Was 'Legion's' Lenny Ever Real?
The first season of Legion just wrapped up and it was unlike anything that had ever been on TV. Incorporating heavy doses of non-linear storytelling, some dream theory, more than a few alternative realities that were both inside and outside the head of our main character, and body-switching, it could be very hard to grasp what was “real” and what was not at different points in the series. Which was not a bad thing at all, the story being told was one where the main character wasn’t even sure of what his own reality was, so putting the audience in the same place was a great way to build a connection to David Haller. And while the series left a few questions open-ended, to its advantage, there’s one that I’ve seen people trying to figure out that’s hard to pin down: Was Lenny ever real? [Spoilers to follow for the full first season of Legion but honestly if you haven’t seen it, most of this will probably just sound like nonsense.]
It’s a little hard to pin down. She’s only alive in the real world in the first episode, and much of that is told in flashback as David has been captured by Division 3. For the rest of the season she exists mostly in David’s head, as what appears to be a manifestation of his guilt over her death and then later as an avatar for the Shadow King. But was she ever real? We learn that the Shadow King has slipped her into David’s memories in places where she never existed in real life, and other people can only see her when they’re in a projection of David’s mind up until the last episode.
However, Syd was in Clockworks Hospital too. Syd also saw Lenny. And from what we’ve seen the Shadow King can make David see his projections, but not other people who aren’t in David’s head. When Syd, Melanie, and Ptonomy were in David’s memories they saw his dog King, the Angriest Boy in the World, and Lenny. But Amy, David’s sister, told them that David never had a dog. When they asked David’s ex-girlfriend Philippa about his friendship with Lenny she said that his friend was a man named Benny, the memories had been altered to show Lenny there instead but the real person witnessing the real events recalled the difference. And the version of Lenny we see in the first episode doesn’t look or act exactly the same as the version of Lenny who later appears in David’s head. It appears that while the Shadow King can alter David’s memories and keep them altered when others are viewing them, he is unable to actually project that version of reality to those near David. So we can assume that the Lenny of the first episode is real, and the Shadow King adopted her as a form because of David’s friendship with her and the fact that she’s a much more approachable and sympathetic figure than his true form.
The closest comparison I can make is that of Caprica 6 from Battlestar: Galactica. She existed as a real being for a time with Gaius on Caprica before the Cylon attack, and other people could see and interact with her. Her body was destroyed in the Cylon attack. But Gaius’s mind created a projection of her that only he could see and interact with that stayed with him. She had an affect on him, but others looking on only saw Gaius. She had been real, and then she became something else. Lenny, similarly, was a real woman at Clockworks who was tragically killed when David and Syd switched places and David’s powers closed walls all over the hospital.
But there’s another season of Legion coming, so who knows what we’ll learn when they come back? Whatever Lenny might be, Aubrey Plaza has been absolutely delightful in all her versions.
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