. It’s more that they’ve lost their purpose. See, the brilliance of Legion really rests on its episode’s endings. We watch an hour of events strung together by a relatively standard comic book plot, with some rather advanced talk of psychology and apparently arbitrary cultural allusions thrown in for good measure. Usually, it’s hard to know exactly why all these elements are important while we’re watching. But, without fail, Legion always shows us the answer, funneling the seemingly desperate cornucopia of devices in the same direction, so that each relationship, each moment, each unexpected reference supports the episode’s greater theme. Last week, we saw a master class in this. This week… not so much.
We return to Clockworks—or at least to a yellow-eyed-devil-created, alternate-reality Clockworks—where David (Dan Stevens), Syd (Rachael Keller) and the gang are living as institutionalized non-powered people. There’s a lot of fun to be had with this set up, and Legion takes advantage of it. The smash cuts between therapy sessions are particularly nice, as is the exploration of what psychiatric ailment most closely aligns with each character’s particular power. One of tonight’s more effective—and, perhaps ironically, least explored—storylines features Ptonomy (Jeremie Harris) confronting the memory of his mother’s traumatic death. It’s heartbreaking in its simplicity, but in the end it relates little to the episode’s overall content. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if it’s never brought up again.
Instead, there’s Lenny’s (Aubrey Plaza) ridiculous, cabaret-style dance number, set to T. Powell’s “Bouncin Back (Feeling Good),” which receives more love from the production team than the interesting plot development for the small but mighty Ptonomy. The “dance” routine is where “Chapter 6” really started to lose me. Why? Why was that necessary? The obvious answer is that we’re meant to see a visual representation of Lenny or yellow eyes or less-fashionable-John-Leguizamo-from-Spawn tearing up the town, to watch the big bad really own David’s mind.
Except that goes without saying: The episode makes clear that David doesn’t even remember who he is anymore. As if the sequence’s lack of purpose isn’t enough reason to dislike it, it’s at complete cross-purposes with the character. Lenny spends much of the episode denying the existence of the incongruous door to David’s mind, going so far as to kidnap and hypnotize Syd when she gets too close to the truth. Why would you ever allow such a door to exist, much less use it as part of a large, attention-drawing victory lap? Lenny may be self-indulgent, but she’s not stupid.
It’s in moments like these that the episode falls apart. David is hardly present at all, which itself isn’t a problem, but without tethering the events of “Chapter 6” to his character arc and emotions, the whole thing feels unfocused. There’s no strong theme, though Lenny does try to tack on some half-mumbled closing thesis about the power of love not being as strong as the love of power. It’s not a bad effort, save for the fact that nothing else we’ve seen in the episode gives it much weight. So this jumble of stories and styles remains just that, a jumble: No cohesion, no clear purpose, and only a few breadcrumbs to follow until Legion returns next week.
Katherine Siegel is a Chicago-based writer and director, and a regular contributor to Paste. You can find out more by checking out her website or follow her on Twitter.