“Takes more than talking.” That’s my favorite line from tonight’s episode of Legion, in which we continued David’s (induced) trip down the rabbit hole, away from the scary man with the yellow eyes. It’s spoken by Philly (Ellie Araiza), David’s ex-girlfriend, who Syd and Ptonomy found working in a high-end real estate office. To allow Ptonomy time to scan Philly for memories about David before he ransacked Dr. Poole’s office, Syd pretends to be his wife and says, at one point, that “they’re talking about kids.” And then Philly nervously replies, “Takes more than talking.”
For me, that can be seen as a bit of a nod to the team: talking is all well and good but eventually you have to take action, so to speak. This utterance counts as good advice for the series as well, as we are beginning to approach a bit of a wall with the amount of talk and exposition that’s been used to explain Noah Hawley‘s unique world here, as well as his characters. As “Chapter 4” expanded certain areas of the narrative – the Loudermilks (Bill Irwin and Amber Midthunder), most notably – it also seemed to be revving it’s engines without letting the episode really take off, even in the hypnotic climactic battle at Dr. Poole’s seaside lighthouse-home.
This was also true of David’s long-awaited meeting with Jemaine Clement‘s Oliver Bird, the cryogenically frozen husband of Dr. Bird – the one whose voice we heard coming out of the coffee machine last week. The dialogue was jovial and involving for the most part but very little of consequence was discussed or revealed about these men and the state their in. The same goes for the elder Loudermilk’s explanation for where his companion came from, as well as the conversation between Katie Aselton‘s Amy and Kissinger (David Ferry) in the Division 3 jail. Much of this talk remains funny and interesting, but there’s no weight to the words, and the characters start feeling like glimmers of different types. Fascinating types, mind you, but nothing more than that.
There may be a very good reason for this coming up, as I suspect, but for right now, it’s making Hawley’s wild visions and otherwise rhythmic, propulsive pacing feel sluggish all of a sudden. Some have suggested that the series is over-directed, that somehow the distinct vision is getting in the way of an intermittently trite story, which is true in certain passages – that slow-motion, soundtracked montage during this week’s climax, for instance. For the most part, however, the issue here is in the writing, in a need to keep key elements of David’s character a mystery that must be unlocked by the end of the season.
This is a familiar tactic for many TV shows and most of the time, this single element neutralizes a show from the very beginning, making an entire season of something like Lethal Weapon or, sweet jesus, Taken feel like 13 hours of staring at a carrot dangling from a stick. The very fact that this feeling didn’t arrive until right around now with Legion suggests an exploitation of the model rather than compliance with the model. In a way, Hawley seems to be building a wildly expressive reflection on being a creator of narratives, one who must at once control and work cordially along with other creators and skilled practitioners of invention. If so, Legion could end up being spectacular upon reflection, but right now, there’s the unmistakable feeling of wheels spinning.