The penultimate chapter of Legion was amazing. Building on the high stakes posed by the combined threats of The Shadow King and D3, it united the best of comics and television for a rollicking good story: character moments, genre hops, sly nods, suspense, action, victory, and (for one dude) gruesome comeuppance, all delivered frame by exquisite frame. Like a great meal, it was fun and toothsome and immensely satisfying. Chapter 7 was always going to be a hard act to follow, and Legion’s season finale didn’t quite do the job. It had the action and excitement, the nods to comics fans and the tantalizing partial victories, but it also suffered from awkward pacing, stilted dialogue, and thin characterizations. At times it felt like Hawley flirted with a nuanced take on the X-Men’s classic fear-of-mutants theme before abandoning the thread halfway through in favor of pyrotechnics.
This is unfortunate, especially considering that daring introduction. Legion’s season finale opened with a lingering, sympathetic eye on a D3 operative viewers regarded as hostile and better off dead. Now instead of villainy there was aftermath: a bedside vigil; scarring; grief, relief, and back again; and the excruciating crawl through recovery. Each frame indicted the violence of David’s rescue, making us – those viewers rooting unreservedly for Summerland – complicit in the Interrogator’s disfigurement and trauma. You cheered for this human to suffer, for his husband and child to grieve, for fraught silence to descend on their home. Fire twisted his body and his mind and you thought ‘good riddance.’ It’s a brilliant choice, a discomfiting challenge to our assumptions about the “good guys” that also broaches the matter of mutants’ and non-mutants’ fear of each other.
Of course, Chapter 7’s conclusion means we already know the Interrogator will recover enough to reject a desk assignment, don a burgundy suit, and exchange his cane for a badass walking stick. The hurt in his eyes hardened into determination, he will saunter up to our protagonists backed by the firepower of a tactical strike team. But the suspense that accompanied his appearance was a pretty obvious misdirect, and David unceremoniously tosses the SWAT team into a writhing (but nonlethal) pile before offering to negotiate. Unbeknownst to Summerland, D3 witnessed the whole thing. The Interrogator’s clouded eye is transmitting an audiovisual feed to a bunker where backup waits for clearance to dispatch Chekhov’s Device. The Interrogator is secured under Kerry’s supervision and everyone else adjourns to Cary’s lab to see about extracting The Shadow King from David’s mind.
On the way Syd and David discuss his powers and his illness. Syd declares she doesn’t care what happens to any of them as long as David saves himself (*cough* FORESHADOWING), but David has different priorities. He wants to protect everyone – as much from D3 as from himself. The Shadow King’s stealth campaign almost succeeded by exploiting the belief that mental illness and mutant abilities are mutually exclusive. In the wake of recent events, David has grasped that his ignorance about his powers, his parasite, and his illness made him dangerous. On the one hand, an inward vigilance is the only way to mitigate this danger; on the other, he’s convinced his powers can encourage D3 and Summerland to get along.
The second act feels awkward, with a series of character and story beats shoehorned into the middle of the episode as though from a checklist. I appreciate what Hawley was trying to do here, but the character development so far doesn’t support the somewhat stilted dialogue and scene changes. At the lab, Summerland’s denizens disagree about how to deal with The Interrogator. (The SWAT team isn’t mentioned again; presumably David teleported them out of SWATting range.) Melanie wants David to telepathically scan their captive (hostage?) for intel on D3; Ptonomy just wants to kill him. Syd and David oppose violence and telepathy, respectively, and Cary reminds everyone that this question is a touch less urgent than the need to evict TSK from David’s head. Then there’s an interlude for equipment setup so we can see Melanie ask Oliver out and Cary and Kerry argue in front of their prisoner.
The episode starts to get back on track when Melanie sits down with the Interrogator, whose name turns out to be Clark. He warns her that D3 is just the tip of a spear intended to protect non-mutants against mutants, and she retorts that David presages the beginning of the end of the age of dinosaurs like themselves. Then David gets his meeting, with Clark the sole representative of D3 and by extension of non-mutant humanity. Clark confronts David about mutants’ dangerous potential, and David just tells him again and again that he doesn’t need to be afraid. Significantly, he doesn’t say why. The unexplained refrain is poignant and a little alarming when you consider that the first thing Clark whispered to his husband upon waking from his coma was “I’m scared.” During the parley, Shadow-Lenny pulls Syd into the astral white room and threatens to kill David on her way out if Syd doesn’t help her escape intact. Fearful for his safety and uncertain that Summerland has the resources to separate David and Farouk without killing David, Syd blurts out the truth to Clark and asks for D3’s help. As if on cue, the halo starts to fail and David loses consciousness.
He’s rushed back to Cary’s lab, which is finally ready for TSK’s extraction and disposal. Oliver starts the machinery and heads down the hall to manage the flow of power to the apparatus. Syd surreptitiously enables a video feed of the proceedings to Clark’s cell. As the machinery hums into life David finds himself at the nexus of his memories. Farouk/TSK is exploded out of tainted memories, one by one, until he materializes in David’s memory chamber, apparently chastened. When their confrontation begins, David seems to have the upper hand. But TSK has not lurked this long without a backup plan, and Syd watches in horror as David convulses and bleeds: If Farouk can’t have him, no one can.
Ignoring Melanie’s protestations, Syd runs from the observation room. Kerry, guessing what’s coming, sprints off to the lab, leaving Clark unsupervised. She arrives just as Syd plucks her prince’s parasite out with a kiss. From there TSK uses Syd’s power to jump into Kerry, who knocks out Cary, Ptonomy, and Melanie before taking off. Clark manages to sneak in a swing with his cane, but Shadow-Kerry tosses him away as David floats in. They charge each other, psychic guns blazing, and the ensuing collision knocks TSK out of Kerry and into Oliver, who has finally remembered Melanie’s name and chosen this moment to emerge from the power closet.
David comes to first, blinking back to consciousness exactly the way Clark did in the intro. He rouses Kerry and Clark, who seems to accept that D3 and Summerland will need to cooperate to neutralize TSK. Kerry runs back to the lab, where she forgives Cary as soon as she confirms he’s still alive. Ptonomy, Syd, and Melanie are groggy but unhurt; of course the first question Melanie asks is Oliver’s whereabouts.
But Oliver has left the building. He sauntered to a waiting car and drove off beneath twin peaks, accompanied by Aubrey Plaza, who is made up to look (I think) like the Asian woman he referenced last week. Our heroes seem to have survived the initial danger posed by TSK and D3. The next big arc is shaping up to be how Summerland and D3 will work together to find TSK – that is, until the stinger nestled in the closing credits. While Syd and David relish their victory and plan to track the newly-possessed Oliver, a Wheatley-esque drone emerges from the trees. Its blue lens scans David before vacuuming him up and trapping him inside. Stay tuned for Season 2, folks. It’s sure to be a hell of a ride.
This week, instead of Fan Theories I’ve thrown in some questions. Legion has been so crazy and complicated that I’ll be doing a special overview/speculation post to wrap up the season. Catch it here next week!
- “You know the most dangerous thing about schizophrenia? Believing you don’t have it.”
- “You need to leave.”
“He seems nice.”
- “I’m on a mostly liquid diet.” [auth. note: BECAUSE YOU’RE AN ALCOHOLIC]
- “We can figure it out over dinner. Assuming we’re not all dead by then.”
- “You better learn to fly like a bird, because the age of the dinosaur is over.”
- “Your Lenny mask is running.”
- “You ever try to unmake soup?”
- “Are you okay?”
“I think you ruptured my spleen.”
- “Did we win?”
“Does it look like we won?”
ODDS & ENDS
- The pixelated shapes popping around Clark’s heart monitor are the same as the ones in the closing credits.
- It was maddening to watch Cary and Kerry to fight in front of someone who will undoubtedly use that intel against them.
- Clark’s “third degree…very painful” line made him sound like a Buffy villain.
- TSK was totally channeling Lost’s smoke monster on his way out of Kerry and into Oliver.
- Poor Cary, with his perpetually trashed lab.
- Apparently Warbird helicopters are real. I was sure that was Star Trek nod.
- Music: It waited for the finale, but Legion had to tap Dark Side of the Moon sooner or later. The song playing over Oliver and Lenny’s road trip was T. Rex’s “Children of the Revolution,” and the song Oliver is singing to himself on his way to the car is “If I Ruled the World.”
- If David can alter reality, why didn’t he just un-injure Clark as a gesture of goodwill?
- Was that Clark’s husband in the D3 control bunker? It was hard to tell with the radically different outfit and hairstyle from the hospital and home scenes.
- What is Summerland’s Plan M?
- Syd seems reasonably smart. Everyone knew TSK needed a host to survive. Why didn’t she consider Shadow-Lenny was lying when it implied it could survive David’s death? There’s no way Shadow-Lenny would have let him die if there was a chance she’d go down with the ship.
- Oliver has psychic powers but he didn’t sense what was going down in the hallway?
- Is TSK exploiting an actual memory of Oliver’s, or did he plant that memory of an Asian lady as a sort of backup lair in Oliver’s mind? If he planted that memory, did he plant others? Is there a chance he’ll take over David’s bio-dad at some point?
- The device that vacuumed David up was either The Peacemaker or The Equinox D3 had been threatening to send in, right?
- The Interrogator’s secure interview room echoed the room where he interrogated David in Chapter 1. The walls were bluer, but both rooms had candy red furniture with white accents.
- Clark wears brown in Chapter 1 but switches to blue for the duration of his recovery montage. He’s clearly depressed, and he sits ensconced in mahogany darkness for a while when he gets home.
- For the Summerland mission he suits up in burgundy, a color previously worn only by Ptonomy. Based on both characters’ willingness to use violence in this episode, I think the color indicates a tendency to solve problems with force.
- In the waking world, David is still wearing the shirt with the yellow triangle in which he started Chapter 6. When he faces TSK while the extraction device is running the triangle is recolored to a near black, implying David is freeing himself from the grasp of the Devil with Yellow Eyes.
- And now I understand why Oliver always wore that shade of mustard: it foreshadowed his selection as a host.
- In the stinger, David is wearing a new shirt, showing either a bisected triangle or a triangular prism in orange and green. I’m still not sure what orange signifies – it’s one of the two colors Syd always wears, and it showed up in some of David’s manipulated memories – but green tends to indicate some degree of freedom.