This is starting to become troubling. “Chapter 6″ of Legion presented another case of invention and imaginative imagery being utilized as drapery for a stalled-out narrative. Last week’s episode ended with David and his team from Summerland sitting in a circle , One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest-style, under the monitoring of Aubrey Plaza’s Lenny, who would seemingly be a guise for the man with the yellow eyes, himself the main guise of a powerful cerebral parasite of sorts. The sixth volume played out entirely in this universe, one that the parasite created to look like Clockworks and which will house and tranquilize David and his team. It’s also the perfect place for the parasite to start abusing David’s powers for its own gains.
This is one of those cases where the audience could very easily be more ahead in the plot than the characters are, a disconnect that can test patience and often feels like a ploy to put off making narrative decisions. The great benefit of having someone like Noah Hawley at the helm of Legion is that the series has consistently been ruled by his stylistic peccadilloes and creative love for symbolic images or gestures. This has allowed him to be more leisurely about moving the plot along, a tactic I almost always prefer to stripping everything down to plot points, backstory, and foreshadowing. The danger in this is that it can become easy to let your imagination run wild without making narrative decisions and this can lead to something feeling sluggish or even one-note. This is the condition which Legion seems to be shifting toward in “Chapter 6.”
It’s not that the episode is boring or unremarkable. There was a genuine sense of menace in passages, as much in Dr. Bird’s voyage beyond her walls as in The Eye’s continuing bloodlust for Kerry. The musical-dance number to the trap remix of Nina Simone‘s “Feelin’ Good” was a risky move that paid off in grandly revealing the foolish, strutting side of Lenny as the parasite, even if it required sullying one of Simone’s biggest hits. Still, the whole thing feels like a vast contraption, the episode serving primarily as an exploration of an invented space and a minefield of psychological trickery that, though undeniably interesting, goes nowhere. There is an obvious kind of self-awareness to the show, especially in the dialogue, that precariously alternates between satirical and fumbling. One has to wonder if the audience is being overtly futzed with or if the writing has just taking a dip southwards. At some point, the difference becomes easy to dismiss.
The one character that seemed to understand what was going on, other than Plaza’s malevolent force, was Syd and even she didn’t have any big scenes outside of her last encounter with her doctor, who casts her into a kind of Neverland. To the credit of the directors and the performers, there were innumerable flecks of deception and knowingness in the imagery and in the deliveries – a ball missing from a ping-pong game, a character hanging on the name of a certain drug, etc. Still, the overwhelming coyness of the narrative and the dearth in pacing are enough to lessen the impact of Hawley’s creative team’s enveloping aesthetic.
One now has to really wonder if all of this will only make some semblance of sense when the eighth episode has finally bowed. With two episodes left, there is still plenty of time for the narrative to feel anchored once again but if there’s one thing we’ve learned about this series thus far, it’s that it will move however it damn well pleases. That’s admirable, up to a point. This feeling of being stalled out also softens the series’ seemingly sincere dedication to exploring David’s emotional and psychological state. When David says that he feels good and comfortable for the first time in a long time, there’s a tragedy to his state of being. The only way he can trust himself is by being inoculated, drugged up and tucked away from a great wide world or, alternatively, the rest of his magnificent mind. These ideas and feelings should be moving and should bind us even closer to the troubled David but even at his most vulnerable moments in “Chapter 6,” one was constantly reverted back to wondering when, exactly, the second show was going to fall.