Legion does Groundhog Day in this exceptional bottle episode…
Some viewers might label “Chapter 12”, the most standalone episode of Legion to date, as a filler episode. Well, if “filler” is how you describe an hour of television that is beautifully directed, ingeniously written, wonderfully performed and genuinely deep and meaningful, then sign me up for filler episodes every week!
Following on from last week’s “Chapter 11”, this episode sees David attempt to free Syd from her mental maze. What this means is that we get our first real look at Syd’s personal history and what makes her tick. As such, the opening scenes closely mirror the first few minutes of “Chapter 1”, which did the same for David. I’ve heard some claim Syd is underwritten. While I’ve never personally felt this, this episode should do a lot to convince these critics otherwise.
With its cyclical plot which sees David having to relive Syd’s key memories in a bid to find out what message she is trying to tell him, “Chapter 12” is like a cerebral, Christopher Nolan-directed version of Groundhog Day. Time loop stories can become tiresome if handled poorly, as by definition we have to sit through the same events over and over, but this episode nails it by focussing in and enhancing different memories on each go around in order to slowly give us a fuller picture of Syd’s life. I also can’t help but think that Syd’s repeated message to David to watch it again is a pointed nod to the audience, telling us to rewatch the show in order to properly understand it.
So who is Syd as a person? It turns out she is not someone who craves either isolation or human contact. She’s a survivor who has weathered a lot in her life and knows that you have to be tough to protect what you care about the most. It’s a new revelation about her as a person, perhaps somewhat contrasting with how she has previously been defined through her relationship with David, but it does feel in keeping with everything we have leaned about her.
In many ways, “Chapter 12” encapsulates exactly what Legion is all about: it’s a mind-bending examination – and championing – of those with mental health issues. As Syd’s powerful final speech puts it: “God loves the sinners best ’cause our fire burns bright, bright, bright. Burn with me.”
And, in a brilliant final twist, the title card appears as if the past 45 minutes have all been one long pre-credits scene. Next week, the real drama begins. Lenny Busker is back in the flesh! While that’s great news for fans of the Cornflakes Girl, it can’t be good for David and Divison 3…
- Those who have been paying attention will have expected Syd’s twisted first sexual encounter. She revealed this story to David back in “Chapter 5.” Putting together pieces here, it seems that her mother had her sectioned after this incident. This presumably started a life moving around psychiatric units, until she meets David at Clockworks.
- Though this episode seemed very standalone, the lesson Syd teaches David here might have inadvertently led to the very apocalypse she is trying to prepare him for. Future Syd has become much colder, and we see her hardened inner strength here. She tells David, meanwhile, that he has to become tougher, a “fighter.” Future Syd commented that David had become “different” by her time. She might regret what she did in this episode.
- It’s worth mentioning that the director of this episode, Ellen Kuras, was the cinematographer of the very similarly-themed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. That’s also a complicated love story told in the mind. Needless to say, if you liked this episode, I’d recommended the film.