Legion, Chapter 1: David is definitely NOT ok.
Wow. So, the episode opens showing us a happy looking little boy that seemed to have a normal life as he grew up…until he didn’t.
Having the side knowledge that this is an X-Men tie in, we go into this knowing that this is when his mutant powers manifest. He starts hearing voices, and when he’s upset things start to really fly.
Everywhere, all over the room.
Being the age that it is (showrunners deliberately made that part undeclared, but it looks 70’s-ish), some folks know about mutants—but most don’t. David gets told he’s dangerously nuts, and he’s placed in a psychiatric facility.
After awhile, it becomes clear that while his powers are certainly real, he is pretty obviously mentally ill (this jives with the way the comic books portrayed this particular character as well). Perhaps his powers made him that way.
Legion recap: bad birthday for David
He spends a significant amount of time in the mental facility (we see his sister try to bring him a cupcake for his birthday, only to be told he can’t have it) until one day, someone new shows up.
At this point, we’re seeing that most of what comes next is a sort of flash-back, as there is someone official looking asking David what happened. Something major has occurred, and they want David to explain it. As the retelling goes on, we learn that these folks are some sort of government agency. They are also quite aware that David has real and substantial power over which he has little control–being completely mad as he is.
The new person he tells them about is Syd Barret. She’s a mysterious patient who doesn’t like to be touched. She’s got much of her skin covered up, and she tells everyone not to touch her. She makes fast friends with David, who asks her during group therapy if she wants to be his girlfriend.
Throughout this, we also see the chatterbox Lenny Busker providing a lot of off the wall commentary. Everyone knows why they’re here, but they all have this wry humor about it.
Time passes between them, and at times when the government types interrupt the reverie with more questions, we’re left wondering at not just the veracity of David’s memories, but which (if any) of these characters we see are real. Given how obviously unstable David is, all of them could be in his head. He’s the ultimate in unreliable narrators.
Syd Barrett? Come again?
The government types tell David there’s no record of Syd Barrett, but we’re left thinking that she is probably real. They accidentally admit that later. We also see them discuss how dangerous David is, and how they plan to kill him if he becomes unmanageable.
As he and Syd grow closer, she finds out she’s getting out. As the main therapist prepares her for going home, David impulsively kisses her.
That’s where things really begin to go sideways.
Here it’s revealed that Syd’s power is some sort of short term body swapping ability.
The sudden swap takes Syd completely by surprise, and as a confused David is ushered out of the facility looking like Syd, Syd is inside the building in David’s body bringing a panicked chaos.
During the telling, David keeps getting more agitated with his government captors. Everyone keeps trying to keep him calm, and David begins to realize that everyone is afraid of him. Here’s where he’s getting an inkling that even though he is crazy, maybe some of his perceived powers are actually real.
So, back in the memory of the ‘incident’, we see that the doors to all of the rooms have disappeared, they’re all solid walls trapping the patients inside. One unfortunate patient, Lenny, was caught in the sudden doorway-become-wall, and is gruesomely dead.
David panics a bit, and hightails it out of there. He swaps back to his own body, but instead of being caught in the facility, he’s right where he was. Perhaps it’s not a true body swap? None of this is clear, and it’s evident that we’re not really supposed to be clear on anything, since David obviously isn’t.
Back in the present telling, we find that he freaks out on his captors enough to stab the interrogator in the cheek with a pen as he sends more objects flying about the room. They stick him in the middle of a pool, and fit the pool with electrical wires. One wrong move, and they’re going to electrocute him.
The story continues as David gets away and over to his sister’s house. Before making it there, however, we see various appearances of some mysterious people who are looking more and more like they’re after David–except none of them are any of the government captors we’ve seen. Looks like there’s two factions who want David.
Mind if I crash?
At his sister’s house, David tries to act as though things are (sort of) normal, asking if he can stay with her a few days. His sister sets him up in her basement, and we see more happy memories of David as a child. He’s mesmerized by a lampshade that projects constellations on the wall. During the reverie, he inadvertently causes the lamp to fling across the room and shatter against the wall.
His sister comes downstairs, and it becomes obvious she knows what’s happening as she quietly removes the sharp gardening implements hanging on the wall. There’s a bit of wry humor here, too. Later as he leaves to try and find out more about Syd’s fate, he’s grabbed by the government types in a van.
During the retelling, his memories of Syd show up out of place, and she tells him to slowly slide into the water, and not come up until he sees her. She’s being projected into his mind, so it looks like he’s about to be rescued.
Indeed, as he slides into the water, we see the room combust, and the government agents burnt to ash. As he rises out of the water, Syd and a company of other mutants are there to rescue him.
This version of Syd is the real one, and not his idealized memory Syd. She’s a dynamic action hero here, and the company of mutants lead him to a getaway boat as they fling the bad guys out of their way.
David is unsure if any of this is real. Before running to the boat he stops, and asks Syd if any of it–her included–is real. She tells him that yes, it’s all real, and she loves him. They run to the boat, and we’re left wondering what’s going to happen next.
So far with this, actor Dan Stevens is doing a wonderful job with David Haller. Instead of the impeccably groomed persona he had on Downton Abbey, we see a rumpled, wide eyed nervy man. He gives the character an impish innocence, a desperation to be cared for, and a wry bit of humor. His American accent is pretty great, too.
Can’t wait til Chapter Two.