This Legion review contains spoilers.
Legion Season 3 Episode 5
Legion seems to invite questions to its own third season story in “Chapter 24” by wading into the existentialism of time travel. Locked away in essentially a deprivation chamber, Switch dreams of her sterile, almost robotic existence as her audio lessons on time travel discuss the lonely, highly existential existence of the time traveler. Though Switch was likely lonely to begin with, the voice on the tape wonders how the time traveler can feel connected to others if they know that everything ends, or that everything can be erased? I suppose the better question would be, how could viewers feel connected to a time travel plot if everything can be walked back or fixed?
That’s the danger in calling attention to Legion’s time travel elements and asking big questions about them. David can’t be asked to care about the body count in “Chapter 24” because what will it all matter if David can prevent any of the series’ events from happening? Why wonder what an ending looks like for David and Syd, the resolution of their tangled tale, if there’s a possibility that they never even meet to begin with? These larger questions about the timeline and the series’ stakes distract from an otherwise lean, mean episode that feels like a real ramp up into the story’s ending.
Part of the success of “Chapter 24” hinges on the episode leaning into its horror elements. Though I’d never say that Legion is a horror series, it’s often at its most effective when its borrowing from horror and suspense filmmaking. David’s assault on the Division 3 bus is frightening in its ruthlessness and David’s utter indifference, like the horror genre’s most memorable boogeymen, and later with his followers on the airship, Legion channels some folk horror and Manson Family vibes. Just like last week with the Time Demons, I’m most gripped by Legion when I’m unsettled by it.
Perhaps most unsettling, just beating out the tragic fates of Clark and his husband, is Lenny’s death. David is ready to wage war on Division 3, but Lenny is no longer interested in the game. Whether it was real or fake, Lenny’s experience of watching her child’s entire lifespan in a few short moments had a profound effect on her. She no longer can deal with David’s narcissism and need for control. David asks Lenny to put her own pain aside to help him handle his own, but she’s done drinking the Kool-Aid. David’s inability to be empathetic to Lenny’s plight, his casual suggestion that he can erase what’s happened, which sort of feels like an invalidation of her feelings, causes Lenny to snap. Not wanting to be controlled by David and his power, she kills herself.
Without taking a moment to realize how his actions may have led to his only remaining friend’s death, David takes Farouk’s bait and teleports to the airship. The other members of Division 3 were planning on avoiding David completely, but a better, subtler plan is afoot. Naturally, David attempts a conversation with Syd, and at first, it appears to be a warmer-than-expected dialogue between the two about the messiness of love, about not being able to quit those that have hurt or wronged you, as if Syd is finally coming around to David’s time travel plan. She poignantly asks whether being erased from the timeline will hurt, and for half a second, I believe we’re witnessing some sort of ill-advised reconciliation. But then Syd reaches a hand out and swaps bodies with David and I’m instantly reminded of Farouk’s conversation with Syd a few weeks back about emotional manipulation being their best tool against stopping David. In David’s body, Syd tries to get Kerry to kill him, but the other voices inside of David’s head, finally addressing themselves as Legion, wrest control back from Syd, wiping her mind in the process. It’s a fantastic sequence, with Dan Stevens really getting a chance to stretch himself out. As for Farouk, he attempts to stop David, but Switch helps David trap Farouk in the space between time. It’s a bit anti-climactic and simple for someone who was once such a formidable villain, but there are enough other things go right to forgive this, and I certainly don’t think we’re done with the Shadow King yet.
In true Legion fashion, the episode ends with the cast members, alive or dead, singing along to “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding.” It’s the quirky little stylistic flourish we’ve all come to expect from Legion’s more dexterous episodes and it works well here considering the carnage that David has caused and misguided vision for how peace will be achieved. “Chapter 24” may have left me worrying about how time travel could be used to help the show cheat its way to a convenient ending, and whether I’m supposed to feel these losses or expect things all to be wiped clean, but I have to give Noah Hawley more credit than that. He’s not going to bright side this one or cut corners, he knows this is all more complicated than that.
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Nick Harley is a tortured Cleveland sports fan, thinks Douglas Sirk would have made a killer Batman movie, Spider-Man should be a big-budget HBO series, and Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson should direct a script written by one another. For more thoughts like these, read Nick’s work here at Den of Geek or follow him on Twitter.