On this week's Legion, the time has come for a showdown, as all the pieces move into places for a battle between David and the Shadow King.
**Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers for the Legion episode "Chapter 18" below**
A few months back, Legion announced that an extra episode would be added to its total Season 2 run, taking the number of episodes up to 11. I remember reading someone somewhere on Twitter at the time lamenting this, because it was perhaps a sign of poor storytelling planning on the part of creator Noah Hawley and his team, and could therefore ultimately lead to the show either wasting time in the middle of the season's arc or rushing to the end. I will admit that there were various points in the midst of the Season 2 narrative when it did feel like Legion might be stretching itself just a little too thin, as entire episodes were devoted to David's alternate lives and Syd's traumatic childhood memories. This wasn't always a bad thing, though. Both of those episodes were thoroughly movie, and the episode in which Lenny returned to reveal that she'd been placed in Amy's body was one of the most effective of the season so far. Still, the idea nagged at me. The season began things in such a plot-forward way, putting David back in Division III and almost immediately establishing the hunt for Farouk's body as a key narrative point. Now, with just two episodes of the season left, we still were wandering in the desert (letter) waiting for the promised land.
I am happy to say that, when it comes to that, "Chapter 18" absolutely delivers. It might be the most plot-heavy episode of the season as various characters barrel into their places on the map, but the way that so many of those little standalone threads were woven in makes it feel emotionally satisfying at the same time. So, let's dive in.
We pick basically where David and Syd last left us in "Chapter 16," sleeping in a tent in the middle of le désolé as they wondered what their fates might be and looked at the dead other versions of themselves. When things pick up here, Syd wakes up and wanders out of the tent, finding that weird hole in the ground with a giant bathtub drain plug sitting next to hit. She investigates, only to find a wounded rabbit hurled up at her, and when she tries to help the poor thing, she's drawn down the drain like a fish on a line. Here, she finds herself in the same maze we saw at the end of last week's episode, where she's confronted by a very changed Melanie. Last week, the show finally explained why Melanie's seemed so lost all season: Because Farouk (with Oliver at his command) was slowly seducing her over to him. Now she's in the maze (a more literal one this time), and she's once again upset by the way powerful men can't stop trying to control her. All season long she's tried to warn Syd about this, and now she can show her, because Melanie has what almost look like sci-fi versions of Harry Potter's "pensieves," devices that allow her to call up and review memories, or even moments happening simultaneously.
So, what does Melanie have to show Syd? That David is a monster, he has been all along, and Syd has been blind to it this entire time. To demonstrate this, we cut back to David, who's find the old monastery where Farouk's body was hidden away. Oliver's waiting form, and David wastes no time. He demands to know where Syd is, and when Oliver doesn't tell him, the torture starts. As David almost gleefully takes a power tool to Oliver, Syd looks on from the maze, and her world is rocked.
Already, this is compelling stuff, even if the notion of this weird memory-playing devices is a little alien even for Legion. I've been waiting to see of more of Jean Smart all season, and she rises to the occasion. Plus, we're finally getting the bigger payoff to a narrative we've been waiting all season for: The question of whether or not David really knows what's real, and whether or not he will ever truly be able to take up the mantle of hero. David, for the moment, doesn't seem to care. "I'm the lunatic you turned me into," he declares, and just keeps working.
Meanwhile, Lenny's back where we left her last episode, out in the desert with her weapon case. She too finds the hole in the ground with bathtub drain plug, but it's once again surrounded by meditating men (they weren't there when Syd came by) with boxes (revealed to be metal safes) on their heads. Lenny being Lenny, sits down and mimics their meditation pose, then opens the case and pulls out a rather elaborate looking sniper rifle. After asking directions to the monastery, we're off and back in Syd's hell.
Melanie's not just revealing memories and current events, you see. She's also showing Syd her future, specifically the future version of herself that David told her about...but David didn't tell her everything. He didn't tell her that he and Future Syd shared a kiss. He also didn't tell her, perhaps because he didn't fully know, that Farouk also visited Future Syd, where she told him that if Farouk is killed, David turns...and that's when things get especially dark for Syd.
According to this version of events (and on Legion it is always important to phrase it that way, at least when you first witness it), David turns and becomes "Legion," a "worldkiller" telepath, and it's not just that he becomes that. He's apparently known it was a risk for sometime, because that's what inspired the suicide attempt that put him in Clockworks in the first place. Yes, Farouk was a parasite in his brain who tortured him for years, but despite expelling Farouk David was always destined to become something awful, and all of Syd's protestations that he's really a good person deep down start to crack before her eyes. Just as we the viewer are about to get used to that, though, another huge bomb drops.
While all of that's going on, you see, David is still torturing Oliver, and he finally gets Oliver to reveal where Syd is: She's "with Farouk." Farouk's plan wasn't just to get Melanie on his side. It was to possess Melanie himself and use her to get in Syd's head in ways he never could have on his own. With this news, David collapses and leaves Oliver to suffer, while in the maze (which David still doesn't know is directly beneath him) Melanie summons the Minotaur (which it turns out is now a real thing Farouk can manifest), tells it to "kill the weak," and then goes into the chamber where Farouk's body was stored.
There, with a single kiss, Melanie serves his purpose, and after two years and nearly 20 episodes The Shadow King is walking the earth in his own form again. It's a truly satisfying moment, it looks gorgeous, and the weight of it hits you just right as Farouk emerges in silhouette, ready to rule again.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Division III team is still trying to carry out David's plan. Cary and Kerry have tracked the car Lenny used to teleport to the desert, and they brought backup. Clark, it turns out, has also played his part, and he's brought along that giant tuning fork we saw. It's called "The Choke," and as David later explains to Cary it turns out to be a massive power dampener that will negate all mutant abilities if it sounds its tune...at least, for a few minutes. That might not matter anymore, though, because while Kerry fights her way through that guards that won't stop replicating and Cary runs through the maze... David is just busy thinking about killing Farouk, and worse than that, he's enjoying himself.
So, with most of the Division III team inside or beneath the monastery, Lenny still waiting outside with rifle on the hunt for "payback," Syd emotionally broken and Oliver and Melanie physically broken, David sits on his new little thrown and thinks, while outside Farouk simply tosses the choke aside like it's a toy, and looks off at the sunrise he's been longing for.
Wow. I told you a lot would happen in this episode, and it feels like we've only scratched the surface of the emotional stuff. We haven't had time to catch up with Oliver and his own victimization, we haven't taken a deeper look at the look Kerry and Cary share when they seem like they're about to die, and we don't really know if Lenny's actually there to kill David or Farouk. Plus, even amid his torturous machinations, we still have no idea if David is still sticking to some version of his plan. Is he actively trying to play supervillain here or is he losing control? We'll find out next week... maybe.
- At one point in this episode the camera does a kung-fu movie-style fast push-in on Kerry's face, and it is the best.
- "I hate to...but there's a Minotaur in the maze and it's hunting us, so we should..." - Cary and his awkward maze running, ever terrified of anything that's not science.
- "The monster was his gift. His curse was...he's insane."
- The little pensieve-like devices Melanie/Farouk uses with Syd raise a lot of interesting questions, like so much about Legion. They resemble the designs of Future Syd's dwelling to some degree. Are they future technology brought to the past? Are the tools of telepathy that are great at showing people who you want them to see (as Melanie so clearly hints at), or are they really just showing us accurate things?
- Plus, the whole issue of David and Syd's skeletons in that tent has almost completely been ignored in this episode. Will that thread ever be picked up again, and does it matter?
And that's it for this week! Join us next Tuesday for the season finale of Legion!