Sometimes moving forward means looking backward, understanding how to progress by figuring out how the present came to be. Chapter 2 is spent largely in the past, but make no mistake, this is progress. If Chapter 1 was dumping all of the puzzle pieces onto the table, then Chapter 2 is trying to put together the edges.
Summerland. This is camp, sort of. It is also therapy and fear of the dark – for good reason. But it also sometimes means finding a purpose, and hanging out with your not-girlfriend who you can’t kiss because then you’ll be in each others’ bodies but not like that.
David makes some friends here. Some of them want to help him with good intentions. Some want to trade a stove for drugs. Some are lurking, and not really friends.
The past is…complicated. There are some good memories there, but learning how to navigate them is a challenge. “Can I talk to them?” “It’s better if you don’t.”
David. David. David. As David finds his focus, and learns to shut out the voices, the show takes focus. There are sides now! A good side, and a bad side. And maybe an underside that we can’t quite see yet, but we know it’s there, and maybe we’re better off not seeing it for as long as we can.
Mostly, the narrative here is coherent. Melanie and Ptonomy travel with David, through his past, trying to figure things out. But Lenny is also there, too. Maybe Lenny is Philly? Or maybe Lenny is hitchhiking, having climbed out of the suitcase and into David’s mind. For all the exposition here, the chronology is disjointed, and the rules for the real world are still fluid, never mind those in David’s mind. Maybe that narrative is coherent, but it isn’t exactly linear.
I’m still trying to decide how I feel about Syd and David. On one hand, their relationship seems a little forced, but the two of them exploring their time as each other is a dynamic that isn’t part of most shows. And their interactions are a nice way to show David slowly grasping his potential. A little telepathy goes a long way. Plus, “We can hold hands. I want to.” gave me a real, actual laugh.
But progress is slow, and hard-earned. David’s mind is still a dark and dangerous place. It isn’t clear who Lenny is yet, but it is obvious what she(?) is – a bad influence. And her fun bad is providing a distraction from what is going on in the shadows – a closet full of teeth, or a blue drug-induced hallucination that isn’t just a wicked trick of the subconscious. Somewhere out there, dark shapes are coming, some in benign forms, some not. And the fear of them is enough to launch an MRI onto the sidewalk.
One of the main principles of a horror movie is not to show the monster until it is absolutely necessary. That the implication, and where it takes the imagination, is always far worse than the reality. That may still be true here, but reality is no less threatening here.
As David begins to understand his power, he also begins to realize what else is out there. That voice calling his name isn’t just an unfocused memory, it is Amy, his sister. And as that voice has been calling out for him, Amy has been searching. This device of having Amy’s voice in David’s head the whole time is a nice example of hiding something in plain sight, so to speak, which is also good horror plotting – to have something frightening visible all along, but to ignore it until it actually matters.
The episode ends with Syd convincing David to learn how his powers work, in the hope that he may go to find Amy with some chance of helping her. But whatever common sense her plea brings is tempered by the last exchange:
“How do I know they won’t kill her?”
“…because she’s bait.”
And then, The Eye speaks. Those monsters in the shadows may be theoretically horrifying, but the real-life monsters are nothing to laugh at, either.
- Dan Stevens curses in this episode! That’s how we know this is an FX show.
- Teenage(?) dope fiend David looks like a real juvenile dracula. He’s a little old for a high schooler, but otherwise he could be hanging out with the other junkies in Brick, strung out in the parking lot as Brendan beats Dode down for information.
- The red flashes in the pilot leading to explosions with a red countertop or table are not lost on me. Nor is Lenny and the red licorice, though it’s David eating the licorice here. In the pilot he tried to meet Syd with Lenny’s licorice, which proved to be a bad idea, Here, he’s consuming it himself, following Lenny to a junkyard in search of recreational chemicals.
- I don’t care if we hear the word ‘mutant’ again. I’m not opposed to Easter eggs or even cameos, but I’m far more interested in finding out the parameters and limits of David’s powers than where this show fits in the X-Men universe.
- Hard to say which inevitable conflict interests me more: Division Three and The Eye, or David’s psychic stowaway. But count me as curious on both fronts, and I look forward to seeing Dr. Bird and her team too.
- Kerry practicing kung fu(?) while Cary does the MRI on David is a nice contrast.