This Legion review contains spoilers.
Legion Season 2 Episode 11
Can a knockout finale save a middling season? Allow Legion to try and help you form an answer. During its first season, Legion used the thrill of the new and different to sell its stylish diversions and mask its flaws, particularly in the character department, but in year two the show’s quirks began to wear thin when plot and character developments were stalling out. Sure, the Jon Hamm interludes about delusions ended up paying off, but the little delusion creature? The orb? Admiral Fukuyama? Ptonomy and Vermillion? Kerry’s separation from Cary? The Minotaur? These threads were at best harmless indulgences and at worst unresolved wheel-spinning.
Still, Noah Hawley and company stick the landing with an hour about mental illness, ending unhealthy relationships, sexual assault, and heartbreak that not only concludes the season’s story with some twists, but also has me anxious for more. I feel like the designation of a sophomore slump is always avoided if I’m immediately itching to fire up another episode. The power of the conclusion is blinding me from the flaws in the journey.
I was ready to write a pretty pessimistic post-mortem for the episode as soon as it started with the all too on-the-nose “Behind Blue Eyes” number, and I scoffed when it was revealed that when Farouk did away with The Choke last week, it turned out he just didn’t toss it far enough. The animation battle sequence was cool, reminiscent of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’s DJ battle, but the big showdown could have used something that felt more intimate, and I don’t mean like bludgeoning someone with a rock. After a cheeky interlude from Melanie and Oliver that immediately conjured thoughts of What We Do In the Shadows, possibly due to the Jemaine Clement connection, Syd came out holding the Minotaur head, completely glossing over whatever that was supposed to be. It seemed like the finale would share the same shortcomings as the season, but instead the writer’s shifted to the season’s best story, the fracturing of David and Syd.
Rachel Keller and Dan Stevens do some fantastic work showing their characters’ reactions to the end of their romance. Both teary eyed, Syd comes to the realization that she trusts herself more than she trusts David, no longer willing to accept his half-truths, mysterious departures, and secrets. She decides to trust her future self and remove David, the villain, but when she fires her gun, Lenny shoots the bullet and the explosion knocks them both out. While out cold, David confronts the voices that have been plaguing him all season. The versions of himself try to tell him that the delusion that he’s convinced himself of is that he’s a good person deserving of love, but he’s actually a God that should embrace his true power. David protests that he’s a good guy and can fix his relationship with Syd, then proceeds to behave like an absolute monster.
Using superpowers as a lens to explore sexual coercion and assault, Legion has David commit an act that’s way more disturbing than turning a man to dust with the snap of his fingers. David erases Syd’s memory of their fight, which is essentially akin to drugging someone against their will, then proceeds to have sex with her under false pretenses. Luckily, Cary is able to recreate the events on the hill and notices that David did something to Syd, and even Syd seems aware on some level that things aren’t right. It’s definitely the first time David has felt like an all-out villain.
David goes to gloat to the locked-up Shadow King, and it’s here that a new layer of their relationship is revealed. When Farouk chides him for his treatment of Syd, he tells David that he knows you cannot force someone to love you, because he could not get David to love him. Angling Farouk as someone who loves his “baby boy” is a nice little twist in their relationship, like a Batman and Joker level of co-dependence. I hope it’s explored more in Season 3. Anyway, after David departs, Cary’s tinkering causes a short on the device that is holding Farouk’s powers at bay, allowing him to whisper to a mouse (just go with it) David’s deceit, and the mouse delivers the message to a sleeping Syd.
The next day, David thinks he’s attending Farouk’s trail, but really, it’s an intervention for David meant to capture him and send him back down the path of rehabilitation. David may have had a parasite inside of him, but he truly was mentally ill all along. Held on trial for his future crimes, David is flabbergasted that he could be held accountable for things that he hasn’t done yet and wails desperately about how he’s a good person before Syd lays his crime bare. Now all of Jon Hamm’s talk about delusions and the insane convincing themselves that they’re sane hit home as David rallies against the idea of treatment or death and Syd’s rejection of his twisted love. In a pure supervillain move, David escapes Division 3, taking Lenny along with him on the ride as Syd and Clark worry allowed about what to do next, realizing that they triggered the turn that they feared was coming.
The fracturing of David and Syd and the deterioration of David’s mental state, his warped view of his relationship, easily made this the most gripping episode of the season. Though many parts of Season 2 didn’t coalesce into a coherent whole, this aspect of the season was allowed to build until it reached its heart-wrenching conclusion. Legion will be back for Season 3 and David will more closely resemble his traditional villainous comic book counterpart, a new status quo could do this show wonders. It felt like Legion had lost its ability to surprise me, but “Chapter 19” had me pleasantly shocked that David actually turned. Hopefully there’s little looking back.