After its deeply confusing and, let’s be honest, frequently incoherent second season, FX’s bizarre superhero drama Legion saw its viewers throw their hands in the air and its ratings nosedive. However, the show still has a small cult audience, and the network was generous enough to grant it a third season to finish the story with whatever creator Noah Hawley might consider closure.
By design, Legion is a confounding TV series with a nearly impenetrable plot. I gave up recapping after the pilot episode because trying to describe what happens felt like a futile endeavor. I doubt that I’ll try much more this season either. What has kept me and other patient fans watching is the show’s phantasmagoric visual imagination and its supreme weirdness. Among its major characters are a trio of sexy female robots with mustaches and a guy who wears a wicker basket over his head, none of which has ever been explained. You just have to go with stuff like that while being dazzled by the elaborate and gonzo set-pieces.
Adding time travel to the narrative probably isn’t going to help with clarity at all, but that’s the direction Hawley has decided to take this season. We’re introduced to a new character, a young Asian girl (Lauren Tsai) who obsessively listens to an audiobook recording explaining the rules and philosophies of time travel. (Who recorded this, anyway?) We eventually learn that she has the ability to manipulate time, either speeding it up to move faster or traveling through a backdoor corridor that allows her to move backwards – but she can’t go back too far or an unseen demon will attack her.
The girl notices clues left throughout her city with secret messages asking for the assistance of a time traveler. Following them leads her on a long journey crawling through invisible tubes until she’s deposited at a hippie ashram, where she’s given the nickname Switch and meets the “Breakfast Queen,” Lennie (Aubrey Plaza), who fully admits that the place is a cult. Lennie introduces her to “The Magic Man,” David (Dan Stevens). The last we saw him at the end of Season 2, David may have, sort-of, turned evil. At the very least, his former friends were convinced that he would destroy the world. Now he seems to be the flower-power guru of a free love commune.
Switch doesn’t seem like the type of person who’d get recruited into a cult, but she’s fascinated by David. Just as they start to have a conversation about why he needs a time traveler, the compound is raided by heavily-armed soldiers. Among them is Kerry (Amber Midthunder), who slices off one of David’s arms with a samurai sword, after which he’s shot dead by his former girlfriend, Syd (Rachel Keller).
Switch slips into the time corridor and goes back one hour. She warns David about what’s about to happen. This time, he uses his own powers to splatter most of the threats into a fine mist, including Kerry. Syd kills him again, though.
Switch then goes back two hours. In the process, she’s briefly trapped in the Astral Plane by Farouk (Navid Negahban), who’s very intrigued by her. For some reason, Switch thinks he’s a robot. After she escapes from him, the third raid on the compound is foiled when the entire building suddenly vanishes before the soldiers enter, leaving only a giant empty pit behind. Switch got to David in time.
If you’re still with the show, the third season premiere of Legion serves up plenty of its signature mind-bending insanity. The episode even finds time for a musical number in the middle. Switch is a pretty interesting character, and the plot makes a reasonable amount of sense. On the other hand, if you gave up on the show already, I don’t think it would be a good idea to try to jump back in here. Nor would anything in the episode likely change your opinion.
Of trivial interest, I noticed that the episode was directed by Pixar vet Andrew Stanton, who seems to have recovered in recent years from the John Carter fiasco.
Season 3 is confirmed to be the show’s last. From my understanding, the series will make its X-Men connection more explicit by introducing a Charles Xavier character. Hopefully, Hawley will find a way to wrap up the narrative in some sort of satisfying fashion without compromising his own very idiosyncratic vision for the material.