Legion S2– Episode 6: “Chapter 14”

Starring: Dan Stevens, Katie Aselton, Holly Hagan, and David Negahban
Written by: Noah Hawley
Directed by: John Cameron

TW: This episode deals with themes of suicide and clinical depression. I will discuss said themes in the review below.

”Why can’t you have what everyone else has?” “Because I am sick.”

Legion takes us through a multiverse of mourning in the devastatingly beautiful “Chapter 14”. Solely written by series creator Noah Hawley (his first sole credit this season) and directed by Fargo alum John Cameron, “Chapter 14” shows us exactly how an Alpha Level mutant grieves the loss of his only real family, and the result is a haunting, engaging, and profoundly sad hour of television.

Rocked by last episode’s revelation that his sister, Amy, is dead (or at least trapped somewhere in the mind of New Lenny), David projects himself into a number of different realities where his sister is still alive. At the cost of his sanity, well being, and sometimes life. I completely understand the complaint that Legion hasn’t exactly made a lot of headway when it comes to this season’s plot. “Chapter 14” is another powerful and theatrical character study that cuts to the heart of David Haller. The kind of stories one can tell with mutantkind.

When this episode opens, we are automatically off balance. Gone is Division 3 and most of the core cast. Our first image of the episode is David years older than we last saw him, dressed in ratty clothes, with even rattier hair and a beard, living on the street. We then cut to another David, older still, presiding over a palatial mansion. Then another, covered in sores and with rotting teeth, suggesting heavy drug use. Then yet another, dazily staring out from his sister’s car and on his way to a dead-end job at a grocery store. And then, a final David, as bald as his powerful father and in heavy old-age makeup, being cared for by his equally older sister.

Heavy shit, right? It just gets heavier as each David, though he has his sister in one way or another, is constantly subjected to either violence or deep dark depression due to his powers. Up to and including some callbacks to S1 and his attempt at suicide which landed him in Clockworks, to begin with. Writer Noah Hawley, who has kind of made a name for himself dealing head-on with alienation and depression. Both in his prose and his astoundingly good adaptation of Fargo, really goes full bore with it in “Chapter 14” and it very much pays off.

As someone who is also dealing with ongoing clinical depression, I found myself deeply moved and affected by this episode. Especially in regards to the David who works at the grocery store. This David is suggested to be one who, after his first incident with his powers and a stint in an institution, moved in with Amy and then was promptly put on heavy doses of medication and put on a strict routine. This David is childlike and almost completely disconnected from the world around him. He is agitated by his sister’s caretaking. “I’m not six.” he sullenly says at one point. But, at the same time, he is controlled and given stability by the drugs and routine. Even though they fog his thoughts and make him almost a shell of what he once was. So much so that the only thing he can control is stacking the boxes at work so that the colors on the outside match. 

Let me tell you, dear readers, I know exactly what the fuck that feels like. I have a sneaking suspicion a lot of you do too. Though depression isn’t exactly a groundbreaking theme to explore in a TV show. It is refreshing to see it dealt with not only clear eyes but with empathy and compassion for the victim and the caretaker.

And speaking of caretaker, Katie Aselton’s Amy really and truly shines throughout this episode. Though I am still very frustrated at her fate in the main plot and hold out hope for some kind of 11th-hour resurrection. Aselton’s empathy and motherly energy is a welcome balm to the sadness, and sometimes violent turns David’s mourning takes throughout this episode. Without her, I fear this episode would have been little more than a morose walkabout through David’s realities. So if this is to be her final episode, I am so, so glad this was the one she went out on.

Verdict: Watch It

Given a deep well of strength by powerful performances from Dan Stevens and Katie Aselton, more dreamy cinematic style (including one almost shot-for-shot Clockwork Orange homage), and probably the best use of a Bryan Ferry song in a television show, “Chapter 14” is another emotional triumph for Legion S2. Hopefully next week we can get back to the main plot against the Shadow King. If these divergents from said plot continue to be as strong as “Chapter 14” and the jaunt through Syd’s memories. I am more than happy to keep taking the road less traveled.

Until next time, please take care of yourselves because you are worth it, and I’ll be seeing you.

Justin Partridge
A writer, a dandy, a Friend of Tom, and a street walkin' cheetah with a heart fulla napalm. He has loved comics all his life but he hasn't quite got them to love him back just yet. That hasn't stopped him writing about them or about any other media that hoves into his sights. He can usually be reached via the hellscape that is Twitter @J_PartridgeIII or by e-mail at justin@betweenthepanels.com.

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