This week, on the season finale of Legion, everything is on the line as David faces The Shadow King, and diverging paths point to very different possible futures.
**Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers for the Legion episode "Chapter 19" below**
Well, here we are. It's all been building to this, and so much more is at stake than we might have previously thought. Last week, all the major players converged in the desert as both David and Farouk set their plans in motion. For David, it was an attempt after an entire season of being pulled in two different directions to finally end the conflict with the parasite that's dominated his life. For Farouk, it was a chance to find freedom and to finally prove to David that he was right all along about the two of them being superior beings free of the moral constructs of humanity. In the middle of all this, it turns out, is Syd, who began the season professing devotion to David and his inherent goodness, and now isn't sure who she can trust. In typical Legion fashion, it all gets very weird, very fast.
You know how sometimes this show presents some kind of dazzling visual/musical spectacle to you and you can't really be sure if the characters are actually experiencing it that way or if it's merely being shown to the audience as a metaphorical representation of, say, a psychic battle? Sometimes the show makes it clear that what it's showing you is really happening, and sometimes it doesn't. No matter what metaphors might exist in this sequence, I'm choosing to believe it all happened exactly this way. David and Farouk levitated to each other from across the desert, while both singing their own version of The Who's "Behind Blue Eyes." There really was music playing, and when they met they really did cast massive projections of themselves as various animated warrior forms into the sky to do battle. I believe this because Lenny seems to actually witness it as it's happening, but also just because it's amazing. It's exactly what you want out of this show at this moment, and it's the kind of thing you just have to turn the volume up for.
Anyway, as I mentioned, Lenny is watching all of this transpire through the scope of her rifle, and while it initially seems like she might be aiming for Farouk, she actually fires at The Choke, that massive tuning fork that's supposed to remove mutant powers for several minutes. Clark brought it in as an equalizer but was unable to use it before Farouk threw it across the desert. Lenny, with her magnified view, is able to strike it with a bullet just as it seems David is finally getting free of Farouk's spidery grip. The shockwave removes both of their powers. Undeterred, David picks up a huge rock and prepares to simply bludgeon his old enemy to death. As he does, we see that wicked grin that Melanie kept showing Syd over and over last week in an attempt to prove that David is the real monster in all of this.
Speaking of Melanie, at this point the show cuts back to Oliver's astral ice cube from last season, where it turns out she's decided to retire with the love of her life after they each assisted in freeing Farouk's body in their own way. Melanie finally has what she wants -- a retreat from the world with her man -- and three years have apparently passed since the two of them hid their bodies away and retreated to the astral plane. Just as Oliver did before, they're both beginning to lose their memories a bit, but they provide a bit of helpful teasing for the future as a title card tells us that three years have passed since their retirement. We can't glean too much from them, other than the world's ended (not the world itself, literally, but at least civilization) and it's because of David. As for why this happened, Melanie claims that it's because "she showed him his future."
The she, in this case, is Syd, who we cut back to right as she walks back out to the desert, just in time to watch David beating the hell out of Farouk. Syd has spent the entire season wrestling with the question of David's nature, sometimes being manipulated by others and sometimes being manipulated by David himself, but now she's pretty sure she knows the truth. With the gun trained on David, she reveals to him that that she now sees that he's the monster. He, of course, protests this. He calls himself the good guy. He tells her he loves her. She is unmoved, and particularly unmoved when she asks him why he thinks Future Syd asked him to help the Shadow King in the first place. Future Syd never told David that in saving Farouk he would be saving the world from himself, perhaps because she didn't want to send him careening. But now present Syd tells him. He's both shocked and incredulous, and it's in that moment that Syd really seems to make up her mind.
“It never occurred to you," she asks, "that you’re the problem, not the solution?”
In that moment, Syd -- who's been yanked in different directions by David and Farouk and Melanie and everyone else all season long -- declares herself the hero and pulls the trigger.
David wakes up in his own mind, which in this case has taken the form of his childhood bedroom we spent so much time in last season. There, he tries to figure things out, and two other personalities or aspects of his brain come out to join in as the narrator videos we've seen all season play on various TV screens. A delusion starts out as an egg, the voice repeats over and over, and one of David's other aspects explains that David has fallen victim to one of these eggs. His delusion, according to this part of his mind, began when he saw Syd and declared to himself "I'm a good person. I deserve love." He repeated it, over and over, in the hope that Syd would believe it too, and it worked. David argues with himself, claiming instead that Syd "made" him good, and that he needs her. That's when a third personality appears and argues that David doesn't need anyone. Like Farouk's been telling him all along, he's a god, and he should act like one rather than spending so much time worrying about these mere mortals. They go back and forth and in the end another clear point is made: If Syd is so vital to David's continued existence and goodness, then why did she just shoot him?
Or did she? It turns out David wasn't actually hit by a bullet, but rather a kind of shockwave caused when Lenny, still up there with her scoped rifled, fired a bullet at Syd and instead hit the bullet coming out of Syd's gun. David and Syd were both knocked unconscious, but neither was seriously hurt. At this point -- with David, Syd, and Farouk all unconscious on the ground -- Division III soldiers appear with Admiral Fukyama in tow, ready to at last arrest The Shadow King. In the chaos, David wakes up first, crawls over to Syd, and wipes or suppresses her memory of what she thinks he is and what she just tried to do to him. When she wakes, David dismisses it all as a bad dream, Cary puts a suppressing crown on Farouk, Lenny is arrested, and everyone heads back to Division III with apparent victory over The Shadow King secured at long last.
Syd is still not herself, though, and both David and Cary notice it. Cary offers to take Syd to the lab to look her over, but Syd just wants to sleep. When David offers to join her, she asks him to go to his own room for the night, so she can rest alone. So they go to their separate rooms, but while Syd rests, David broods. His other aspects come out to argue with him. Tricking Syd wasn't part of their plan, but David is undeterred. Syd loves him. He knows it. He just needs time to remind her what a good person he is. So of course the obvious way to do that is to psychically project himself down into her room, even when she asked to be left alone.
What follows is hard to watch. Some viewers will see it as a line the show should not cross, and while I will not make that distinction, I will say that I can understand that viewpoint. It's supposed to be hard to watch, of course, but that will not change the raw emotional reaction and the individual responses to it. It is not violent and Syd does not ever tell David to stop, but what we're watching is essentially psychic date rape, as David assures a still foggy Syd over and over that everything's OK, that they won, and that when Farouk's trial is over they can run away together. It's a variation on an old story that we've seen play out a million times: the story of the man who just can't wait to impose his emotional will. And even if it doesn't prove David is evil, it does prove that something is deeply wrong with him.
Even as that's still happening with Syd, David seems to be pulling double duty (or at least, Fukyama's monitoring of the facility implies that), because he also sends a psychic projection to Farouk, who's pacing his cell with the inhibiting crown still on his head. David is there, essentially, to gloat, and to remind Farouk that if the result of the trial isn't execution, he will still kill him. Farouk's not at full strength, but there's enough psychic energy left in him to know what David's doing to Syd. Now, these two characters have been having moral debates and arguments all season long, and all season long Farouk has been trying to convince David that he gets to determine his own reality, that he's a god, that the same rules don't apply to him. Here, though, Farouk draws a line.
"You can't make someone love you," he tells David. "I've tried."
David, of course, scoffs at this, and asks who Farouk could ever possibly have tried to make love him. Who could the evil Shadow King have ever possibly cared that much about?
"With you," Farouk says. "For 30 years since you were a baby. My baby."
There are a lot of heavy, emotional moments in "Chapter 19," as there have been so often this season on Legion, and even as they're unfolding the nature of the show makes you question how genuine they are. For me, this one hit the hardest. Yes, Farouk might be lying. He might still be manipulating David, trying to coax out his sympathies or create some confusion just long enough so he can take advantage of it. Or, he might really have spent so much time with David's mind next to him that he really did want to do more than just control and torture it. This, of course, doesn't make him right, but we've always taken the Shadow King's willingness to control and coerce and dispose of humanity at face value, as if that's the only thing in his nature. He's even told us he sees himself as superior. But he also sees David as superior. Perhaps, in David, he found a surrogate son, someone he could lovingly craft in his image. Instead, all he found was David's pain and rage, and now all he finds is vengeance. If that's true, it's heartbreaking in its own twisted way.
David doesn't believe it, of course, but he does perhaps believe in the fear Farouk instills in him, when he warns that one day Syd will look at him with the same anger David looks at Farouk with now.
As David projects himself all over the building, Fukyama is ever watchful, witnessing David's confrontation with Farouk, his sex with Syd (she appears to be hovering over an invisible body, which somehow makes it more disturbing), and finally a moment in the lab where Cary and Kerry are hanging out. Cary has cobbled together a device that will allow him to use Division III sensor data to reconstruct the scene of Farouk's arrest, and in reviewing the playback, he witnesses David using his powers on an unconscious Syd. As Cary denounces this as "treachery," we cut back to Farouk, who has managed to summon just enough of his power to bypass the crown and mentally crown a single mouse. He whispers in the rodent's ears, and the mouse crawls through Division III and onto Syd's pillow, where it relays Farouk's message.
The next day arrives, and everyone assembles for The Shadow King's trial, but Farouk isn't there. David walks in and is almost immediately trapped in a force field by Cary. This is an intervention, a trial, a plea, or a combination thereof. David's friends have all come to an agreement that something is wrong with him, and they're so confident in their assessment that they've invited Farouk -- back in his three-piece suit -- to join the proceedings. As David rages against his new cage, Syd tries to reason with him, to get him to see the truth. He grew up thinking he was mentally ill, then realized that he was an Omega-level mutant who had a psychic parasite living in his head. That was supposed to be the explanation for his erratic behavior, not any kind of mental illness. But Syd, who has spent the entire season wondering if David really knows right from wrong or reality from fantasy, has drawn a different conclusion. David has powers, yes, but he is also mentally ill, and needs help.
Even as David resists this conclusion, he hears voices in his head. Those old erratic rhythms are coming back, but he refuses to face the prospect of medication and enforced therapy again. He doesn't want to be "zombie David." He won't acknowledge there's a problem. Then Syd steps forward and reminds him: "You drugged me and had sex with me."
This is perhaps the most important acting moment Dan Stevens has ever faced on this show. It's the ultimate crossroads for David. That old tendency to talk his way out immediately rises to the surface. He tries to think of a different way of phrasing what happened, tries to find an excuse, prepares to talk his way out. And then the pain crosses his face. Even if he'd like to, he can't really deny that's what happened, so instead he starts repeating that old delusion. "I'm a good person. I deserve love." He starts to say it like it's a magic spell, like he can reverse everything if he says it enough. Around him, unmoving, pitying faces watch him try to come to grips. You can see the hope in Syd's eyes that perhaps he'll just admit it and submit to help. Then he doesn't. Then he pulls and pulls until he breaks the field that's holding him, teleports out of the room, grabs Lenny, and leaves Division III.
The episode ends with David -- Legion, The Worldkiller -- on the loose, and Clark's final words when Syd asks what they do now: "We pray."
I'm surprised, honestly, by how tidy this was as a season finale for this particular show. Yes, it ends on a cliffhanger, but it actually managed to resolve quite a lot. We know where all of the major players are now, and roughly whose side they're on (except Farouk, who might still slip away and give in to his own urges), and I didn't expect that. I like it, though, and I can see now why the season was stretched to add an extra episode. All of this certainly could have been crammed in to the last episode in some form. David certainly could have turned earlier, but we wouldn't have gotten to see as much of the rest of the characters reacting around David. We would have seen the physical craters he left, but perhaps not as much of the emotional ones. In that way, it all paid off.
It also worked to give us a finale that's a kind of perverted mirror image of the premiere. When we started the season, David was just being found. As we end it, he's being lost. Farouk was the clear villain and David the somewhat ambiguous hero, and now the sides have shifted almost perfectly. For all the weird detours we took throughout the season, all the stops and starts, and all the times when the show seemed to maybe be glorying in its own strangeness a bit too much even for me, that is a very elegant way to tie it all together in the end. Plus, now we know Season 3 is coming, so we get to see how the show will twist things up next.
- "What's the word?" "Soup?"
- We still don't really know what happened to Ptonomy in the mainframe, nor do we really know much about that old woman in the rocking chair. Next season, I suppose.
- According to Kerry, Minotaur blood smells like beef bouillon cubes, but it doesn't taste like it.
- There are still a lot of unused weapons on that shelf in Division III.
- There were a lot of amusing combinations of avatars during the psychic battle that kicked off the episode, but my favorite was when a shark tried to bite a helicopter.
- Melanie and Oliver's little interlude is set three years later. Why? Is that just when they decided to recount these events, or does that tell us something about a possible time jump next season?
And that's it for Season 2 of Legion. Thanks so much for watching along with us this year. We'll see you again for Season 3!