This review contains spoilers.
Noah Hawley might have superpowers. After successfully shepherding the adaptation of a beloved film by perhaps the most accomplished and eclectic team of filmmakers from the past thirty years, he decided to tackle a C-list X-Men property. Just like Fargo, the comic character Legion comes with its own baggage and a fiercely devoted fan base that would be ready to go berserk like Wolverine if not handled with care. Factor in a superhero entertainment landscape that’s nearly been milked dry of original takes, and the prospect of creating a new X-Men adjacent TV series seems daunting. Yet Hawley was able to create a show that is spellbinding, mind-bending, and visually inventive, using the fragile mental state of his main character as inspiration to flirt with influences as diverse as John Carpenter, Stanley Kubrick, and Wes Anderson and an excuse to punch-up the proceedings with a healthy dose of psychedelia. Legion is an unmitigated triumph and inspires hope that there are still original ways to bring superhero stories to the screen.
Our finale for Legion starts off in an unexpected place, going back to the pilot to follow the interrogator, who we learn is named Clark, after he is brutally maimed during David’s escape from Division 3. After suffering severe burns all over the right side of his face and body, we watch Clark as he lies in the hospital, his concerned husband and son sitting worried by his side. We then watch as Clark returns home, rehabilitating to the point where he’s able to return to work, sternly determined to get back in the field and even the score against David and the Summerland gang.
At this point, Division 3 needed a face to represent its anti-mutant aggression and Clark serves that purpose wonderfully. The parasite in David is a perfect and quite literal example of an internal struggle, but the series also needs an external enemy. We’ve been so focused on the Shadow King that Division 3 has been underrepresented. Hell, this episode is only the first time that we hear the organisation via Clark spout their heavy-handed “mutants threaten the human way of life” rhetoric. Humanising Clark by showing him at home, recovering from the wounds suffered at the hands of the people he fears the most felt like the genesis of a real antagonist, and I hope that he and Division 3 take on a more substantial role in the second season.
Even though Clark is introduced into the action of our final hour, his involvement is inconsequential. This episode is all about extracting the Shadow King out of David’s mind, but it won’t be as easy as slipping a device over David’s head, as Syd learns. Because Syd has been inside David and thus exposed directly to the Shadow King, she’s able to interact with the parasite in her and David’s White Room. Appearing like a nightmare version of Betelgeuse, a decomposing, oozing Lenny warns Syd that David won’t survive the extraction, with each word uttered echoing creepily in a whisper. “You ever try to unmake soup?” the parasite asks, before telling Syd that if David is ever going to be free, it will be because it chose to leave David on its own.
Still, Oliver and Cary strap David down to begin the process, and instantly David is back in his own subconscious. Finally, we get our true, tripped-out Pink Floyd moment, as “Breathe” drones while David moves backwards through his memories, the Shadow King being erased from each one individually. It’s as wonderful as the sequence that began the series and sets the stage for the final face to face with the Shadow King. “What am I without you?” an almost mournful David asks the grotesque version of Lenny, comparing the parasite to a phantom limb before the Shadow King takes its last stand and starts strangling David. Out in the real world, David begins convulsing, and Syd knows that she must act if David is to survive.
I’ve said multiple times that Syd may prove to be the real protagonist and hero of the series and she certainly backs that statement up by springing into action and kissing David, causing their consciousness to swap. It’s here that things begin to get messy. The Shadow King seems to enter Syd, who then touches Kerry. Kerry then appears to harbour the parasite as it uses her fighting skills to quickly neutralise the Summerland gang and Clark. Finally David appears before Kerry, but instead of having an epic showdown, they just sort of run at each other and then are propelled. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a little anti-climactic. That being said, I also wonder if this is truly David in battle with the Shadow King and not Syd using David’s body. The rules of Syd’s power have been sort of hard to follow.
Meanwhile, throughout all of this Oliver is working in a power room, trying to generate enough juice for the device that will remove the parasite from David. During this, Oliver’s memory appears to come back to him as he fondly speaks Melanie’s name. But the power room that Oliver is working in is at the end of the hallway where David and Kerry are squaring off, and as the pair of powerful mutants collide, the Shadow King leaves Kerry’s body in a black mist and enters an unsuspecting Oliver. Making Oliver the new host for the Shadow King is brilliant. Jemaine Clement has been a highlight on the show and pairing him with Aubrey Plaza for scenes is going to be dynamite. Also, Melanie’s love and devotion for her husband will cause conflict as the Summerland gang will surely pursue the dangerous villain.
The Summerland gang all awake okay, thinking they’ve defeated the Shadow King as T. Rex’s “Children of the Revolution” plays, to this writer’s delight. All appears to be hunky dory at the complex, but a mid-credit stinger shows David being captured by some strange robot drone. This could be a comic reference that is currently going over my head, but all I know is that season two of Legion is going to start with some serious problems for Syd and the gang.
Though the final showdown may have left a little to be desired, the rest of the episode featured all of the elements that made this season such a joy to watch and set up the series nicely for its return. I still have plenty of questions and things I’d like to see expanded on when Legion returns in 2018, but once again Noah Hawley and FX took a challenging property on and completely knocked it out of the park. Legion has proved to be an Omega-level TV series.
Read Nick’s review of the previous episode, Chapter Seven, here.