This is a side episode. This episode moved the plot forward a centimeter. This episode is meant to tell us about a character with information that has been told to us throughout the course of the series. This is an episode that uses repetition of scenes repeatedly.
This might be one of my favorite episodes.
The creative use of all these factors leads to some of the most interesting techniques of story telling I’ve seen in this show. Basically, this episode is a Legion version of Groundhog Day, where David must learn something watching the memories of Syd while within her mind maze. Problem is, he must watch these memories reset if he doesn’t get it. So, we watch over and over again until David understands. Oh, and everyone in Division 3 has woken up now because the Monk is dead. That’s the plot.
What’s fascinating is while watching these memories, I tried to figure out the lesson as well. What could she be showing us in these memories? Why are these individual parts add up to?
We see scenes of intimacy, of any kind, and Syd’s longing for it. Several scenes of the exact opposite where she wants everyone to stay away! We see scene where she causes pain, pain is caused by her, and she pains herself. We see scenes of great empathy and absolute abhorrent monstrosity. We see her entire life many times, and we learn something new every time. David can’t quite figure out the lesson in her mind until the end, but the lesson itself is so wonderful when we get there.
Let’s talk through some of these memories. I particularly love the scenes with Syd and her mother, and the eventual degradation it goes though. It starts off at birth, and the moment a parent sees their child is always one of pure love. But somethings wrong with this child, in that every time the mother tries to touch her, she cries. But the mother adapts to this, little nice things like giving Syd gloves, putting a pillow between her as a barrier when they’re cuddling, these are truly special scenes. Eventually the relationship gets worse and worse as the years go on, until Syd does something to her that ruins multiple people’s life all at once. I’ll get to that later. But this relationship is filled with innocence, and love, and so much heart break.
I also love the scenes where Syd is just watching people, wondering what life would be like as the people she watches. What’s weird and ironic about that is that literally her mutant power, to switch places with people, and the fact that she can’t because it wouldn’t be appropriate is especially interesting to me. It doesn’t help to see many scenes where she’s being bullied, those are the scenes where I feel she most wants to be someone else.
We also see Syd’s rebellious teen phase. We see her cut herself, so she can feel the pain, as to feel something. Going to a party, and inadvertently mixing life forces with everyone is one thing, but using your body swap power to attack your bullies so you can give the blame to someone else is almost monstrous. It helps that the person taking the blame is a real shit head, but that doesn’t make it alright.
While body swapping for violent reasons is bad, what she does later is much worse. We were told about it in season one but seeing in action Syd switching body with her mom so she can sleep with her moms boyfriend is way more disturbing when you see it played out. It’s done with a teenagers curiousness, but it has dire consequences. Thankfully, it’s creatively done where we don’t exactly see anything bad, but its an implication that can’t help but be super problematic.
What does David have to learn about this? Is all she wants is to touch someone and not ruin everything? No, that allowed her to adapt. Is all she wanted to be is loved? No, that makes her soft. Is all she wanted to be accepted David? No, David gives her purpose. What she’s trying to show David is that all of what she’s endured has armored her for the fight ahead. Every bad thing that has happened to her to toughen her up so that she can be nigh invincible. There’s a wonderful line where Syd says, “Love isn’t going to save us, it’s what we have to save, and pain makes us strong enough to do it!” which is a wonderful line. At the end of the day, you do need to fight, and you need to fight for what you love. That was the thesis of this episode, and I loved every second of it.
I think that this episode just being a side story from the seasons plot is a great change of pace. It’s an experiment in back story, in a way that only Legion could pull off. Even if none of what we learned gets used to further the plot of future episodes, I’m so happy that we took this detour. Now… what’s with Lenny?