This Legion review contains spoilers.
Legion Season 3 Episode 3
We were never supposed to get Charles Xavier on Legion. When the show was developed, FX and Fox made it quite clear that though a passing reference may be made to David’s famous mutant father, the character was unlikely to appear on screen. In Fox’s eyes, having Patrick Stewart or James McAvoy appear as Professor X on the FX series would only further muddle the already complicated X-Men timeline, and Noah Hawley’s wigged out vision for his series didn’t quite align with their prized X-Men franchise cash cow, so having another actor portray one of the principal leads of their series wouldn’t be preferable either.
With the Fox-Disney merger, all of those hang-ups and worries would disappear. Fox’s X-Men franchise took a bow with the disappointing, under-performing Dark Phoenix, and without having to shepherd the mighty mutant IP for another round of films, Fox allowed Noah Hawley to play with one of their prized toys, this time casting Game of Thrones alum Harry Lloyd as the powerful telepath. It’s a wonderful development for the series, as the introduction of Charles Xavier and his lover Gabrielle Haller leads to one of the series’ finest hours.
Per Hawley’s style, Charles and Gabrielle’s origins aren’t cut and copied from comic book lore to the screen, but core elements of their backstory remain in place. Charles meets Gabrielle, a Holocaust survivor, in a mental institution, instantly mirroring the meet cute of David and Syd in Season 1. For a show that has delighted in masking what era the events take place in, this is the first solid conformation that the late 60s/70s aesthetic of David’s world isn’t just a stylistic choice. Anyway, Charles uses his ability to help the near catatonic Gabrielle (played by Mr. Robot’s Stephanie Corneliussen) clear out the debilitating trauma she experienced. Charles knows that his powers are intrusive and can be easily abused, highlighted in a brilliant, unsettling black and white scuffle in a foxhole during Charles’ apparent time as a soldier, so he makes it clear that he only uses his powers to help.
Charles and Gabrielle fall in love within the walls of the institution like some quirky indie dramaedy, and Charles then uses his telepath abilities to free them from hospital. The two have David together, but after sensing Amahal Farouk with an early version of Cerebro, Charles leaves in search of the man that shares some of his abilities. During her time alone, Gabrielle longs for Charles and also struggles as Farouk torments her and tries to infiltrate the body of David. Throughout all of this action, we watch as Gabrielle sees visions of the adult version of David and hears his cries for his mother. Using Switch’s abilities David has time traveled to witness his parents’ history and prevent Farouk from entering his body as an infant, but for some reason, Gabrielle cannot quite see or hear David despite his attempts.
Toward the episode’s end, David is able to make himself visible during one of the Shadow King’s disturbing tricks on Gabrielle, but Charles returns just in the nick of time to interject and dispel David from the past. However, in the aftermath, Gabrielle is returned to her catatonia as the Shadow King takes advantage of a distracted Charles and swoops into David. It’s still unclear how time travel exactly works in this story, so it’s possible that David’s interactions with his mother from the future are and always have been partly to blame for David’s essential possession. Another interesting wrinkle is the presence of the World’s Angriest Boy doll. I took it to be a physical representation of the trauma or mental health issues that people pass down to their children, but it could also represent that the memories or past that we are witnessing have already been distorted by the Shadow King.
Regardless, after David is driven out of the past, he’s desperate to return, but Switch is too drained to help him. She loses another tooth, which seems to be a consequence for using her time traveling abilities. There’s no telling how David will react to Switch not being able to help him in the way that he envisioned. We’re left with the lingering, fantastically creepy image of Amahal rocking baby David on his knee.
“Chapter 22” is a fine reintroduction to Charles Xavier, but an even better episode of Legion. It’s able to tell a compelling love story while working in some patented psychedelic and disconcerting imagery. Utilizing non-linear storytelling, we’re able to watch as Charles makes the mistake of engaging a monster and how that monster takes away all that is truly important to him. I also love the cinematography in the episode and how Legion is always changing up its look based on the tone or setting of the story. As someone who has been annoyed with this show at times in the past, an episode like “Chapter 22” reminds me why I fell for this series in the first place.