Legion – Chapter 4

FX’s Legion
Chapter 4
Directed by Larysa Kondracki
Written by Nathaniel Halpern

* For a recap & review of Chapter 3, click here.
* For a recap & review of Chapter 5, click here.
pic-1We open on Jemaine Clement playing Oliver Bird, husband of Dr. Melanie Bird (Jean Smart). He paraphrases Friedrich Nietzsche’s quote: “Under peaceful conditions, the warlike man attacks himself.” He speaks about the fear of the unknown, and violence as ignorance. Everything around him’s cold. Very, very cold. Then he mentions empathy v. fear in telling stories to children. Ought to remind us of David Haller (Dan Stevens) being told the story of that angry boy.
Back to present events. Syd Barrett (Rachel Keller), Ptonomy Wallace (Jeremie Harris), Dr. Bird, they’ve been sucked into the world of David, the one trapped in his head. There’s no telling if anything is real, at any point in time. At Summerland, Cary Loudermilk (Bill Irwin) tells them there’s no medical explanation for why David’s in a coma-like state now. Neither he nor Ptonomy can figure it out. He’s stuck between dreams and reality, somewhere. They’ve got to discover what happened to David before he wound up at Clockworks Hospital, what damaged him so bad.
pic-2Off they go, searching for answers. They go to the places where his memories took them. First, the office of Dr. Poole (Scott Lawrence). Ptonomy and Syd discuss what happened in David’s memories, the abnormal “tear” in the physical space where they experienced those moments. They find a recording device from the doctor’s sessions, beaten, bloody hand prints on it – using their powers, it comes back to life and tells them of a possibly brutal, violent crime. Poole was beaten horribly with savage force. But, did David actually do that? Or was it the dark entity, The Devil with the Yellow Eyes? Did he break into Poole’s office originally to steal things for drugs? Was it something else? We’ll see.
What did the stars say?”
Poor Amy Haller (Katie Aselton) is still being held captive, too. She’s not faring well, psychologically. Although she discovers there’s someone else nearby locked in a cell just like her: David’s former doctor at Clockworks. She laments not realising sooner there was something different about her brother, since he was young he moved from “room to room” and even further at times. He talked to people frequently, such as their dog King. Only they never had one.
Everyone around the man’s been affected. Amy is in a cell, alongside the doc. Meanwhile, Syd, Ptonomy, and Kerry Loudermilk (Amber Midthunder) are searching for the clues that will lead them to the answers. We get the story about the Loudermilks, or, well… the one Loudermilk. They share a body, Cary and Kerry. Two people in a single body, though the experience for each of them isn’t entirely identical, Kerry exists in a sort of spirit state while Cary is the more corporeal form on a regular basis; she comes out to play when necessary.
In her office, Dr. Bird has a vision of a person in an old school-type diver’s suit. She tells Cary of the incident, hoping it’s a sign David may be coming back to the land of the living. The guy in the suit is Oliver. His physical body is kept frozen in a chamber downstairs.

pic-7David, in one of his mindfuck landscapes, meets Oliver. Not really, he just gets a wave from the diving suit-clad dead guy. To follow him elsewhere. So, they head into the great unknown together, as David follows him to a ladder. Up, up, up. This leads to that place where first we saw Oliver, talking to us. That freezing place. There, Oliver sits for a drink and a chat with his new friend. “Whats real in this space is whatever you want it to be, so, my feeling is: why not wait in style?” he quips to David.
Bad news – David’s lost. Good news? Oliver has himself a bit of company. And someone to bounce beat poetry off when the mood strikes. They get to talking about David and his powers, the monster waiting for him around every corner. Now he’s intent on getting out of that cold place. He plunges back into the “vast subconscious” in order to make his way back to real life. If possible. Oliver certainly doesn’t assuage any fears, warning him things get tricky out there, outside of that protected place.
Ptonomy and Syd go to visit David’s ex-girlfriend. To scan her memories. They need to find more of his past, from wherever it comes. Back through a few of them, Ptonomy watches a dinner with the formerly happy couple and Dr. Poole. Then he finds traces of another memory within it: they know where Poole lives. Ah, and more comes to light! Lenny (Aubrey Plaza) was actually a drug pusher named Benny. Plus, the ex tells Syd and Ptonomy ominously: “Tell him theyre watching.”
Oh, my. So many questions. Implanted memories, hidden secrets.
What is real?
pic-8They track down Dr. Poole at a lighthouse, who’s reluctant to speak about David. Soon he tells them about the good and bad sides of his former patient. He says he’d actually like to see David again. Because he needs answers, after having his entire life ruined. Afterwards, they find themselves trapped by The Eye (Mackenzie Gray). Nothing is real. Armed men lay siege to the lighthouse. The trio run upstairs, but Kerry’s ready to take the offensive to their attackers. A fight breaks loose, where Kerry fights (and Cary goes through the motions back at Summerland), and we also see The Eye in action for the first time, he has his own powers. Unfortunately, Kerry’s taken down. But Syd, she touches The Eye with her bare hands. You know what THAT means!
Note: This is one of the best sequences of the series so far in these first four episodes. So powerful, exciting. Gives us awesome insight into the Cary-Kerry dynamic, as well.
David’s brought into another headspace with/by Lenny. She has things to talk about with him. She chastises him for going with Dr. Bird, ending up in Coma Land. He only wants the truth, even if she’s intent on her own designs. She riles him up into an angry, terrifying state.
Lenny: “Uncle Fiddly with the glasses and the angry girl inside him, they could be fingering you right now.”
Then suddenly, David is in the woods. He runs a truck off the road containing Syd and the others; he doesn’t realise there’s been a switcheroo. This starts up an awkward chase, as David urges Syd – The Eye – to run. When they switch back, The Eye puts a bullet into Kerry, sending Cary back at Summerland into a bleeding tailspin. Not so sure anymore that Lenny’s there to help David, not at all. Seeing as how she appears on his shoulder, while her hand looks suspiciously like one belonging to the Devil with the Yellow Eyes.

Another fascinating Chapter in Legion! Wow. Every one gets better visually than the last. I don’t doubt we’ll see the momentum charge forward in Chapter 5. Lots of weird and wild action afoot.


Bullhead’s Deadly Construction of Masculinity is Wrapped Up in Greek Tragedy

Rundskop (English title: Bullhead). 2011. Directed & Written by Michaël R. Roskam.
Starring Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeroen Perceval, Jeanne Dandoy, Barbara Sarafian, Tibo Vandenborre, Frank Lammers, Sam Louwyck, Robin Valvekens, Baudoin Wolwertz, David Murgia, Erico Salamone, Philippe Grand’Henry, Kris Cuppens, Sofie Sente, & Kristof Renson. Waterland Film & TV/Savage Film/Eyeworks Film & TV Drama.
Rated R. 129 minutes.

Michaël R. Roskam is an interesting filmmaker. His talent lies in drawing out the intense human heart of his stories. Whether it be a tale of gangsters and farmers in the Flemish Region of Belgium, or the inner workings of the little cogs in Brooklyn’s mob. He’s able, as a writer-director, to find the interesting human elements of so many different characters and their various plots.
Bullhead is loosely based on the real life murder of government livestock inspector Karel Van Noppen who’d been investigating illegal farming practices in Belgium during 1995. But what Roskam does is weave his based on a true story crime plot in through a highly emotional story of a young man whose life was indirectly altered by his own father’s involvement in the so-called “Hormone Mafia”, to a paint of tragedy.
And that’s one of best parts about Bullhead; it plays like a modern Greek tragedy, which unfolds madly, intensely, even dream-like from one minute to the next. Until finally, you’re confronted with an unexpected ending that surprises, as well as weighs down your heart. Personally, this is my all-time favourite film. Featuring one impressive transformation and central performance by Matthias Schoenaerts, Roskam proves with his first feature film that he plans on telling real stories with real stakes, real characters, and most importantly raw, honest truths at the core.
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Obviously, Jacky directly parallels the bulls, the steroid injected cows. Only for Jacky it’s an absolute necessity. Because of his assault years ago and its results, he had to start injecting the drugs to get through puberty. In order to have a normal male life, or at least part of one, he had to take steroids. But later on Jacky tells Diederik (Jeroen Perceval) he’s always felt like the cows, those used for the meat, in that he hasn’t had the chance to protect anything – no wife, no children. This takes us back to a moment where Jacky watches his brother Stieve with his wife and child, their happiness is in stark contrast with the bleak tone of the film and the overall dreary emotional state of Jacky himself. And this is a large part of the film as a whole: fate and the return to past events.
Like any Greek tragedy, the past always comes back to haunt the present in many ways, shapes, and forms. Even from the very beginning the structure of a Greek tragedy is present and the past is readily apparent, as the prologue speaks specifically to the film’s themes re: memory, past and how it affects the present, so on. Here’s the quote from a narrator who sounds familiar but whose character I’m still not sure of (another instance of emulating the Greeks as perhaps having a Narrator outside of the main cast feels similar to the Chorus of their tragic plays): “Sometimes in a mans life stuff happens that makes everyone go quiet. So quiet that no one even dares talk about it. Not to anyone, not even to themselves. Not in their head and not out loud. Not a fucking word. ‘Cause everything has somehow got stuck. There, deep in the fields, under the trees and the leaves, year after year. Then, suddenly it all comes back. Just like that, from one day to the next. No matter how long ago it was, there will always be someone to bring it all back. Because no matter what you do or think, one thing is for sure. Youre always fucked. Now, tomorrow, next week or next year, until the end of time. Fucked.” Right from this first quote, Roskam calls to mind Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy where he writes that “[w]e are to recognize that all that comes into being must be ready for a sorrowful end; we are forced to look into the terrors of the individual existence” (Basic Writings of Nietzsche 104).
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Bullhead takes on a Euripidean tragic structure, which at times imitates themes from the classical author’s The Bacchae. Because of his effective castration via assault as a young boy, Jacky is unable to execute his desire, his lust for a woman. He can build himself up and he can have the muscles, the so-called manly look, but for all that energy there’s no release. He can’t do what nature has “intended“, as he says. Therefore, like The Bacchae we see the opposing nature of man; at once a civilized being, also one that is instinctive and longs for the sensual. This inability to get physically close with a woman, because of his injury, it permeates every last aspect of Jacky’s existence.
At a bar he sees two cute girls, admiring them, but soon their boyfriends arrive, kissing hello, and this drive Jacky outside, huffing, puffing as he does like an animal. This animal-like behaviour and way of carrying himself defines Jacky – we see this through his progress in how he responds to people physically. At the start, he pushes and pokes a man with whom his family/farm operation are having a disagreement. Later, like a bull, he charges at people: he headbutts a friend that makes an offhand comment about him having “no balls“, right afterwards Jacky tries intimidating Diederik by pushing his head at him, using it almost like a battering ram the way a bull would. When Jacky goes to see a grownup Bruno, the one that caused his castration, he likewise headbutts him in the face – not hard, but tense, solid, as if goading him into a challenge of masculinity. So at all times we see that animal physicality come out of Jacky.
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And what it all comes down to? In the world of constructed masculinity, the physical body makes a man a man. It is the sexual identity, the genitals which mark masculinity, as well as the overall power of a man. A doctor warns Jacky’s mother and father he will “never be a man” unless they start injecting him with hormones and steroids to spur on puberty, after the brutal loss of both testicles; an erection, ejaculation, these are the only things supposedly able to define him as masculine. So this moment also leaves an indelible mark on young Jacky, as he hears them talk, and registers that his manhood is judged by the presence of testicles. This basically robs Jacky completely of his manhood to hear this; his male identity is erased doubly, both physically and mentally. This is the ultimate danger of the screenplay, as Bullhead descends into savage tragedy in its final act. Those last moments are the effect of the cause in breeding a treacherous ground built on faded notions of masculinity. A man like Jacky, whose unfortunate clash with a violent young man left him forever damaged, is driven to a terrifying fate because of the anger inherent in his injury, the harshness of the construction of masculinity on his condition. And so that desire, the lust, it builds to a point where Jacky realizes, for many reasons, he will not get the girl for which he longs. From there the Dionysian element of this tragedy bursts forth, in the most explosive of ways, bringing Bullhead to the ultimate point of no return.
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This is a 5-star masterpiece. Michaël R. Roskam’s writing is both thrilling in terms of its crime and the noir-like tendencies, as well as it is profound on the level of Greek tragedy which I’ve suggested. Everything comes together and makes this perfection, from the wonderfully heavy cinematography to the score that makes this really feel theatrical in the best sort of dramatic ways. The entire production is flawless, to me. We’re led from one moment to the next because of a starmaking performance out of Schoenaerts. Not only did he pack on about 60 lbs naturally to beef up and make Jacky look like he’s actually on steroids, but the emotional resonance of the character is always evident; we watch Jacky lumber from one scene to the next with a swaggering gait, one that feels very similar to the steady, slow walk of the cattle he farms, and each last second Schoenaerts is onscreen his brilliance as an actor is riveting. If you aren’t a fan of subtitles, this is one film I urge you to buck the trend on. Because this is what cinema is all about. Roskam went on to do another solid movie, The Drop, and I hope more of this caliber will continue to emerge from his directorial/writing mind. He is a talent that ought not go without proper attention. This movie displays so many things. Yet at the forefront is the dangerous notion of masculinity, its outdated significance, and the effects it can draw out in the most vulnerable men.