Dread. It’s the feeling that something very bad is about to happen, and it puts you on high alert as you prepare for the worst. It’s a key element of the horror genre, and the most successful scary stories terrify the audience before any gruesome action takes place. “Chapter 13” of Legion wants the viewer to be afraid, and the villains take the spotlight as the show doubles down on horrors of both the mind and the body. Lenny Busker is at the root of it all, and her sudden physical resurrection has David and Division 3 suspicious and concerned. What is the Shadow King’s motive for giving Lenny a physical body? How is it even possible in the first place? And whose body is she in? The dread builds throughout the episode until these questions are answered in the final act, leading to a devastating scene where David learns the scope of Farouk’s villainy by losing someone he loves.
This week’s episode is the first one I’ve seen with a “Previously on …” recap, but it’s introduced by Jon Hamm as “Apparently on.” This change adds an element of doubt to the retelling, asking viewers to question what they’ve seen in the past and how it’s being shown in the present. There are scenes in this episode that have me second-guessing the reality of this season, and when everything is so unstable and malleable, it’s hard to know what reality even means within the loose confines of this universe. Legion has always had a subjective worldview shaped by David Haller’s perspective, and in a show about warring psychic entities, that subjectivity is very easy to influence.
In typical Legion fashion, “Chapter 13” begins with disorientation as Clark enters Lenny’s cell. The first shot is a bird’s-eye view of a city shown through windows, and the camera pans up to reveal a door, two hanging lamps, and writing on the wall warning people to keep their hands in plain view and avoid physical contact. The door opens, but Clark walks in upside down, and the camera slowly turns to reveal that the floor is actually the ceiling, which makes the physics of the room even stranger because of the skyline view. This camera motion coincides with a P.A. announcement that “any shift in reality may signal an attack,” establishing a sense of dread that adds a sinister quality to the visual storytelling.
Lenny has three big conversations with members of Division 3, starting with Clark. This is the calmest one, and Lenny spends most of her time trying to paint herself as a victim by giving Clark her traumatic family history. She tells him about the alcoholic grandmother who was her namesake, her parents’ divorce after her mother’s uterus prolapsed during childbirth, and her father’s obsession with preteen online porn. I believe that Lenny probably had an awful childhood, but here, Aubrey Plaza is never totally convincing in her delivery. The fundamental shiftiness of her performance makes it hard to believe that Lenny’s words are true, or that she isn’t sharing this information to serve some damaging hidden agenda.
Ptonomy is the next person to pick at Lenny’s brain, and he starts his session by musing on the nature of time and how the present doesn’t exist. It takes a fraction of a second for neurons to pass through the brain, so perception of the present is actually the past. Given the nature of Ptonomy’s mutant powers, it makes sense that he would be so fixated on the relationship between the past and the present, but his thoughts also tie into the jumbled chronology of this episode: At first, it seems like Farouk and Oliver’s scenes are happening while Lenny is in Division 3 custody, but as the episode continues, it becomes clear that their plot is recounting the moments leading up to Lenny’s resurrection.
Ptonomy can’t access any of Lenny’s memories, and when he tries, his powers fritz and he’s sent into a nightmare where the tar-covered chicken skeleton is in charge. The chicken’s face is behind Admiral Fukuyama’s glowing basket head, and it’s a very weird moment that can be read any number of ways. Maybe it’s a warning that the Admiral is a malevolent force who cannot be trusted. Maybe it’s a psychic suggestion to make Ptonomy think that the Admiral is a bad guy, triggering a destructive future action. Maybe the Admiral really is a creepy chicken-man with a basket on his head. This is Legion. It could happen!
Unlike last week’s episode, “Chapter 13” doesn’t want to put viewers directly inside Lenny’s experience. It holds us at the distance because doing so intensifies the mystery, and Plaza keeps the audience from ever having a firm handle on Lenny’s character. It oftens feels like Lenny herself doesn’t know who she is, and her identity is further complicated by the identity of the person whose body she stole: David’s sister, Amy. Lenny asks to talk to David for most of the episode, and the dread is strongest during their conversation. The lights are off in Lenny’s cell, and the darkness reflects a shift in the narrative as David starts to pick up psychic residue from his sister’s body. Lenny is a bomb sent by the Shadow King to show just how far he’s willing to go to torment David, but given the clues from earlier in the season, this could be a play that pushes David too far and triggers the destroyer inside him. It’s certainly a nudge in that direction.
Though Amy was absent for the first half of the season, she makes her return to meet her tragic end so Lenny can live. She and her husband Ben (now played by Ryan Caldwell) live in a dusty shack in the desert under constant watch by armed guards. We don’t know what the specifics of Amy’s new life are — I would assume that she’s in some Division 3 variation of the Witness Protection Program to keep her safe from the Shadow King — but it all looks pretty miserable. She’s isolated from the world in a dingy brown home, living under a windmill that fills the silence between her and her husband with the constant whoosh of its blades.
Ben is the person to actually mention dread in the episode, and when he does, the windmill blades stop spinning and a breeze comes in through the windows. The Shadow King has launched his assault, and none of them will survive. Ben is turned into a pile of ash when he checks to see where the guards disappeared to, and Oliver materializes in the kitchen, washing his hands before he begins a lethal procedure. A device stolen from Division 3 can transform Amy’s body and replace her consciousness with Lenny, and David feels all the pain his sister endures when Lenny’s memories are finally revealed.
It’s a vicious sequence, and it marks a major turning point for Oliver as he fully gives in to his master and lets darkness overtake his soul. Oliver has become a vengeful void during his time as the Shadow King’s pawn, and the only thing he feels is the certainty that he will one day kill Farouk. When he’s asked if the morality of their mission bothers him, Oliver immediately sets off on a tangent about atoms, and if the atoms that make his car are the same atoms that have existed since the Big Bang, then the ideas of life and death are irrelevant.
Morality flies out the window with this mind-set, although there is one thin thread tethering Oliver to humanity: his wife, Melanie. He sees her face when Farouk talks about destroying the Homo sapiens to make way for Homo superior, but that thread keeps fraying the longer he spends away from her. Jemaine Clement’s characterization of Oliver is built on a foundation of ’70s-era cool, and that swinger energy contrasts with his spiritual emptiness. We’ve seen Oliver kill without remorse, but his stroll through Division 3 had a softness that is nowhere to be found in his actions this week. When he uses the device on Amy, he’s illuminated by chilling blue light, and the camera closes in on his emotionless eyes to accentuate his numbness.
It’s a big week for the Shadow King’s pawns, and in addition to a new body containing Lenny’s mind, her original body is also up and moving again. We last see the body being carried through the desert on the back of a black donkey, leaving even more questions for next week: Where is the donkey going? Does Farouk’s body matter? Why did they bring Lenny’s body back if her consciousness would end up in Amy? These questions will ultimately carry the dread into next week’s episode, and as the war between David and Shadow King escalates, expect more pieces to get taken off the board.