Legion’s title has always felt like an uncomfortable promise. We know its main function is to be a description of David Haller, except it’s not a description that had fit David all that well. Legion is simply the word used to describe a multitude, or an army, or a horde. Division 3 could fall under this definition what with its literal army being used to try and stop Farouk reclaiming his body. Chapter 18 makes the choice to finally decide what Legion really means, and it’s not good.
“Legion—the world-killer.” One of my consistent questions about season 2 of Legion, which stretches to the show in general, is are we watching the transformation of David into a hero, or is he really the villain of the piece? Season two has been going hard in having David be secretive, flaky, and increasingly more powerful. His relationship with future-Syd, along with disappearing for a year, has fractured his romance with present-Syd, and he has literally got the power to step into people’s minds if he wants to. We have seen David mostly use his powers for good: like curing his friends form the chattering plague along with the black insanity chickens, but there has always been more to David’s role. This was confirmed by future-Syd’s confrontation with Farouk where we found out that David is responsible for ending the world in her timeline.
Here is the thing about time travel as a tool for story-telling: it can be used effectively, or it can be abused as a method of getting out of any jam. The Flash is an example of a show that introduced time travel in a cool and engaging way in its superlative first season only to get bogged down with time remnants, wraiths, and the waste of Flashpoint. If you want a truly flawed use of time travel, look no further than Doctor Who: specifically, Matt Smith’s ambitiously flawed second season. The season was built on the unavoidable fact that the Doctor died in a manner that couldn’t be avoided, which was a scenario that powered the rest of the season in interesting ways. Except the resolution felt like a cheat.
I mention these examples because it looks like Legion is going a particular way with this conceit. There are two ways that time travel narratives are implemented. One is where characters are shown the future (usually a bad one) and spend the rest of the story trying to avoid said future, which they succeed in doing. The other way seems to be what Legion is choosing: the idea that, no matter how hard David tries, the future is set and inevitable. This method has helped the season gain a lot of tension thanks to the switching about of core motivations. Many people, including David, thought that the next stage of the story would be to hunt down and stop Farouk, thus saving Oliver. Then David was kidnapped by a tiny sphere that showed him future-Syd, who told him that he had to help Farouk retrieve his body since he played a part in stopping the coming apocalypse.
Keeping that promise has proven impossible, with the final straw being Farouk’s murdering of Amy to give Lenny a new body. As far as David is concerned, the monster that lived in his head must be destroyed once and for all.
This leads David to the monastery where he believes that he has finally found Farouk, still hiding in Oliver’s body. As an added complication, Farouk has already set a trap for Syd (using a poor rabbit as bait) where Melanie gives her the montage version of David’s sins. Apart from Kerry’s brilliant action scene, it’s the David and Syd plots that are the strongest; unsurprising since everyone else is getting into their positions. David mentally and physically tortures what he thinks is Farouk, with a big old smirk on his face throughout, but the truth is that he is just drilling holes in Oliver. Farouk is really Melanie, and he takes a slightly contagious pleasure (which is purely to the credit of Jean Smart clearly relishing her chance to ham it up) in showing Syd all the choices and lies that have turned David into the villain of the piece.
In fairness to David, apart from the torture, Farouk’s plan to get Syd out of David’s corner is psychology 101. Yes, David lied about his relationship with future-Syd, but it was a goodbye kiss. Granted, this is semantics, but Farouk is clever enough to know that if you put together a montage of anyone’s bad behavior they come across as bad people. What is even subtler is that Farouk points to some of his own actions while controlling David yet because he is wearing Melanie’s face the words carry more weight. David’s villainy isn’t clear-cut, though Farouk is doing a great job of making it seem this way, especially to David. But David has had a lot of heroic moments this season, moments that have been fueled by care and affection of his friends, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Farouk’s plan backfire. That being said, as we saw in the multi-David episode, David is at his most dangerous when he is isolated.
8/10 – Chapter 18 is the Legion version of the finale set-up. It’s an episode that finds most of the good guys at their lowest points and the villain of the piece returned to power. The only question is whether Legion goes for the more complicated finale, or if it will be as simple as season one.