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TV Review: Legion (Season 2, Episode 4)

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Syd Barrett isn’t just another brick in Legion’s warped wall.

Much like last week, Chapter 12 of Legion is limited in the trippy and psychedelic visuals the show has become widely recognised and praised for, but, where the episode lacks in the hypnotic experience, it absolutely makes up for with some unexpected character development.

sydlegion

Continuing on from the previous storyline within the maze, this week rather then focusing on David, we get to delve into Syd’s tormented childhood and backstory.

The opening sequence finds Syd alone in an illuminated igloo/cave type structure, which we learn is representative of her mothers birth canal. Descriptive imagery, I know. Hearing hushed but panicked voices, Syd crawls out of the...well, is birthed, and we are presented with a flashback to the day she was born.

The majority of the entire episode's duration then offers us a detailed look into a number of Syd’s childhood memories, featuring a particular emotive scene where her mother (Lily Rabe) gently tries to console her, only to be met with Syd becoming hysteric upon feeling her own mother's loving touch, due to her distressing powers.

We also find that David is watching and observing all of these memories, interacting with the different versions and ages of Syd, trying to find the hidden meaning of why he is being shown these specific flashbacks. In doing so, he witnesses more of Syd’s past and learns new and painful details about her experiences growing up with her powers, and how she was mistreated by many people surrounding her.

He sees the detachment and dissociation Syd faces in the world around her, the broken relationship with her mother, getting bullied at school, her heart-rendering attempts to try and fit in, and just about every experience that has made her the capable, courageous, and compelling character she is today.

David realises by the end of the episode that he was being shown these memories, not to reassure Syd that he will love her regardless of her past, but because Syd actually wanted David to understand that the damages and experiences you face in your life make you strong, not weak.

Syd then explains that their love is something that should, and does, keep them fighting, telling him: “Love isn’t gonna save us. It’s what we have to save. Pain makes us strong enough to do it. All our scars, our anger, our despair — it’s armor.”

Accompanied by a fitting soundtrack, featuring songs such as Bon Iver’s “22”, Tame Impala’s “It Is Not Meant to Be”, and a haunting cover of Cream’s “White Room”, the level of emotion this episode emits brings a whole new tone and responsive feel to the show.

When David and Syd wake up from the hallucinations, everyone who was infected by the virus is now awake and Division Three is in absolute chaos. The episode ends with David and Syd running through the division, only to run into armed security escorting a handcuffed Lenny through the corridor, who smiles manically before exclaiming ‘I’m back!’ to the both of them.

Syd is without a doubt one of Legion’s most intriguing and compassionate characters, not only due to a consistently immersive and captivating performance by Rachel Keller, but also because of the characters authentic and tender relationship with David. An insight into Syd's story was long overdue, but absolutely worth the wait. Keller’s portrayal of Syd shines throughout this episode, and is definitely one of the highlighted performances of this whole season so far.

The dramatic shift in this chapter's tone was refreshing and surprising, demonstrating just how versatile and unpredictable Legion is. Amongst the usual mass of action that we have come to be familiar with, the exploration and development of a character - especially a particularly ambiguous one such as Syd - was a constructive and rewarding direction to take, not only because the character is so deserving of the exploration, but also because it gives us, the audience, further insight into already established dynamics and possible reasoning behind choices that the character may make.

If this revelation of an episode is anything to go by, there is no point trying to work out what next week has in store for us…

Legion airs on FOX UK at 9pm on Tuesdays. 

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