‘Legion’: Think about the future
Season One, Episode Eight — “Chapter 8”
By Jarrod Jones. The relationship between David Haller and Amahl Farouk, such as it is, has been one of give and take. Nestled somewhere within David’s noggin, presumably on or around his conspicuously over-sized amygdala, is the province of The Shadow King. For a generation Farouk has not only taken from David’s power, he’s fed off of his instinctual fears, his carnal fantasies, the nastier facets to our personalities. The intimate stuff.
When you look upon Farouk in his natural, jaundiced state, you can see the years of gluttony swinging from his jowls, the hunger burning in his eyes. The Shadow King has grown fat from David’s power for so long that it almost seemed a mercy that he would create someone like Lenny. Wild-eyed and prone to impulse. Fun. Somebody who could help David settle into the kaleidoscopic nature of his reality a little more comfortably. Had Lenny never showed up, David may have become a problem for Farouk a lot earlier in life. A parasite can’t feed if the host is constantly smacking him off.
David, inversely, has been giving his entire life. His youth, his happiness, his freedom — that’s all belonged to The Shadow King. But David’s been taking too (though it’s strange to think that a host could ever take from a leech). Farouk may have held sway over David’s mind, but his own autonomy has long eluded him. David’s genetic gifts kept Farouk’s ambitions in check.
We get a piece of Farouk and David’s reckoning, something that’s been building since we scarcely knew what Farouk was, but only a piece. Legion‘s season finale indulges in the grr-angry machismo found in lesser superhero fare — we get a glimpse of what Professor X and The Shadow King’s fight on the astral plane might have looked like, though I certainly didn’t ask for it — which amounts to a maddening (but no less intriguing) cliffhanger. If you needed the reminder, cliffhangers don’t wear well on comic book TV shows.
The finale of Legion decides to concern itself with characters we once thought long gone, while continuing to gloss over others (like Ptonomy Wallace, who’s officially just a piece of furniture in this show). For a show as clever and mold-breaking as Legion is, this conventional epilogue is definitely a disappointment.
The more thoughtful bits of “Chapter 8” come early on, during a flashback sequence that takes place shortly after “Chapter 1”. The Interrogator is still alive — burnt, in agony, and vengeful, but alive. Left to stew at home while his husband frets over his miserable current state, a plan begins to take shape. It’s revenge certainly, against David and Melanie Bird and all the other mutants out there who are just one swift revolution away from taking hold of the world. Clark, as we now know him, decks himself out in a sharp crimson suit and a bitchin’ cane, and sets off to make David’s life a living hell. But he also believes he’s protecting those he loves.
Better villains were created with less, and in Legion those are not in short supply. In fact, Clark has quite a bit more to learn about his white whale, specifically about that over-gorged Yellow Devil lurking just behind David’s eyes. When Clark takes his jackbooted Division 3 cronies to Mel’s compound, it’s not long before his limitations are presented for all to see. David, the world-breaker, has the upper hand.
In “Chapter 8”, Clark’s antagonistic ascension to Legion has come too late. As a foil, he’s little more than a device, a window through which we’re allowed to see Cary and Kerry Loudermilk make the first painful step towards reconciliation. Through Clark, we also get to see Mel and Ptonomy and Oliver and Syd hatch their plan to extract Farouk from David’s mind forever. More literally, Clark’s a direct window for Division 3, once again depicted as a shadowy crew of old white men, who watch the events unfold from Clark’s point of view. Flanked by the Division’s director is Clark’s husband, who lends Clark stakes even though it’s not clear where his sympathies lie in this war against mutants. He loves his husband, and that’s enough.
Earlier in the episode David said this only works if it’s not about me. I’m not sure this is what he meant.
The first season of Legion gets a certain amount of closure by bookending itself with Clark, though this particularly plot-heavy episode doesn’t benefit much from it. Orders from Cary’s control panel get shouted to Oliver (who climbs the innards of a peculiar silo filled with switches) as David and Farouk mentally grapple to Pink Floyd’s “Breathe”. It’s the episode’s one moment of psychedelia, compromised by the nagging superheroics that have mostly been held at bay by an otherwise more cerebral show.
It hurts just a little to watch Jean Smart, who is always wonderful, blurt out clunky dingers such as “Execute Plan M” when Mel and Oliver still have so much to work out. Suppose that, and a few other things, will have to keep until next season.
“War is over… if you want it.” – David, to Clark.
“Have you ever tried to unmake soup?” – Lenny, to Syd.
BEST MOMENT: David and Lenny make their farewells. Lenny, covered in boiled tar and broken, makes one last violent grasp for control.
SEASON’S MVP: Aubrey Plaza crept into Legion and seized it. Dan Stevens had my heart, but Legion‘s nemesis stole it.
WELCOME TO THE MACHINE:
– Red sightings: Clark’s crimson suit, a flash of the World’s Angriest Boy, Lenny’s belt, the chairs in Clark’s waiting room, the red beam encircling David and Farouk, blood pouring out of David’s eyes, flashes when Lenny begins to strangle David.
– Pretty sure I heard a Wilhelm scream squeak out of David’s little G-Man tree.
– Am I the only person who felt that the entire Division 3 subplot (and all mentions of some impending war), were completely superfluous to the show? Sure, that’s pure X-Men stuff, but in a heady intro season such as this? Eh? Eh.
– I can get used to the idea of Jermaine Clement stepping into the villain role in Legion Season Two. Though how much mileage next season will be able to get out of The Shadow King… that’s another story.
– T-Rex’s “Children of the Revolution” is a fit way to end a season featuring the children of the atom, I think.
– So what say you, Legionnaires? Are stinger endings on a TV show too cheeky? What was that floating orb, and why did it want David? Anyone else pouring one out for Ptonomy? Let me know in the comments below.
6 out of 10
Season One Score: 8 out of 10
Before: “Chapter 7”, here.