Legion ends where it began, with a blue-eyed baby crooning in his crib. But it ends if not happily ever after, then happily all over again ever after. Annihilation and new beginnings are closer than we like to think.
Perhaps fittingly, this episode doesn’t begin with our players. Instead it opens with title cards of familiar places, from the woods of David’s childhood to the meadow where Summerland first guided him through his memories. Superimposed text explains what is about to happen, or what is about not to have happened, or what is about to begin, or end. A green, young world brims with possibility: a return to innocence, or a rediscovery of it.
And then the innocent in question. Legion’s finale revisits early iterations of David: The series premiere’s grasping infant and sullen teen. The second season’s thoughtful and then brooding man, who survived desperation to come into his power, and then abuse it. He is trying to tell us something about reinvention. This is Lessons in Time Travel, Chapter Zero. He had to nearly kill a time traveler to get here, but David stands at the fulcrum of his past, or his future. His father has promised to help him defeat Farouk. They prepare their weapons: David produces an orb that becomes a psychic mace, and Charles loads a psychic bullet into his revolver. On their way out, they pause to hear Switch’s delirium: She wants to stay up later. She’s looking pretty rough, but she’s not ready to go to bed.
Charles and David leave her and stride to Farouk’s chamber. Or, as it happens, Farouks’ chamber. The young Farouk of the present and the older Farouk of the future make some awkward introductions. Older Farouk has brought younger Farouk up to speed, and the latter has some cogent but unnecessarily provocative things to say about David’s attitude. David gets the drop on him, and one blow from the psychic mace takes young Farouk out of play. Older Farouk eyes Charles with congenial menace, saying, “I suppose that makes us dance partners.”
On the other side of the world, the occupants of the Xavier house are fighting for their survival as well. Time Eaters hot on their heels, Syd and Gabrielle race downstairs. Syd needs to rouse Kerry and Cary from their time stupor to save Gabrielle and baby David. When she unfreezes them everyone runs for the door, but time skips and they land in the basement instead. Tick tock, little birds: The demons are closing in.
But Cary has an idea: if the demons eat time, a single person with two timelines might slow them down. Cary and Kerry merge one last time, but this time Kerry rises from the wheelchair and draws her sword. The Loudermilk twins are about to give the Time Eaters a run for their goddamned money.
The final battle begins. Cary was right: the mutant twins’ parallel temporalities, separate but linked, stymie the creatures. By now viewers know that Kerry is a bona fide badass fighter, but it’s still gratifying to get an extended visual reminder of just how bona fide a badass she is. Undeterred by the way time stutters around her, she slices and impales demons in tandem with herself. Syd covers Gabrielle and David with a shotgun. The Time Eaters keep on coming, but they also keep going down.
David’s mace knocked young Farouk into the prison of David’s mind. Farouk manages to blast away a handful of the other Davids, but there are just too many. Crying “Monster!” the Davids subdue young Farouk with a good old-fashioned Agent Smith pile-on. Of course, even young Farouk has seen The Matrix movies. He Neo-punches through and hurls a now straitjacketed David against the wall. Bound but not gagged, David falls into a familiar darkness, howling with rage. And even this younger Farouk recognizes the way to undo David is not with power or weapons but by serving up his fears laced with vicious truth. Farouk calls David a frightened child who does not deserve love. The delusion that fueled so much of his bad behavior punctured, David screams like a baby abandoned in its crib.
But even the fussiest babies scream themselves out, and eventually David falls into a more quiescent state. To soothe himself, he sings, and Gabrielle sings with him. Perhaps he imagines it, or perhaps her love reaches him in Morocco. They sing a duet of protection and constraint, reprising the impossible lullaby of a mother who promises no harm will ever come to her child. The song gives David the strength to throw off Farouk-as-straitjacket. When he tumbles to the floor, David reprises a scene from the Season 2 finale, nearly beating Farouk to death for the second time.
Charles has also struck his quarry, but the older Farouk he shoots is not so easily neutralized. Fortunately for Charles (who is too inexperienced to stand a chance), older Farouk has been in this game too long to be looking for a battle to win. This wiser iteration sees a problem to solve. He proposes discussing it like adults, over a drink.
Charles and Farouk are both the sort of combat veterans who see the pointlessness of combat as a conflict resolution tactic. They agree that war would be a tremendous waste of everyone’s time and energy and instead negotiate over that drink. Farouk admits that his younger self’s intentions were predatory, and immature. He confesses his parasitism but adds that those 32 years taught him much about love, longing, and suffering that he cannot forget. He regrets what he was, and he has a proposal.
Kerry’s final glorious battle continues apace, but not for much longer. The Time Eaters have found enough purchase in her existence to age her. Kerry’s hair is graying and her face is taking on the weariness of middle age. But Kerry is not about to let some arthritis take her out of the game. She remains determined to stand her ground to the bitter end.
As young Farouk diminishes under David’s blows, his palace shudders. The quaking rouses Switch, who is too weak to flee her fracturing room. Terrified and desperate, she makes a doorway one last time. Switch and her bed fall into the time corridor. She has just enough strength left to let her remaining teeth clatter to the floor. The Time Demons gather. Surrounded and helpless, Switch surrenders, accepting that bedtime is here.
She falls to the bed lifelessly. A hand caresses her face, restoring her youth and health. Amazed, Switch awakes. She marvels to find herself awake and whole. “Your baby teeth have finally fallen out,” her father says by way of greeting. “And look what have replaced them: wisdom teeth.” The Time Demons linger in their clusters, but Switch’s father explains they’re nothing to fear. They are not demons, but well-trained guardians. He produces a whistle and demonstrates some basic commands. “Sit.” They sit. “Stay.” They crouch motionless. “Begone.” And they disappear.
They share a touching exchange about the screens they wore in the three-dimensional world. There is no mention of death; Switch has merely undergone a phase change. Her body—her former body—wasn’t strong enough for time travel; three-dimensional bodies never are. Only a four-dimensional body can sustain the movement in time for which she was born. A door slides open, and father invites daughter. “Come,” he says, “Let me introduce you to existence, untethered.” But Switch isn’t ready to go just yet. There’s one more thing she must do.
For the second time in his life, David’s nearly successful attempt to murder Farouk is derailed. This time it’s by his father. Charles expresses some reasonable disapproval about homicide-as-problem-solving, but also apologizes for putting David up for adoption. He admits that he understands it must have hurt, but also adds that he couldn’t imagine doing for any other reason than baby David’s own protection. He proposes another way forward, a way that isn’t war.
While Charles reasons with his son, older Farouk adjourns with younger Farouk to impart some lessons about human life and feeling. Using his sunglasses, older Farouk broadcasts the memories he lived over 32 years in David’s mind. Moved to something like growth, younger Farouk agrees not to parasitize David in this timeline.
And so we come to the beginning of the end.
Kerry is too old to fight and Syd is just about out of ammo, but they will not go down fighting. Switch whistles the remaining Time Eaters into stillness and dismisses them. She tells Syd, Gabrielle, and baby David that the universe acknowledges them, and that their suffering had meaning. She promises that this was not for nothing, even if it has to end now. All we’ve seen will not have happened and this Syd will be erased, but this time baby David gets to move forward without the specter of the Shadow King. Switch promises Syd time to do one last thing, and that her next iteration will be “glorious.” She then thanks her for helping her when she was still human, and the two women embrace.
Her next stop is Farouk’s palace in Morocco, where Charles, David, and both Farouks are saying their farewells. Young Farouk will leave baby David alone, and David will grow up as he should have, as all children should. When David and young Farouk seal their agreement with a handshake, the room fills with Switch’s light.
Having done the needful, she returns to the corridor, where her father is waiting for her. She’s finally ready for her arc to end in a well-deserved apotheosis.
Syd and Kerry see each other off tenderly, and Cary and Kerry face each other as equals at last. Her hair gray and her back stooped, Kerry can’t call Cary “old man” anymore. Instead they call each other brother and sister, finally closing the loop on this iteration of their life together. Switch didn’t address them downstairs, but maybe she didn’t need to: In every iteration, Cary and Kerry will live their best lives together, waltzing the beat of their shared life. They didn’t need the world to end to learn how to begin, or how to end.
Charles Xavier has come home at last. Hat in hand, he delivers a well-deserved apology to Gabrielle, who finds the words to tell him she can’t do this parenting thing alone. He promises not to go away again. He commits to staying with her, to raising David together. He’s always liked teaching, you know.
Upstairs, Syd studies Baby David. When Adult David tries to thank her, she replies that she didn’t do it for him. It’s important for him to know that she did it for the defenseless infant who has the potential to grow up into a man who will not do the things this David did. He finally apologizes to her. Her parting words are an injunction to actually be good this time, and they both fade away with the timeline that we’ve followed for the past three years.
The series’ final image is the same as its first: A blue-eyed baby stares into the camera to the tune of “Happy Jack.”
Legion’s finale surprised me. I couldn’t imagine how it would square the circle of David being irredeemable, but Legion found a way to avert apocalypse without letting him off the hook. And the one who makes this all possible is not David or even his father: It’s the older Farouk, encouraging Charles and David to take responsibility for their choices by admitting the folly and cruelty of his own. Legion has variously teased being a superhero origin story, a supervillain origin story, a love ballad, and an apocalypse. But at long last, it revealed itself to be a coming-of-age story, a bildungsroman about the nature and uses of power. Strength can be the power to obliterate, but it can also be the power to support. To be vulnerable. And sometimes, it is simply the strength to put one foot in front of the other, to find your way back to the beginning, or the end.
Thanks for taking this wild ride with me. Tune in next week, when Legion of Spoilers comes back one last time so I can ruminate on power and reality and a mind-bogglingly awesome soundtrack. Mostly the soundtrack.
- “Time travel does not give on the opportunity to change oneself; but rather, to eradicate oneself.”
- “Because if we don’t believe in change, we don’t believe in time.”
- “A boy pretending to be a man. Always blaming others.”
- “Such a disappointment. We can make anything we fancy in this arena of infinite promise, and this is what we come up with: weapons. War. Surely we have more imagination than that.”
- “I’m a good person. I deserve love.”
“No, you don’t.”
- “Rise from your slumber. Bedtime is over.”
- “This is the end. The beginning. The end.”
ODDS & ENDS
- The first thing David pulls out of his ear is a dead goldfish. I remembered Syd’s childhood pet, but my partner saw a reference to the Babel Fish from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
- In this week’s title card, a bunch of planets align. Make of that what you will.
- Comics fans may disagree with me, but I rather enjoyed seeing Charles Xavier at a restive and gormless stage of his life.
- I think I get why Switch’s dad liked robots. He exists without moving through time, and they move through time without existing. How quaint!
- I would watch a spinoff of Cary and Kerry’s adventures.
- I would also watch a spinoff about Switch, if for no other reason than to get the soundtrack to her existence.