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Legion - Chapter 14 - Review: "The Road Not Taken"

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Legion 2.06 "Chapter 14" - Review:
Directed by John Cameron & Written by Noah Hawley

I'm a sucker for alternate reality episodes like Chapter 14, as Legion embraced the concept head on, tackling multiple diverging paths for David where he didn't take the same direction that he did in the series, as he explores his own alternate worlds where his sister Amy wasn't killed from the Shadow King, deciding what world would be best to live in. It's an emotional slow-burner, putting the different versions of David front and centre as we explore how different choices could shape the character's fate going forward in different realities.

The subtle references and nods to Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange have been ever present over the course of the series and its influence on Legion is very clear, so of course it was no surprise that the faceless, no-name thugs who attacked the homeless old-man David had an outline that resembled the gang of hooligans in that film. We saw this as the trigger to unlock his abilities in this reality, prompting a manhunt by Division 3 operatives. In this reality, it seems that at least Kerry sided with Division 3 - to what capacity is never explained, because of course, this is David's story - or stories - as she was the one who sliced him in half as he attempted to resist. For a second I half expected Syd to be the woman walking through the soldiers towards him, and although it was not to be, it didn't stop his death from having any less of an impact even if it was just one time we saw him die this episode.

Noah Hawley is one of the most gifted writers on television at the moment if Fargo and Legion are anything to go by and Chapter 14 is another example of his sheer brilliance, taking an ambitious approach. Whilst some fans may be frustrated by no forward leaps in the story, it was important to examine how David deals with his grief at the loss of a key and important figure in his life. The first episode solely written by Hawley this season was always going to be an important one, and Chapter 14 is a great way at testing the typical conventions of storytelling. Whilst the concept of alternate realities in television shows isn't exactly unique, Banshee, Star Trek and Person of Interest are just three shows among many that have dabbled in the concept before to varying degrees - hell, it's kind of Star Trek's thing by now - Legion raises the stakes by showing us multiple realities within one episode.

As well as the homeless old man David, we also met office assistant David, who starts as a nobody who's job is to hand out tea at board meetings where the companies involved are discussing a merger (a nod perhaps to the Fox/Disney merger?), where he's able to use his ability to read minds of the people in the meeting to slowly rise up the corporate ladder before he's one step away from becoming the richest man in the world, keeping the businessman who he used to work for around even though he's now richer than her. It's a terrifying reminder as to what David is truly capable of if he lets his more ruthless tendencies embrace him, displaying a cold attitude to Amy when she comes asking for a new home, making her nose bleed. It's Amy who's the consistent nature in these respective timelines, feeling ever present and playing a key role in David's life.

One of my favourite minor scenes in the episode was when we see a younger David on desk duty, where a mouse sings Bryan Ferry's Slave to Love as he begins to explore his powers. It's a unique moment that feels so typically Legion it's a wonder that we haven't had a mouse singing before now. It also once again serves as a reminder that the show knows how to use music really well, also making use of some fantastic covers of The Clique's Superman (also covered by R.E.M), and Ten Years After's I'd Love to Change the World, in ways that were really brilliantly used. In other lives, we see David living happily with a family in a pleasant suburban lifestyle, and one where he is cared for by Amy at an old age. There is another tragic moment where we see him encounter The Devil With Yellow Eyes at the worst possible time when trigger-happy police officers are driving by, and he finds himself arrested in front of Amy who's moments away from picking him up to take him home. Amy watches on as David is eventually gunned down after he uses his powers to try and influence the cops to shoot the Devil with Yellow Eyes, who is of course, no longer there.

All the while, we follow a crazy, deranged David discussing the multiverse theory and using some fries to illustrate his point. But ultimately, at the end of the day, David ends up accepting his loss and moving forward, deciding that the path that led him to Amy's death and him checking in at the Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital is the correct timeline to take. The clip-show style montage sped up to Superman thus capping off a truly wonderful episode.That said, I understand why this episode can be a divisive one and ultimately your tolerance of Chapter 14 will depend on how much you enjoy alternate reality episodes. If you're a big fan of them like myself then you'll like this one, but if you'd much rather Legion got in gear and started moving the plot forward quicker, then you may find yourself feeling frustrated. But Legion has never been the most plot-heavy show ever, so you should become used to this style by now.

Chapter 14 is a showcase for the range and acting talents of Dan Stevens, who puts in an incredible performance portraying these different characters and versions of himself. It made a good choice in limiting ourselves to glimpses of other characters, for example, we only briefly see Syd and Kerry's only appearance is to kill David. Time will tell whether this is a simple bottle episode or whether we'll find out crucial details in this hour have an important part to play further down the line, but for now, Chapter 14 makes a very good case for being one of the best episodes of 2018 so far.

What did you think of Chapter 14? Let me know in the comments section below and be sure to stay tuned for next week's episode, Chapter 15 airing next Tuesday on FX.

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