(Spoiler alert for the FX series “Legion” through the March 1 episode.)
This week, “Legion” let its characters spend some time away from main character David (Dan Stevens), and finally started cluing viewers in on what’s real.
Or, maybe, it just dropped its biggest clues about what isn’t real.
Throughout the first three episodes, we’ve been stuck seeing just about everything in “Legion” from David’s perspective. Given that David is never sure what’s actually happening and what’s only in his mind, everything he perceives has been suspect. As Syd (Rachel Keller), Ptonomy (Jeremie Harris) and Kerry (Amber Midthunder) investigate David’s life without him present, though, they’re able to start finding out what things he’s told them are truth and what ones are imaginary.
The biggest bombshell was the reveal that David’s childhood dog, King, never existed (something we suspected was the case). That’s according to Amy (Katie Aselton), David’s sister. He remembers a childhood dog that no one else could see.
We also start to get the lowdown on Lenny (Aubrey Plaza), whose existence has been very weird from the beginning. Lenny apparently died in the first episode due to some mutant power mishaps. But Philly (Ellie Araiza), David’s ex-girlfriend, tells David’s friends that it wasn’t a woman named Lenny who was David’s junky friend — it was a man named Benny.
It all adds up to a weird vision of what’s going on in David’s head. His perception of events is skewed, that much is obvious. But Episode 4 also continues to pile on clues that suggest the perception of everyone in the show is suspect, not just David. Nobody is quite sure what’s real. Ptonomy even says so. And things are getting stranger by the episode.
Episode 4 gives us some revelations about Lenny, for instance, but we know that other people have interacted with Lenny. Syd, who is fully present in this episode, knew Lenny at Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital. It was Syd, in switching bodies with David, who killed Lenny, in fact. Syd doesn’t remember Lenny as Benny — it’s news to her as much as anyone that other people knew Lenny as a man.
In the comics on which the show is based, David’s power as Legion extends beyond just reading people’s thoughts and manipulating objects with his mind. In Marvel’s original stories, he’s so powerful he can shape and recreate reality. That might have been what was at play when Lenny was killed. It seems that when Syd took over David’s body, she accidentally unleashed his powers. Syd, as David, made the doors to all the rooms in Clockworks vanish, replacing them with blank walls. Lenny was unfortunate enough to get caught in one of those walls.
“Legion” hasn’t posited that David has the ability to rewrite reality in so many words, but the Clockworks incident certainly leans that way. And if David’s power allows him to turn doors into walls and teleport people through solid objects, it’s possible that a lot more in “Legion” than we realize are things he’s imagined and made real. It seems possible even Syd is a creation of David’s mind.
Even without David present for much of it, Episode 4 is constantly playing with the audience’s ability to discern what’s actually happening. Syd’s narration of the episode reads like she’s telling the story after the fact, and she’s constantly questioning what she’s seeing and what’s real. We also get an introduction from Oliver Bird (Jemaine Clement), the husband of mutant team leader Melanie Bird (Jean Smart). He starts the episode as if he’s showing a movie with a moral. And then he shows up in the episode and meets David on the astral plane. Is he a figment in David’s head, an outsider showing what’s happening, or somewhere in between? Is Syd telling the story, remembering it, or playing a part in a dream in David’s mind? The fact that events seem to play out of order in Syd’s retelling — notably the attack by The Eye (Mackenzie Gray) that’s shown in flashes when Syd is asleep — make the audience skeptical of even her perception.
There are even subtler clues that what we’re seeing might be a fabrication. A recurring image in Episode 4 is one of linked circles, like a chain. David climbs a ladder in the astral plane constructed of metallic circles. Two scenes later, Syd and her crew meet Philly, who’s wearing earrings constructed of metallic circles. Keep an eye out the rest of the episode and circles, like links in a chain, show up more than once in the costumes and production design. These could just be coincidental choices in dressing the sets of “Legion” — or they could be clues tying what we’re seeing in separate places together.
“Legion” has leaned heavily on messing with the audience’s ability to trust events through its first three episodes, but it goes to another level in Episode 4. Even though we don’t have David around to act as a lens through which we view events, our perception of what’s happening is still called into question over and over.
So what’s real in “Legion?” How does it fit into the rest of the “X-Men” universe it shares? We still don’t have enough information to be sure. But so far, the only thing that seems certain is that, in David’s story, nothing is certain.
We’ve put together a ranked list of characters on “Legion” ranked by how likely it is they’re imaginary. You can check that out below.