After a lacklustre pilot that seemed more interested in confusing and confounding audiences then actually being a compelling story, Legion’s second episode was a vast improvement as it delves deeper into its characters.
“Chapter II” picks up where “Chapter I” left off: David Haller (Dan Stevens) is rescued from a mysterious governmental organisation by a group of mutants lead by Melanie Bird (Jean Smart). Bird tells David that he is a mutant, one of many, and that the voices in his head are really other people’s thoughts – not a sign of schizophrenia.
Bird, with her ‘memory artist’ Ptonomy (Jeremie Harris), set out to explore David’s memories so that he can understand his powers, whilst in between sessions he reconnects with his girlfriend Syd (Rachel Keller). However, a dark force lurks deep in David’s memories.
“Chapter II” continues the non-linear storytelling style of the pilot but much more focused: there is an actual plot and goal and there was an attempt to set up future plot lines for the series. “Chapter I” was a more visually ambitious episode but that was the only advantage the pilot has on its follow-up.
The second episode has more of a horror influence which was fitting for the series and the exploration of David’s mind. During the episode a mysterious figure popped up for a split second at a time, looking like a pale skin version of Violator from the 1997 Spawn movie. Early speculation is that this mysterious figure is the Shadow King, one of the most powerful villains in the X-Men universe`.
The other horror aspect in the episode comes from David’s visions of his father – a man in shadows who reads a book about a boy who murders his mother. The book’s art style is similar to the Australian horror film, The Babadook, and has the same impact of traumatising a young boy.
Fans of the X-Men comics will know that David Haller is Charles Xavier‘s son, yet the figure who is in the shadows clearly is not the famous mutant. As it’s shown in the episode, David’s memories have been altered and suppressed: properly by the Shadow King.
The memory exploration also had its influences from mind-bending films like Inception, The Matrix and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind as David and the other characters watch events in his past. This part of the episode was similar to Bran’s story in the sixth season in Game Of Thrones where the Three-Eyed Raven shows the young Stark events in Westeros’ past.
Besides from the dream world, David is examined in the real world, getting brain scans to both look at how his brain functions with his powers and how to use it to find the right memory centres so Ptonomy knows where to go. It adds a certain level of thoughtfulness in the writing.
The other part of the story set in the real world is the relationship between David and Syd where Syd helps David to adjust in the group as well as to go talking about the aftermath of their body switch. On Wikipedia Syd is described as self-sufficient and street smart, but really comes across like the movie version of Rogue: withdrawn because of her inability to touch.
“Chapter II” may lack the visual spectacle of the pilot episode but improves by having a more coherent story and better character and its cliffhanger sets up an action-packed follow-up: with hopefully seeing plenty of mutant powers being used.