It’s onerous, as a lady, to be wholly knowable. We’re our bodies of locked doorways, of spiraling caves, of lifeless ends. Not accidentally, however by apply. And generally, for the extra burdened of us, getting inside means enjoying a sport. In case you can’t crack the code, entry is barred. You possibly can get pleasure from our scraps, however the feast is canceled.
There may be the query, on the subject of media, if ladies characters function below these circumstances are merely flimsy cardboard renditions of the feminine expertise. Male creators undertaking, and have thusly created a whole trope of misbegotten, alien paper dolls: the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. These fictional ladies are spontaneous, sexually obtainable, mystically enlightened. They aren’t actual, however occupy some sanctimonious area of the male creativeness. Nonetheless, they persist.
For some time, it appeared like Legion‘s Syd Barrett (Rachel Keller) could be one in every of these fairy story ladies. She is gorgeous, distant, quirky, shelled. She loves our troubled protagonist (soon-to-be antagonist?) David Haller (Dan Stevens) for nearly no cause in any respect and with no substantial construct up. “He’s my man,” she says each time somebody questions her devotion. The one emotional hyperlink between the 2 is a shared historical past of mutant trauma: he’s a schizophrenic psychic with wild, uncontrollable energy, and she will be able to’t contact individuals with out switching our bodies with them. It’s a basic couple conundrum within the vein of Pushing Daisies, a narrative of lovers who can’t share bodily contact with out huge private value. However the assemble hasn’t served Syd nicely. She comes off passive and indifferent, and her love feels shallow. In season one, she functioned as a prize for David, some fairly factor he bought again after traipsing by way of the darkish tunnels of his psyche.
However there’s at all times been one thing fascinating about Syd, a buried story begging to come back out. And at last, with the superbly repetitive and incisive “Chapter 12,” we bought a deeper peek at her traumatic and lonely life earlier than David, beginning along with her literal delivery.
This kind of over-the-top visible scheme would possibly nag in different applications, however there’s something touching and intimate about the way it connects Syd each with David, the viewers, and her single mom (Lily Rabe). Syd emerges from another realm the place she lives in iglooed confinement, symbolic of the chilly and distant life she is about to endure. There isn’t any laborious rationalization for why she was born mutant, or when she first discovered; no cloying dialogues between mom and daughter, no insights from anybody round her. As an alternative, we see her loneliness in a Bon Iver-scored opening montage: slightly woman peering at her goldfish by way of a glass bowl, after which, a bit older, studying Rick Moody’s The Ring of Brightest Angels Round Heaven–a novella concerning the aching detachment of adolescence–with gloved fingers, admiring her mom throughout the room.
David is observing her this fashion, the historical past of her life, from a younger youngster to the girl he’s come to like. They focus on the character of those psychological loops in a particular museum room, the place an exhibit of Egon Schiele work function tantalizing clues into Syd’s interiority. Collectively they take a look at Schiele’s Self-Portrait.
David: “You want this portray?”
Syd: “You don’t?”
David: “Properly, it’s –”
Syd: “It’s what?”
David: “Properly, it’s trapped in that damaging area. No toes, no palms. Mouth coated. No option to talk or join. It’s –”
We don’t know precisely why we’re right here or what we’re , however that doesn’t matter. For the primary time arguably ever, Legion has made spectacular use of its chaotic visible storytelling. Right here, it capabilities not as obfuscation, however as a window into Syd’s inside anxieties. It’s the reverse of a Manic Pixie Dream Lady story. Right here, a lady is providing her darkest secrets and techniques, her deepest fears, within the hope that the person she desires to like– that claims she loves, with out actual conviction however as a result of she hopes it may very well be actual–would possibly puzzle her out, and would possibly love her each regardless of of and due to the darkish corners of her soul.
Narratively and visually, the episode is harking back to Michel Gondry‘s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And that’s not coincidental: Ellen Kuras, the cinematographer on that 2004 movie, directed “Chapter 12.” She infuses it with the identical kind of intimate function. Identical to Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet explored one another’s cavernous pasts and the entire ugly issues they hid throughout their relationship, “Chapter 12” is about publicity by means of characterization. Syd reveals David the early traumas of her undesirable powers: the schoolyard bullying, the lonely and distressing method she misplaced her virginity, her hospitalization for anti-social persona dysfunction, and the way she self-harmed with scissors.
By episode’s finish, David and Syd lastly crack the code collectively. They perceive what they imply to one another. That is now not the hole love story we’ve been compelled to endure. It’s two characters who’re lastly absolutely uncovered, who’ve challenged the character of their pairing and are prepared to maneuver ahead collectively. As Syd explains, “Love isn’t going to save lots of us. It’s what we’ve to save lots of.”
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