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This week, after years of questions and teases, Charles Xavier finally made his debut on Legion, and the Charles we got was a very different version of Xavier than what we're used to seeing on the big screen courtesy of actors like Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy. Now that his character has arrived, actor Harry Lloyd is breaking down Charles' mindset and explaining why he doesn't believe his version of the character is a hero.
**SPOILER WARNING: There are spoilers ahead for last night's episode of Legion, "Chapter 22."
In "Chapter 22," David (Dan Stevens) and Switch (Lauren Tsai) head back in time to visit David's parents, with the goal of arriving at the moment the Shadow King managed to attach himself to baby David's consciousness and somehow stopping that from happening. Unfortunately, some quirk in Switch's powers means that they are largely unseen observers throughout the episode, which makes them two linked moments in time. In one moment, David's father, Charles (the last name Xavier is never mentioned) and his mother Gabrielle (Stephanie Corneliussen) are both patients at a mental hospital, each recovering from some brand of trauma after the war. Gabrielle is basically catatonic when Charles meets her, and he uses his mental powers — which he still believes are unique to him and not the result of an emerging race of mutants — to help pull her out. Their romance is very much a mirror image of the relationship between David and Syd back in Season 1, except Charles ultimately uses his superhuman powers of persuasion to make everyone cheer and applaud as he and Gabrielle simply walk free to begin a new life together.
The second moment in time, and the more tragic one, is Gabrielle alone with baby David in the massive house she shares with Charles, after her husband has left in a hurry because the Cerebro he built in his basement (yes, really) has indicated that there is another telepath like him somewhere out in the world. Charles travels to Morocco to meet this other powerful mutant, overjoyed that he's no longer alone with his powers, leaving Gabrielle to slowly unravel in her solitude. Then things go from bad to worse, as Charles realizes he's reached out to a monster. He arrives back home just as the Shadow King is about to enter David, but David himself manages to interfere from the future. Charles uses his mental powers to push David away, believing he's the threat, and the whole affair incapacitates Gabrielle. As he holds his wife in his arms on the floor, the Shadow King's consciousness climbs into the crib behind him.
So that's the short version of how it all happened. Charles' journey is a dark mirror of David's own, and it was a combination of Charles' hubris and David's own desperation across time that allowed the Shadow King to succeed in spite of everything. That's why Lloyd, speaking to The Wrap about his Legion debut, doesn't think we should see Charles as a heroic figure.
"I’m not even entirely sure at this point what Charles’ intentions are. Does he want to attack this mind, does he want to befriend and help him?” Lloyd said. “The way we play that leading scene he kind of abandons his wife. And that was very purposely done so you don’t think Charles is the hero. Because we know the fallout out of the battle is terrible, and he ruins the life of a young baby.”
David first trip to the past to visit his parents ultimately ended in failure, but this is not the end of the journey. We know from previous episodes that he intends to keep trying until he can correct the various misfortunes and errors of his life, and that all begins with the Shadow King infecting him. What's more, we know that David still wants to figure out how to use Switch's powers to actually communicate with his parents, something he seemed almost entirely unable to do in this episode. We haven't seen the last of Charles and Gabrielle, but what we've seen already presents a fascinating family history that offers some new explanations for David's own condition. Though he's been unwilling to admit it, mental illness does indeed run in his family, which means there's likely more at work in his mind than the trauma of the Shadow King. Will he be able to face his family's past honestly? Time will tell.
Legion airs Mondays at 9 p.m. EST on FX.