On most other shows, the kind of complete reversal suggested in last week’s Legion would be no more than a bitter precursor to a triumphantly sweet finale. We’re conditioned to expect our heroes to emerge heroically redeemed, no matter how far they’ve fallen along the way, which is why so many people loved the ending of Breaking Bad while The Sopranos finale was greeted with howls of anguish. Lord knows where Legion is going to take us in the future, but the final chapter of season two was a hard pill to swallow.
Last week, we saw David malevolently gleeful as he tortured Oliver, while Melanie selectively edited a compilation of his actions over the course of the season in order to exploit the growing doubts in Syd’s mind. This week, we cut right to the chase. David and Farouk go at it in a stunning psychic battle, a Pink Floyd laser show version of their stand-off from earlier in the season, each transforming into different creatures and weapons, until Farouk’s mind spider gets a decisive upper hand.
David’s fractured plan to best Farouk comes together in one swift move, Lenny using the sniper rifle to sound the tuning fork that renders both of them powerless. David wastes no time in pummelling Farouk – with a viciousness that is a little hard to stomach – and is about to end the Shadow King with a rock when Syd arrives, point a gun at David’s head. Farouk’s plan has worked, and Syd is convinced that David needs to be stopped. Syd shoots at David but is only stopped from killing him by a second bullet from Lenny.
This is where the problems really begin. David retreats into his mind, splitting into three: lost, confused David; chiding, practical David and angry, vengeful David. His reaction is to erase Syd’s memories of ever doubting him. But when she discovers this, and that he then had sex with her, she is crystal clear in how she sees it. “You drugged me and had sex with me,” she tells him. David’s defence would of course be that he loves her and was just protecting that love by removing the doubt and rejection planted by Farouk, but that sounds like the kind of excuse an abuser would give, doesn’t it?
David attends Division III’s trial of Farouk, only to discover it’s a ruse and he’s the one on trial. Syd begs him to get help, even after what he did to her. Vermillion tells him his choice is returning to a mental institution or death. David chooses neither and instead leans into his wavering morality and his vengeful side, freeing Lenny and vanishing. “What do we do now?” Syd asks. “We pray,” Clark says, bringing the darkest possible curtain down on the season.
So, is David now evil? Was he always headed this direction or is this the result of being rejected by Syd? Is Farouk really humanity’s saviour in the face of David’s considerable powers? I initially took everything that happens in this episode at its troubling, upsetting face value, but that was before I had time to ponder what Legion has been telling us all season via Jon Hamm’s meditations on madness. We’ve learned about how delusion spreads, about Plato’s cave of shadows, about mass psychosis, all of which suddenly seems hugely relevant. After all, Farouk has been pulling the strings from the beginning, sowing the seeds of delusion throughout Division III and gradually turning David’s allies against him, eventually creating the monster that everyone became convinced David was all along. Or is David the deluded one, the man in the cave, seeing only shadows?
Either way, none of this excuses what David did to Syd and Legion has put itself in an awkward position if it tries to walk back on rape. Whether David is redeemed in season three or becomes a somewhat tragic villain, the fact remains that he raped Syd and that’s going to be an almost impossible obstacle to overcome. It could be that the show’s future hinges on how it handles a delicate situation it might not be qualified to. My guess would be that this is the insurmountable barrier between David as hero or villain and we’re now wholly committed to this dark path, or at least one where a good side of David is being quashed by his other, stronger, angrier personalities. While that’s a brave about face for the show to make, it feels like a betrayal after having us root for David over two whole seasons. I really hope Legion knows what it’s doing here, but I’m not convinced.
Questions, questions, questions
- So how do we all feel about this shocking finale? Is David redeemable? Is this a brave move or a good show self-destructing?
- Apparently Legion has been haemorrhaging viewers this season. It’s already renewed for season three but it clearly needs to change something to get people back on side if it wants to continue for a fourth run. I personally loved most of this season but am conflicted about the finale. How many of you are sticking around?
- How amazing was that fight between David and Farouk? Just another example of how incredibly creative this show is. The song, in case you were wondering, is a cover of The Who’s ‘Behind Blue Eyes’.
- Huge thanks if you’ve been reading along with us over the last 11 weeks. Our next episode-by-episode reviews will be the decidedly different Queer Eye and HBO’s Amy Adams-starring Sharp Objects.