A good friend of mine once joked that someday she’d open up my review for Legion and just see “WTF” a couple hundred times. “Chapter Sixteen” is damn close to doing just that.
“Chapter Sixteen” was a heavily plot driven episode. Legion is a highly stylistic show and has spent a good chunk of the season focusing on individual character episodes, but you can’t forget that there’s a plot underneath it all. We’re still in a race to find Farouk’s body and Division 3 is slowly descending into disarray as a result. David, in his typical selfishly-selfless fashion, heads off to “kill the monster” on his own. Only this time he has enough courtesy to leave Syd a note. This leads to several of my favorite moments of the season happening back to back. We get touching character moments that propel the plot and shiny visual eye candy as a cherry on top.
First and foremost, I adore the friendship blossoming between Clark and Syd. After David leaves, they have an off the record “girl talk” moment to basically talk about the men in their lives. We learn that Clark was in a relationship with a soldier who kept jumping out of planes “to get away” from him. And one time his parachute didn’t open. We also see Syd sarcastically refer to both herself and her mother as the “untouchable Barretts.” Clark is quick to stop her self deprecation and even reaches out to touch her. He keeps the contact over her glove, but it’s still a really brave moment. He’s shown a great deal of fear towards mutants and he’s well aware of her powers, but he makes contact with her anyway. He even pauses long enough for her to move away if she wanted, but she stays and lets him.
This scene was so incredibly touching, and I’m excited to see more between them. Clark really is an honorary member of Summerland at this point. I don’t view him as a villain anymore at all, if he ever really was at all. While he was an antagonist to our Summerland crew, it seems he was more afraid of what the mutants could do to people like him and his family. He was acting out of fear. Now that he knows them, he’s showing that he can be quite a powerful ally.
Later in “Chapter Sixteen” we see Syd go after David using her compass necklace. Off topic, but I really, really want her necklace. Come on, FX, this would be a great bit of merchandise. Get on it. But anyway, back on topic. Syd literally parachutes out of what appears to be a fighter jet once David is located in the desert. She lands looking fabulous as though she didn’t just jump out of a plane and immediately begins to lecture David on leaving her yet again. This whole scene was surreal as hell, but this is Legion. Surreal is the name of the game, here. I had to rewind the scene to see if she really did parachute down into the desert and yeah, she totally did. It makes me wonder if Clark helped her with this, considering some of the content of their “girl talk” in the previous scene.
Outside the surreal parachuting portion of the desert scene, I’ve got to give props for how well-edited the whole thing was. While this episode was incredibly plot driven as previously mentioned, it didn’t completely abandon its style. It worked the style into the plot. The blocks of scenes moving across the screen is both visually interesting and effective in conveying just how otherworldly this adventure is. This isn’t a normal quest, and every little detail about how it’s edited, shot, and acted really brings that point home.
But let’s not forget about Ptonomy, here. It appears that Vermillion has hooked him up to the mainframe in Division 3. His consciousness is trapped in a world of 1’s and 0’s. It seems that he can control individual Vermillion bots through this network, which was completely bizarre but kind of amusing. I’m really glad my initial guess back in “Chapter Nine” about Ptonomy turning against David turned out to be wrong. I much prefer this. It’s sad that his consciousness is stuck, but this is preferred to him becoming a villain. Ptonomy is a great character and I want him to stick around, even if it’s in a less than ideal circumstance.
The only somewhat weak spot of “Chapter Sixteen” was the narrative interlude. So far these have been quite stunning, but today’s ‘lesson’ about society being preoccupied with technology seemed a bit off-brand for the show. The AV Club says ‘It might be time for Legion to stop with the educational monologues.’ I disagree. These monologues have been great so far. But this one was by far the weakest one. It felt like someone complaining about darn millennials and their silly cell phones. Very ‘old man yells at cloud.’ Additionally, Legion exists in a weird timeless era that has large influences from the ’70s, Certainly we’ve seen characters using technology, but this lesson seems so firmly rooted in the NOW that it felt startlingly out of place.
Despite the weak monologue, “Chapter Sixteen” was a mind trip and very much enjoyable. After this we originally only had two episodes left, but we’ve been granted a mysterious eleventh episode for this season, so we’re not quite to the end. I’m eager to see how this season wraps up, though. What prompted this extra episode? Will we see Lenny again now that she’s escaped Division 3? Will Summerland/Division 3 get to Farouk’s body in just two episodes, or will Farouk win? Who knows. But we’re rapidly approaching the finale and I’m excited to find out.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.
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