Few shows have announced themselves with such a sheer creative, inventive force as the first season of Legion. Forgetting altogether that the show is based on a comic book character, show creator Noah Hawley has elevated the level of storytelling, surrealism, psychological examination, and artistic representation for all of television in just 8 hour-long episodes. Even with all this glowing praise, we might still be underselling the series.
The show never seemed to drag in its eight episodes. While the entire season was comprised of a series of moments often more shocking or revelatory or intriguing than the last, some moments have really stuck with us. These are the moments that will continue to fuel our imaginations, continue to keep us up at night in fear, or continue to keep us hooked on the show until it returns for an already-confirmed second season. Be forewarned that many spoilers lie ahead if you aren’t all caught up. These are the 15 Best Moments From Legion Season 1.
15. Lenny Cuts A Rug
Legion has been unafraid to have some pretty out-there moments that stand out even among all the other stand-out moments (and there are plenty). While some of these stylistic breaks stick out like a sore thumb and maybe even take us a bit out of the world of the show, they are an interesting method of telling us something about a character or a situation in a unique way avoids loads of expositional dialogue.
One of those moments comes in “Chapter 6”, when Lenny Busker takes a moment from tormenting all the mutants she’s trapped to go into a full-on destructive dance number. As part of David’s head, or an invader inside of it, Lenny (played by Aubrey Plaza) dances her way through the moments and places in David’s memory. The dance number is equal parts sultry and distressing, as Lenny gets awfully destructive in the process.
The number, which was improvised by Plaza, is set to a remixed version of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good”. It implies that Lenny or whatever Lenny really is (see below) is in control, while also proving to the viewer that the institution setting all the characters have been injected into is definitely not reality.
14. Syd to the Rescue
The season opener is told mostly through flashbacks as David is being interrogated about the events that happened at Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital. David presumes that the men that are grilling him are the police or some other government organization, and is doing his best to keep his cool (but it turns out his best isn’t very good). As time goes on, the interrogator, Clark, becomes more and more frustrated and frantic when it comes to getting answers from David. We soon find out that David’s predicament isn’t all it seems– and the man who’s questioning him appears to be a part of a shadowy military or paramilitary organization with vast resources (we later find they’re called Division 3). The interrogation room turns out to be just a facade built into the empty swimming pool of what appears to be an old high school.
After David goes off psychically on his would-be captors, all pretenses are dropped. David awakens to find he is strapped to a chair in the now-filled swimming pool. The pool is rigged to give David an electric shock should he not tell the interrogators what they want to know. It is then that Syd comes charging back, mutant friends in tow. What transpires is a fire fight of mutant powers versus machine guns, and it is glorious. This was as good an introduction to the existence of other mutants as we could have asked for.
13. The Ice Cube
“Chapter 4” went off the rails (even for what’s typical of Legion) when we were introduced to the displaced Oliver Bird to start the episode. Husband to mutant faction leader Melanie Bird, it is eventually revealed that Oliver is being kept in a diving bell in a frozen sub-basement of the facility he helped to co-found to foster and train mutants. The reason for his being frozen and unresponsive is that his powerful mutant abilities led him to extended trips into the astral plane, where his power knew no limits. Trapped there, he comes across a seemingly comatose David Haller.
Oliver beckons David to follow him, and they wind up in Oliver’s home– a space-age bachelor pad inside a giant ice cube floating in the middle of nothing in the astral plane. While there, Oliver reveals that his time spent in isolation has had an effect on his memory and his ability to have coherent conversations– but not his ability to be a swanky and swinging hep cat. While Oliver’s later appearances are all interesting and fun, nothing quite beats Oliver’s initial attempt at connecting with another astral traveler.
12. Kerry Kicks Butt
One of the more bizarre mutants we’ve seen anywhere, comics or movies or TV, is the duo of Kerry and Cary. The idea that these two, one a Native American girl (Kerry), and the other a gawky white man (Cary), could be two separate people that often inhabit one body… well, it’s an interesting manifestation of all sorts of issues and thoughts and philosophies the likes of which we’re not about to dive into. Initially not knowing what was going on, and seeing Cary talking to “himself” only to later find out the truth, was supremely satisfying.
More satisfying, though, was when we finally got to see Kerry cut loose on the Division 3 soldiers. While she seemingly doesn’t have any mutant abilities apart from her bond with Cary, she is a seriously accomplished and violent fighter. Her fight scene against multiple armed soldiers is the best fight we’ve seen so far in the show, and cutting back to Cary pantomiming those same moves (showing how closely they are connected even when apart) made things even neater. When the tide turned and Kerry took a beating, seeing Cary’s agony only deepened the impact.
11. “I’m Going To Get My Body Back”
Imprisoned in his own mind by the parasitic mutant Shadow King, David visualized his predicament as him being enclosed in a claustrophobic coffin. After a time, another David appears in the blackness and introduces himself as David’s rational self (and how great is it that the rational self has a British accent because he’s the rational self… and that it takes advantage of the fact that actor Dan Stevens is in fact English). It is explained to David that his own psychic powers kicked in to save himself, and manifested as the Rational David– implying there is still a psychological break between David and the rest of his mind.
After realizing that the coffin was just a manifestation of David’s mind, the Davids are transported to a classroom with large chalkboards. It is there that David works out his own story and why things are the way they are (and heavily implies that he is the child of Charles Xavier in the process, which would bring things in line with the comics).
The chalk drawings that David makes to process the information animate themselves in fascinating ways and help to illustrate, quite literally, some much needed exposition. Things build up to an a-ha moment and David resolves to get his body back, and it is epic.
10. Lenny Tries To Sell An Oven
Drug addicts do strange things, especially when they are looking to score. So when Lenny Busker pushes an oven and range down city streets in order to pawn it off on their dealer in exchange for the strange drug Lenny and David take, it is odd but not extremely outlandish. The dealer, who seems to have a mini king’s court under an overpass, seems unconvinced about the prospect of taking a large appliance as payment.
This moment in the show is really interesting in that it creates a surreal moment out of something plausible. While most of the show deals with psychic powers and secret prisons, this scene deals with the monster of addiction. Everything about this feels odd and off-kilter, darkly funny and mind-bending, still rooted in remote plausibility. It highlights some of the more earthbound struggles in David’s life, stemming from the sickness he inherited from the Shadow King. Plus, Lenny is just a very convincing salesperson.
9. David And Syd Make It
Both David Haller and Syd Barrett are likable, tragic figures in the show. They both exude a charisma that cuts through their other issues and flaws, and that is what really makes the show work. Despite being mutants with horrific pasts or powers, they are still people with the same yearnings we all have. It is especially sad, then, that the two of them fell in love despite Syd’s inability to have physical contact with others.
As David began working on his powers, free from the confines of Clockworks, he started to realize the full scope of his abilities. It was especially touching that he was able to figure out how he and Syd could be together physically…. er, mentally. It is obvious that the two of them care for each other, and David was sweet enough to come up with a romantic getaway for the couple (even if things were unsettlingly all in white).
8. David’s Wrath
Frustrated by the seeming lack of urgency that Melanie Bird and the rest of the mutants at Summerland showed for his sister’s capture at the hands of Division 3, David resolves himself to lead a rescue mission ahead of the Summerland timeline. Syd volunteers to go with him at first light, but David sneaks off on his own. Discovering that David went off to take on Division 3 solo, Melanie rounds up a few mutants to go to his aid.
When they arrive on the scene, they find a demented field of battle; soldiers and bits of soldiers strewn about and stuck into the ground in gruesome ways. David cleared out the whole facility single-handed, and Melanie’s team goes off in search of David and his sister, Amy.
Melanie and Rudy (the mutant telekinetic who can toss cars with a flick of his wrist) come across security cameras. Watching the footage, they see David prancing around and killing everyone with no effort and great enjoyment. While this is disturbing, things become even more worrisome when the footage switches to some sort of infrared filter, and they are able to see the lumpy and demonic Shadow King in David’s place. This is the first time someone other than Syd has seen him, and the first time he is seen outside of David’s head– proving that something sinister is afoot.
7. Seeing Clearly
David’s battle with the Shadow King came to an interesting fork in the road when Cary discovered the Shadow King’s distinct brainwaves in David. Suppressed temporarily by a neutralizing headband, David was able to keep the parasite at bay just long enough to allow Cary and Oliver to rig him up and try to purify David’s mind once and for all. We are first treated to seeing David inside of his own memories; viewing them like a television. As with so many other moments in the show, the sequence makes tremendous use of a song in Pink Floyd’s “Breathe”. We see several moments from the earlier episodes of the show, including the montage of David’s childhood, with the Shadow King both being inserted and removed from the sequences.
The Shadow King and David then face off within David’s mind. It appears at first that the Shadow King is as powerful as ever, but David very quickly regains the upper hand. He waxes poetic about what the Shadow King’s presence inside David means for David’s personhood in a philosophical and metaphysical sense. David’s thoughts are cut short by the Shadow King making a determined lunge at David, and we’re treated to some very awesome visuals of the Shadow King’s still-remarkable strength.
6. Swapping With The Eye
Villainous mutant The Eye (the Tom Waits-lookalike who’s working for Division 3) has set a trap for Syd and Ptonomy at the lighthouse home of David’s former therapist. All seems lost and The Eye is about to incapacitate Syd when she quickly removes her glove and unleashes her own mutant power on The Eye– making physical contact with him and swapping bodies for a time. Before The Eye can clue in the rest of his soldiers while in Syd’s body, Syd knocks him out. In The Eye’s body, she works on transporting her captured friends in a van so as to maintain cover.
It is then that David (previously unconscious and traveling the astral plane) comes across the van. Using his powers, David flips the van with the intention of rescuing his girlfriend and his compatriots. A struggle ensues and David is unaware that Syd is in The Eye’s body, allowing The Eye to make an escape. The whole sequence is fraught with a tension that Legion has become so adept at ratcheting up. And it is yet another instance in a show full of them that proves that no character (and often not even the viewer) can trust their senses.
5. Leap Frogging
A mutant doesn’t live as long as Amahl Farouk, aka the Shadow King, without being resilient. Despite not having a body (he did at one point in the comic, but we can’t be sure how the show will treat this), the Shadow King is constantly referred to as a very old mutant– and is at least old enough to have fought with David’s father. So while it appeared as though David had Farouk on the ropes, psychically-speaking, during the brainwave purge by Cary and Oliver, it was simply a case of the Devil With Yellow Eyes being down, but not out.
He planted the seeds of his escape by psychically contacting Syd. We can never be sure whether David would have overcome what seemed to be the Shadow King’s last attempt to stay in his head, because Syd allowed the Shadow King to jump to her by kissing David. From there, with a devious smile, the Shadow King made his way to Kerry by using Syd’s transference powers. It seemed for a moment that the Shadow King was destined to find a home in Clark (which would have been underwhelming because of his lack of powers, but intriguing because of his government backing).
4. The Clockworks Incident
The first time we see Syd switch bodies onscreen is one of the greatest moments in the whole show (and it takes place in the first episode, letting us know just how twisted the show will be). David and Syd have fallen for one another, and as Syd is being released David makes a grand gesture and runs over to kiss Syd. David, of course, has no idea that Syd is a mutant and cannot make physical contact with another person without switching places with them (he likely assumes that she shies from contact due to a mental issue that she’s being treated for at the psychiatric hospital).
When Syd can’t control David’s power, she throws the entire hospital into chaos– sealing up rooms by eliminating doors and the like. David winds up trapped inside of his own hospital room. Lenny, however, winds up trapped inside one of the walls, seemingly killing her. It is a gruesome way to add intrigue in the first episode and make it a real shock when Lenny pops up again to talk to David.
3. The World’s Angriest Boy In The World
When David is taken in by the Summerland group, Dr. Melanie Bird attempts to convince David that he is not mentally ill– rather his schizophrenia is a misunderstanding of is psychic powers. In order to get David more control of his own mind and mutant abilities, Melanie uses the mutant Ptonomy for “memory work” sessions. The idea is that Ptonomy allows people to revisit their memories in full detail, and from there they will be able to re-contextualize moments from David’s past in the light of David being an ultra-powerful mutant.
Melanie, Ptonomy, and David find themselves in David’s childhood bedroom. David’s father, face shrouded in shadow, is reading a children’s book to young David called The World’s Angriest Boy in the World. Alas, something is wrong with the book, and the story is morbid, gory, and terrifying. The titular boy winds up removing his mother’s head with an ax, terrifying little David. It is then that we see the World’s Angriest Boy himself.
The Boy (who is likely a manifestation of the Shadow King or a fractured part of David’s mind) has an outsized papier-mache head atop his schoolboy outfit. The resultant character is haunting, horrifying, and just as scary as any monster from any horror movie. The initial scene is unsettling beyond words, but the Angriest Boy’s recurring appearances in the show take things to a whole other level of creepy.
2. The Equinox Or…?
So we seem to have season 2 all set up. The Shadow King, as expected, jumps from David to someone else. The kicker is that the Shadow King has jumped to Oliver, of all people– who beats a hasty getaway in his stylish leisure suit. We have our bad guy (as Oliver is no slouch in the mutant powers department) and we have our shifted paradigm, now that David has seemed to convince Division 3 to work with Summerland to track him down.
Of cours, Legion has to throw a curve ball on an already-curving ball (to break the metaphor poorly). In the post-credits scene, David appears to be psychically tracking Oliver’s movements in a moment that perfectly sets the stage for the first chapter of the next season. It is then that David and Syd see the flying mechanical orb. They are amused by its cute appearance until it does a full scan of David and traps him inside. David screams for help as the orb flies off with him.
Now we’re faced with several questions. Is this the “Equinox” that Division 3 deployed remotely? If so, is it a case of miscommunication that Clark will clear up? If it’s not one of Division 3’s, whose is it? How long will David be stuck in a floating ball? Will this be the main conflict of the season 2 arc? We’ll be damned if we don’t tune in to find out.
1. The Bollywood Scene
By the time this moment had happened in the first episode, it was already very clear that this show was not typical by any stretch of the imagination. But perhaps the crowning achievement of “Chapter 1” was its incorporation of a musical number into a comic book TV show after David and Syd had become a couple at Clockworks.
A montage featuring their initial courtship and bonding was intercut with a Bollywood-style dance number featuring David and Syd as the leads. The choreography and backup dancers were all Bollywood, but the song it was set to was the fitting (yet incongruous for this type of dance number) “Pauvre Lola” by French pop icon Serge Gainsbourg.
This was a make-or-break moment for the show– either you could follow Noah Hawley and his madness for as long as he was willing to take you, or this could be the straw that broke the silliness camel’s back. Based on both critical ratings and viewership numbers, it’s safe to say that most people were along for the ride.
What were some of your favorite moments in Legion so far? Did you have a different takeaway than ours on some of these moments? Let us know in the comments!