Things begin to move forward. There is progress, there is honesty. Mostly. We do have some explanations. But there are plenty of unknown elements, and something huge and awful, something that will put previous conflicts in perspective.
The first season was about David trying to navigate his own mind and make sense of his memories. Now, having solved his internal problems, David tries to deal with the greater ones out in the world.
Nobody knows David’s exact motivation here. D3 – the Admiral and Clark in particular – openly doubt David, and a conveniently undefended visit by Farouk (as brought to you by Lenny and Oliver destroying soldiers and dancing through “Swing on a Star”) brings their concerns to a head. Eleven men die, and it’s hard to say which accusation(?) cuts deeper: Vermillion’s 62% probability that David is lying, or Clark’s open question of who the villain really is.
David isn’t our villain, exactly. But he is withholding information and working both sides. And finally, we see one of the sides for who they really are – Amal Farouk. The real Farouk, not Lenny’s conveniently borrowed face. Navid Negahban’s suave charm is a departure from Aubrey Plaza’s unhinged menace, but he is no less dangerous for being better composed. His speech is a charismatic admonition, but his conversation with David very much implies the philosophical differences of Charles Xavier and Magneto.
There is a confrontation, but not a real fight. Things couldn’t be more different from Lenny’s subversive attempts at control; Farouk relishes his power, and takes satisfaction from testing David directly. But he is not without honor, or need, and so an uneasy resolution is made.
Farouk represents a more traditional rival for David, one who shares his ability but not his morality. I think it works here, on the strength of Negahban’s ability and for being transparent and direct. It also ties cleanly to the core of the X-Men. If their foremost challenge was a world that feared their power, right behind it was the mutants who justified that fear.
And I suppose it wouldn’t be a real X-Men story, even a tertiary fever dream like this one, without some time travel. Through a psychic daiquiri drug trip, David manages to find the future Syd from the Darkest Timeline. More clarity is provided. David cannot use his powers in the darkened space, but future Syd explains enough. Even if she doesn’t, her missing an arm explains plenty.
Present-day Syd is still practicing being a cat. Who wouldn’t? If you could be anything, why wouldn’t you be a cat. But David is willing to come clean, and at the end one more piece of the groovy astral nightclub puzzle is explained. The bald man, the monk, the first step towards the storm on the horizon.
This is very much a second episode, one that begins to unravel the tangled threads previously set up. And the clarity is welcome even if there seems to be misdirection afoot. There is still a great deal to be determined, and the challenges have changed somewhat. But it feels like development, like progress.
- I didn’t even mention the Cary/Kerry inversion, which seems superfluous to the main plot, but I’m still happy anytime either of them shows up. It is an interesting wrinkle, though.
- Why am I not surprised that it took all of one episode for D3 to doubt David.
- I have real mixed feelings about Lenny merely being the temporary face of Farouk.
- On one hand, I loved Aubrey Plaza in season 1. April Ludgate was the live-action Daria Morgendorffer I always wanted, but Lenny Busker was a quantum leap forward in terms of performance. So having her be less central to the plot breaks my heart a little.
- On the other hand, Navid Negahban is dynamite in Farouk’s confrontation with David. His character being a dark reflection of David is more standard, but Negahban makes it seem like fun. So I can’t be too disappointed, maybe just less curious. But I still want to see where this goes.
- Yesss more cat training.
- I have this theory that every character wears clothes from a different decade.
- David: 1990s
- Ptonomy: 1920s or 1930s. The tommy gun goes with this, too.
- Syd: 1940s
- Kerry: 1970s?
- Cary: 1950s
- Oliver: 1960s
- Clark: 2000s
- Lenny: I’m really not sure yet. So maybe the theory needs some work.