TV Review: ‘Legion’ unwinds, unfolds, and provides a whole lot of ’70s-era Jemaine Clement

This week on Legion, we get a whole hell of a lot of Jemaine Clement monologuing, some terrible narration from Syd throughout the episode, poorly-executed CGI, some really interesting backstory for a pair of characters, and a long overdue reveal that will shake up your knowledge of this show forever. Or at least until the next episode, that is. Join me, Legionnaires, as we journey deep inside the Astral Plane or, as I like to call it, Episode 4 of Legion!

We open on a ’70s-outfitted Clement (who you’ll remember from last week as Dr. Bird’s husband) giving a bizarre speech about the warlike nature of man directly to the camera. “Violence is ignorance! Figure your shit out!” He tries to take a sip of water from a glass next to him, and discovers that the liquid’s turned to ice. He then goes on to describe what he calls “the two stories we tell our children.” One’s meant to establish empathy, the other’s meant to establish fear, and they compete with these each other. He turns on a projector next to him, and he says he’s presenting us a story in five acts, about fear. Turns out he’s actually in a giant, floating piece of ice! Glimpses of foreshadowing (the Eye! David’s ex! Syd being attacked by the gubberment!) and some awful narration from Syd lead us into David’s current status: He’s still asleep from the last episode, hallucinating bits of the past and the future, while the rest of the crew panics about him. Ptonomy says that David’s not actually taking them into his memories when they go into his head, and instead go into an astral plane, an area between dream and reality entirely created by David himself.


Bird tasks Syd, Ptonomy, and Carey with investigating David’s past prior to his admission to the mental institution. They start with his former psychiatrist, and Ptonomy discovers the smashed tape recorder from when David went nuts in the room. He says objects have memories too, and he and Syd journey into the object’s past, and they find out that David might have murdered his psychiatrist while he was robbing the place for drug money. Syd can’t believe it, Ptonomy tells her that when she was in David’s body, she hit an orderly so hard in the head that doctors had to put him in a coma to get the swelling down. Syd still doesn’t think that David’s capable of this, and begins to suggest that David might be hiding his memories behind fake ones. She puzzles over the meaning of “what do the stars say,” and then hits a realization: what if he hadn’t broken into the hospital for drug money? What if he was trying to get rid of evidence of the one time he said a little too much? Commercial!

Syd’s questioning her reasons for loving David in a voiceover that rivals the first cut of Blade Runner in sheer shittiness. We get flashes of her getting captured by the gubberment guys and the Eye, and then finally cut to Amy, David’s sister, trapped in a concreate prison, waiting for a tray of food, and then throwing it in sadness and disgust when she finally gets it. Her agitated screams stir the patient in the cell behind hers, who was David’s psychiatrist at the mental hospital. They talk, through air holes in the walls of plastic walls of their cells, with the psychiatrist telling her his opinions of David’s powers, and Amy reflecting on how David used to talk to himself as a child. She’d ask who he was talking to, and the psychiatrist answers for her — the dog they had! Only, Amy tells him, they didn’t actually have a dog!

We cut to a forest, where Syd and the others are camping out near a fire. Syd thinks she sees the World’s Angriest Boy in the World in the forest, but it’s just an illusion. Kerry tells Syd how she and Cary came to share the same name, and she tells her about how they’re actually two people who can share a body. Like, literally. They can split up, but they feel intense longing being separated from one another. He was born instead of her when their parents expected a girl, and the change broke up their parents’ marriage. He thought she was simply an imaginary friend until one morning, when he saw her in a corporeal form, playing with a train set. And they’ve been working together ever since. They transform into each other when the need arises, and he takes care of her and she gets all the fun action. She only ages when she’s outside of his body, which explains why he’s so much older than her. This is super cool! More like this please, Legion! Bird sees a man in a Diving Bell, who disappears. She brings Cary into a giant, frozen room, where she finds the Diving Bell Man, who is actually her fucking husband from the prologue. That’s why he was encased in ice at the start. Dammit, Legion. Bird begs her husband to come back to them, and then we cut to David, who’s apparently in the same astral plane as Bird’s husband. He tells David to follow him through the green landscape of the mind. Commercial!

David and Clement wander across the green landscape, in some CG work that I honestly can’t believe got approved for air. He climbs up into the ice capsule from the beginning, and we get an aspect ratio change, baby! Sixteen-by-9 means it’s exposition time! Clement takes off the diving bell and offers David a drink (this surprised the one person in the audience who hadn’t figured that out yet). He puts on some free jazz, because this is Jemaine Clement, and it’s not funny if he isn’t an asshole hepcat in some way, and David asks him to turn it off. Clement tells him that he’s quite like him indeed, and David realizes he’s not awake. Clement asks about free love, which is a joke that just doesn’t land, and then gets on the to the real business here: David’s trapped in the astral plane with Clement! Clement begins reciting “A Supermarket in California” by Allen Ginsberg, and after David interrupts him, reveals that the Man with the Yellow Eyes can’t hunt him inside the ice cube. He offers him the chance to work on his problems inside the safety of the cube, and David tries to get out of there, but can’t. Clement makes a door for him (and also tells him that the “great subconscious” can’t harm him, if he doesn’t make it real), and like any sensible person when they’re trapped in the same room with a time-challenged beatnik scientist, David leaves. Commercial! Commercial for Noah Hawley’s Fargo returning!

More awful narration from Syd, and it’s gradually revealed that they’re on the way to visit David’s old girlfriend, who works as a realtor. Ptonomy pretends to be blind, and he’s actually scanning her memories the whole time that Syd pretends to buy them a house. She’s got the shitty sort of charm that a real estate agent does, and we flash back to her memory of a day where David’s psychiatrist came to visit (lol) and Ptonomy sees a flash of black-and-white in the otherwise rose-tinted memory. He sees the girl visiting the psychiatrist at a lighthouse in the forest, and bam, he snaps back into the world, and demands to go. Syd, an idiot, tells them that they’re friends of David’s, and they have a short conversation about her past. In that conversation, the ex-girlfriend reveals that Aubrey Plaza is actually a fat guy named Benny (lol) and Plaza was simply a cover-up in the memories. As they leave, the Ex tells them that David’s being watched by some unknown group. After leaving the realty office and walking through that same ubiquitous set of woods that connects all in this fictional universe, they come upon the lighthouse from the black-and-white memory. The psychiatrist answers the door, and tells them he doesn’t talk about his patients. They manage to convince him otherwise with their knowledge of the situation. They say they only need five minutes. Commercial!

No awful narration this time. Kerry checks the lighthouse for bugs, and Syd scolds her for not being more respectful. The psychiatrist enters with some tea, and begins to give up some exposition. We get confirmation that Aubrey Plaza was actually Benny, and then Syd asks him “what the stars said.” He doesn’t know either, and asks them to take him to David. Well, Syd gets a little suspicious of that, and eventually the facade cracks. The psychiatrist is actually the Eye! Gubberment troops start assaulting the lighthouse, and tear up the whole house with gun fire. We get the first thirty seconds of slow motion battle sequence, where Kerry jumps out of a window on the second floor of the building to fight the gubberment. We jump from character to character to character, with two (Cary and Jemaine) dancing to the Feist song that scores the whole schabang; two fighting (Ptonomy and Kerry). Kerry gets attacked by the gubberment troops, and Cary feels every punch. The Eye bests Ptonomy in hand to hand combat, and moves in on Syd. That turns out to be a big mistake, as she touches the Eye and swaps bodies with him. Syd (as the Eye) then rescues the rest of the group by asking the troops to load the bodies into a vehicle for transport. Commercial!

We come back to some pretty bad CGI, and David encounters Aubrey Plaza in the Astral Plane. Or at least an astral plane recreation of his bedroom. She provokes him into leaving the Astral Plane, by showing him the Eye (who is actually Syd) making off with the bodies of his friends in a truck. Also, we get glimpses of the Man with the Yellow Eyes behind Aubrey Plaza’s facade, and we’re supposed to believe that the Man has actually been influencing David this whole time! Anyways, David gets pissed enough that he manages to jump between realities, and lands in the middle of the road right in front of the oncoming truck. He rescues Syd, who is actually the Eye, and give her his knife. The real Syd (inside the Eye’s body) wakes up and throws a fucking lug wrench at her, which causes causes the Eye to flee. Kerry frees herself from the back of the van, and runs towards the action. David runs and tackles Syd (in the eye’s body) and they transform back into their proper forms right in time for the Eye to straight up shoot Kerry. Cary falls over back at HQ, and shit’s bad! The Eye gets away! David and Syd are frozen on the ground, and Aubrey Plaza appears behind David’s shoulder and wraps a grey, yellow fingernailed arm around him. ROLL CREDITS! And thank God, too! Somebody tell Hawley not to run 20 minutes over all the time!


Stray Thoughts:

— Well, that’s one hell of a big reveal, right? Our “beloved” Aubrey Plaza was actually a fat dude named Benny (and funnily enough this was supposed to be the case until Plaza decided she wanted the role) and might actually be a manifestation of the Man with the Yellow Eyes! It makes her performance a little less annoying, especially now that we know we’re supposed to hate her from the start. It’s a cool little twist to take your show’s so-called “fun” character and make them into the villain, and I guess this is Hawley’s take on the whole “Darth Jar-Jar” fan theory/meme that popped up right around when Force Awakens premiered.

— The Cary/Kerry backstory was probably the best five minutes of filmmaking so far in the show. Beautifully composed, set perfectly within the show’s aesthetic, with interesting performances by both actors to compliment. This is the first time the show’s given us a mutant power and a backstory that isn’t totally derivative at the exact same time. Normally, you could have one, but not the other. Cool power, lame backstory (Syd) or lame power, cool backstory (David). And most fall into those camps, except for the Kerry/Cary dynamic.

— Man, Syd’s narration is just terrible.

— The whole “Astral Plane” stuff is atrocious, and I really hope Disney sues them for using it the same week Doctor Strange hits DVD. I feel bad that I don’t really enjoy it, because I know a whole lot of people do. I like weird stuff 99% of the time, all I ask is that it’s done well. The effects are bad and they’re in service of dumb images, which means even if they had the whole of ILM behind them, it’d still look like dog shit. The Jemaine Clement stuff is a new patience-tester, and we’ll see if he gets as grating as Plaza does. It’s also totally a bummer he’s abusing “A Supermarket in California” like that.

— Ptonomy pretending to be blind and then ripping off his sunglasses as he jumps up and tries to leave the realty office is a joke that gets better every time I think about it. And it was after he made such a big deal about it!

— All in all, this was a pretty decent episode, especially if you cut out all the Astral Plane/Jemaine stuff and it comes in under an hour. I’m hoping they keep up the fact-finding structure, and start solving some of these mysteries instead of adding more and more to them.

NEXT WEEK: “A new threat surfaces.” I hope it’s a submarine.

See you next Wednesday, Legionnaires.

Follow Nick Johnston on Twitter @onlysaysficus.