The pairing of sound and vision is something of a fixation of mine. There are certain combinations of song and scene about which I could wax lyrical for days: the ‘Wise Up’ montage in Magnolia, Luke Wilson’s breakdown to Elliot Smith in The Royal Tennenbaums, or the funeral in I’m Not There, soundtracked by Jim James and Calexico covering ‘Going To Acapulco’. What all of these scenes have in common is grief and heartbreak, often interchangeable in song, amplified to something transcendentally sad and beautiful by the perfect choice of music.
You can go ahead and add the opening montage of Legion’s devastating ‘Chapter 12’ to that list. When we left David, he had just dived into the icy blizzard of Syd’s mind maze. We pick up immediately from there, Syd huddled in an igloo before crawling towards the light and then right into the moment of her birth, as a screaming infant laid onto her adoring mother’s chest. We cycle through her childhood and adolescence from there – her mother sleeping with a pillow between her and Syd, trying to get close without touching, Syd trying on party guests’ coats and hats, ‘becoming’ them for a moment –all set to the aching, glitching falsetto of Bon Iver’s ’22 (Over S∞∞n)’. It’s such a tender, fragile song on its own but, coupled with what David initially sees as a bittersweet childhood of love juxtaposed with necessary distance, it becomes almost unbearably sad. Legion has always been on point with its music choices, but this one is just incredible.
The effect is quickly shattered when we segue into an angry adolescence, The National’s ‘Turtleneck’ clobbering the sparse near-silence with its mammoth riffs. Syd throws off the shackles of distance and moshes, only to wake up in restraints. David thinks he understands Syd’s mind maze, that it represents a need for closeness without touch, but Syd dismisses this and tells him to go back and watch the whole story again.
And so we go through the story again and again, each time seeing new details, each time David misunderstanding the meaning. We see Syd bullied and sexually harassed and then using her powers to take revenge on both in one callous swoop. We see her enter her mother’s body and have sex with her mother’s boyfriend in the shower, resulting in almost unbearable catastrophe. In all, it’s a study of the awful things teenagers do while their moral compasses are only developing, amplified here by Syd’s powers.
David initially thinks Syd is testing him, showing him the awful things she’s done because she doesn’t think she deserves love, but he eventually gets it: she wants to show him how she’s strong because of these things. Syd tells David that love makes us soft, trials and tribulations make us strong. She showed him all of this because she needs him to be strong in order to survive what’s coming. I’m not entirely sure I agree with Syd’s methods or logic, but it shows her unquestionable toughness. The question is, does David have the kind of strength she’s asking of him? I have my doubts.
Questions, questions, questions
- Mainly, how great it is to see the always brilliant Lily Rabe as Syd’s mother. She gets very few lines, but conveys so much in the way she looks at Syd. Her reaction in discovering her boyfriend in the shower with Syd is utterly shattering. That’s not really a question, is it? That was though!
- Lenny’s back! And it seems like it might actually be the real Lenny this time. Or is it?