It finally happened: Legion reached its season finale, and David turned.
In a nod to Legion’s comic book roots, someone actually uses the phrase. Two someones, in fact: Oliver and Melanie address us from three years in the future, narrating a home movie from the astral “cube sweet cube” to which they have retired. They reminisce about coworkers from their embodied days: Glasses McLabcoat, the girl who would kick everyone, and Sydney. It was terrible what happened to her, when David turned.
What did happen? The truth is as monstrous as it is mundane: David, convinced of his heroism, violates Syd’s trust to ensure that the “hero” gets the girl.
We began where we left off last week. The Choke has not even reached the foot of the hill when David and Farouk begin their Final Battle. Both combatants levitate in each other’s general direction while singing “Behind Blue Eyes,” and it’s a testament to the acting and execution that this setup is (surprisingly) worthy of the battle that follows. Legion dramatized the psychic throwdown with spectacular animation, showing David and Farouk’s minds shapeshifting furiously in the effort to overpower and outwit each other. Farouk gains the upper hand for a scant moment before Lenny, stationed on a ridge, sees her moment and fires.
Her bullet strikes The Choke and the animation unravels as Farouk and David, now stunned and depowered, stumble back into themselves. Now David – who had been expecting this – has the upper hand, and he hoists a rock to bludgeon his fallen enemy.
This is when we cut to Chapter 10, Three Years Later. Melanie and Oliver are living it up in their ice cube love nest, engrossed with each other and utterly outside of time. They say what we’re about to see happens because Syd showed David his future, but he started down that road long before then. David was always going to choose power over love. The delusion that he would even consider anything else was unsustainable. As Farouk!Melanie observed to Syd last week, you can make a man kill people, but you can’t make him enjoy it.
After the Nick at Nite interlude, it’s back to the Showdown at Le Désolé Corral. David is gleefully beating Farouk to a pulp when Syd arrives, minotaur head in hand, and tells him they need to talk. Pointing a gun, she confronts him about his true face, the one she saw in the viewing catacombs. How he delights in hurting people. How many he’d killed. How many times he lied and broke his promises. “What if you’re not the hero?” Syd asks him, trembling with the enormity of her epiphany. “What if you’re just another villain?”
At this, David tries to flip the script. He accuses Syd of having abandonment issues and blames her future self for kidnapping him. (PSA: This manipulative tactic, known as blame-shifting, is a favorite of narcissists and abusers. The More You Know!) Nothing is David’s fault. It can’t be. He’s the hero of this story, and he loves her. And that heroism, combined with the thing he’s calling love, absolves him of all responsibility for anything he has done or will do to keep her.
Syd is having none of this, and she tells him the truth about what he will become, about what she finally understands about her future self. She cocks the hammer and fires. Lenny, watching between hits from her portable vapor gator, fires too, but just a touch too wide. Her bullet collides with Syd’s, and the ensuing shockwave knocks everybody flat on their asses.
David wakes with a start in an astral version of his childhood bedroom. A small TV plays the season’s first White Room. “A delusion begins like any other idea,” Jon Hamm’s Narrator intones, and David finds himself conferring with two other Davids, presumably his id and superego. Superego!David is a voice of reason insofar as what he says is probably correct but unhelpful. He tells David that his “love” for Syd is as much a delusion as the conviction that he deserves hers. This enlightens the audience but primarily serves to drive David into the open arms of his very cocky and very angry id.
After the trio agrees on a course of action, David recovers consciousness on the hill. Cary has arrived with the cavalry. While D3 collars Farouk, David scrambles to Syd’s side. He brushes her hair out of her eyes with a gesture that almost conceals how his fingers glow against her forehead. So begins the greatest betrayal. Syd regains consciousness, too dazed to hide the fear in her eyes at seeing David looming over her, very much alive.
When they return to D3, Syd has enough command of herself to ask David to sleep in his own quarters that night. Cary intervenes to make David honor that request, but no one can stop the psychic projection he sends to Syd’s room later in the evening. David asks Syd to run away with him, but she’s not convinced he’s willing to give up everything this escape would require. But soon it becomes clear that David isn’t listening to her questions. He doesn’t hear Syd, or see her, at all. She’s a prop in his fantasy. He whispers “We won!” again and again, subsuming her personhood in his victory, until she submits and plays her part.
But even this is not enough for David, who sends a Dr. Manhattan-esque simulcast down to gloat over Farouk as he paces in his cell. David promises to kill Farouk if D3 doesn’t. Farouk, uncowed by this threat, calls David to account for his abuse of Syd. “You can’t make someone love you,” he says. He should know: In the throes of his parasitism he really believed he and David could become friends, or perhaps family. Soon enough, he warns, David will see the same loathing in Syd’s eyes that Farouk sees in David’s. Not even the most powerful mutant can conceal his treachery forever.
After David leaves, Farouk concentrates his power until one small piece of his halo breaks – maybe not enough for him to use his full powers, but also not so much that D3 is aware of the damage. He summons a mouse and whispers to it, and this furry messenger carries that whisper to a sleeping Syd.
When the morning of the trial arrives (Chapter 12: The Trial of the Shadow King), Cary reflects on medieval ships of fools. Are we the sane who exiled the insane, or the insane who lost track of their voyage? What follows delivers no easy answers. David swaggers into the courtroom, holding his own sort of court until Cary springs the trap. A forcefield springs up around David, and D3 puts him on trial/stages the most poorly executed intervention since Wesley Wyndam-Pryce tried to apprehend Faith. The Vermilion read out the charges against David Haller: He will be implicated in future crimes leading to the end of the world. The evidence against him includes the strong likelihood that Cary built the orb that enabled Future!Syd to seek David’s help.
Syd leads the intervention angle, acknowledging that David has prodigious powers but asking him to acknowledge that he is also mentally ill. If he won’t learn to manage one of those things, he’ll never learn to manage both of them. Of course, David has no interest in managing himself, and he certainly has no interest in being managed by anyone else. He tries to flip the script again, equating an attempt to get him treatment with a plot to denature him, but this tactic will never work on Syd again. “David,” she cuts in, with chilling evenness. “You drugged me and had sex with me.” David looks her in the eye and does not even try to deny it. He protests only that he needs her, as though any need could justify a violation that profound. Then, he breaks: first, from reality, as David’s delusion bubbles to the surface, and then from prison. The power necessary for David to reject the truth of his actions manifests as apotheosis. He teleports out, retrieving Lenny on the way. “What do we do now?” Syd asks Clark as the air shimmers with David’s escape. His answer: “Now we pray.”
I’ve previously said Legion resembles a Greek tragedy: Many of its horrors are foregone conclusions, the inevitable product of human frailty. Oedipus’ tragedy begins when his biological parents attempt to avert a prophecy and ends when he indulges his own rage. Antigone meets her fate as much for her own commitment to her values as by her uncle’s recalcitrance. Legion’s season finale embodied this aesthetic, and what is a time traveler but an oracle? Syd and D3 may have accelerated David’s turn into Legion, but I don’t think they caused it. David has a history of ignoring other people’s needs, safety, and personhood as it suits him, just because he can. He has already made and broken the same promise to Syd on multiple occasions. Clark was right: David was always going to be dangerous when Syd broke up with him. And she was always going to break up with him because pathological lying is a relationship killer. On top of that, David was always going to choose Lenny. Syd was the girl he thought he should be with, but Lenny, with her carefree nihilism, is the partner David really wants. It only took him two seasons to admit it to himself. Who knows what he will admit to himself in Season 3?
Although I can’t say I’m particularly fond of David at this point, Legion’s dialogue, story, visuals, sound design, and soundtrack are more than enough to keep me coming back for more. Thanks for riding this crazy carousel with me, and when the time comes I hope you’ll join us for another round of Legion of Spoilers!
- “What happened….”
“Uh, well the world ended.”
“Oh sweetheart, don’t be so dramatic.”
- “We were just losing too much hair.”
“Time! It was time that we were losing, uh, my beloved and I.”
- “You haven’t had a lot of girlfriends, or you’d know when a woman wants to talk, you talk.”
- “The Son of Sam had a dog who gave him commands, but every time he pulled the trigger, he pulled the trigger.”
- “You want to know the truth? They’re terrified you’re gonna wake up one day and realize you’re a god, that you don’t need any of them.”
- “I saw you on the hill, what you did to her. Suppressing her memory, tricking her into loving you again.”
“I didn’t trick her. She loves me. She just forgot.”
“Oh, and you helped her remember by controlling her. What a kind man you are.”
- “Did I tell you I cut off the head of a Minotaur?”
“Yes, you did. In graphic detail.”
- “You’re upset. Your mind can’t reconcile the person we see with the person you think you are.”
- “In the old days, not so long ago, madmen were packed onto boats and shipped off to sea. They were said to be searching for their lost sanity. They called these boats the Ship of Fools. And for a long time, we thought we were the sane ones, left behind on dry land. But what if we’re not? What if so much time has passed that we’ve forgotten the truth? That we are, in fact, the fools afloat on an endless sea, pretending to be normal.”
ODDS & ENDS
- I don’t understand why D3 had to go all Minority Report, considering David had committed criminal misuse of his powers the day before.
- “Oh dandelion, rich and haughty” is actually not a Ginsberg poem! Way to mix it up, Oliver!
- We’ve seen that mouse before, in the reality where David whiffs Liquid Paper while toiling away in an IRS basement.
- What’s Farouk doing out? He does still need to face trial for a bunch of crimes.
- Farouk was speaking Farsi, not Arabic. My bad!
FAN THEORIES, OR WHAT THE HELL I THINK IS GOING ON
- What if Farouk appeared in terrifying guises because he saw who David was and thought that was the way to his heart?
- I may eat my words, but I’m reasonably certain that Farouk’s mouse didn’t do anything more sinister than help Syd recover the memories David suppressed.
- I’m still on the fence about that delusion-chicken being a monster in its own right and not some physical manifestation of David’s need to shore up his own monstrous convictions.
- What will Amy think about the side of David she’s about to see (from Lenny’s head)?