Legion S03E01: Chapter 20 – The past is quite literally prologue

At the end of Legion’s second season, I was miffed, to say the least. What I considered a terrific sophomore effort ended with what I felt was a betrayal of David as a character. One of the few problems with writing reviews is that often what you write is a first impression: being both analytically and emotionally involved in a story is a balancing act and with Legion’s season two finale I realize now that I may have been a bit too emotional. At the time it felt that David’s rape of Syd’s mind and body felt like it came out of nowhere. As I said at the time, I knew that David was destined to become the big bad of the show; you just have to remember the biblical context of the show’s title to know that, but it felt like Noah Hawley sacrificed what I found to be a nuanced portrait of masculine mental health (from someone who wasn’t a bloody crime boss for once) to instead make a character who many, including myself related to a rapist. You can understand why I was mad.

Then I rewatched season’s one and two last month and came to a different conclusion. You see, I went a bit Game of Thrones on Legion: specifically, I over-related to a character who, while he may share aspects of some of my life experience, he isn’t, nor should he be exactly like me. It’s far to easy to do this, as those who are still mad about Dany’s carpet bombing of Kings Landing can attest. I was all high and mighty about that until I realized that I was guilty of the exact same thing. There is one very important difference between Dany and David going to the dark side: David’s heel turn was set up more elegantly. Season two had two external threats to Division 3 that meant that David had to enter the minds of his friends to save them from madness: the chattering plague and the delusion chickens (have I mentioned that I love this show). He saved their lives twice and got a pat on the back for it. That’s called positive reinforcement people.

Then there is where David crossed the line, which was much earlier than I thought. Consider David’s plan to kill the Shadow King: to do so he planted specific instructions into his friend’s minds without their knowledge, only figuring out what they are going to do once David activates them. That sounds a little to close to The Manchurian Candidate for comfort. Yet part of David knows that he might be doing a bad thing, as he leaves Syd out of the plan entirely. Still, she finds him and the Shadow King convinces Syd that David is the real danger, that she may have to kill him to save the world. Here we come full circle. Mutant powers are rarely portrayed as gifts that allow one to do whatever they please. Yet David, thanks to a life on the fringes of society, and actually being schizophrenic has no idea what the rules are. Why would he when his power means he can make new rules. And so, to stop Syd from shooting him he wipes her mind and has sex with her. I’m sure everyone who has had a bad break up wishes they could make their ex forget the bad thing they did, but having that power means you can’t use it and still be in love with the same person, they are now just your puppet.

Yes, season two was intense for many reasons, but let’s finally talk about season three. Thanks, in part, to Disney taking over Fox, Legion was one of the three X-Men properties to be stopped in its tracks. This isn’t cause for concern as with David being the new threat the show doesn’t have anywhere else to go from here. Season three being the end of Legion is, I think, a really good time to let this odd duck of a show finish its story. Chapter 20 feels like a prologue rather than a firing shot. It does everything it needs to: reintroducing the characters, catch us up on what’s been going on in the past year, and, most importantly, the stakes. The stakes are extremely high and no one is messing around. Through three different versions of one sting operation David kills Cary twice, Clark once, and a bunch of soldiers seemingly without a second thought. Conversely, Syd shoots David in the back, killing him twice. We get the message loud and clear: it’s the final season, no one is safe.

Which brings us to the new girl: Switch. As the main character of Chapter 20 we see nearly everything through her eyes, and that which we don’t, Division 3 in their free-love jet, was caused by her. Switch, as a character and a tool is the genre writer’s greatest weapon. Ask anyone who has ever written an episode of Doctor Who and they will tell you that time travel can get you out of any jam. Knowing Hawley and Legion though, we can expect a very singular take on the time travel story. My personal favourite touch is that travelling in time takes a physical toll on Switch, and the promise of a temporal monster who turns up if and when Switch travels too much. The game has well and truly begun.

8/10 – A fine opener that shows us all the pieces of the board before David makes it disappear.

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