Welcome to the second and final part of my revisit of the first season of Legion. In my previous article (which you can read here) I looked at the first four chapters of the season as well as the heroes of the piece and now in this part I’ll give an opinionated recap of the final four episodes with some emphasis on the show’s villains.
When we last saw David he’d completed ‘memory work’ and had become more confident in himself and his abilities but this is only because The Shadow King, the parasitic mutant that has been living in and leaching off David’s brain since he was a child, has taken greater control. In Chapter 5 he uses his powers to create a place, presumably a version of the Astral Plane, where he and Syd can touch and be together. With his new-found arrogance, David storms off to Division Three headquarters (the government agency tasked with stopping the mutant threat) alone and under The Shadow King’s influence kills everyone, phasing them halfway through walls, and rescues his imprisoned sister Amy. Our team of mutant heroes follow him and discover the truth about what lives within David and where they might be going next. They track him and Amy to their childhood home but “The Eye”, a mutant agent working for Division Three, follows them and opens fire on David as everyone meets in his childhood bedroom. To save his own life, and by proxy David’s, The Shadow King freezes time and traps everyone’s minds in a shared illusion while three bullets hang just mere metres from David’s body.
Division Three are one of my least favourite aspects of the first season. Not because they are poorly executed but because they are simply the generic government agency we’ve already seen hundreds of times in these kinds of shows. The agency is headed by Brubaker, a dull character we get a couple of scenes with before his death in Chapter 5, and while we get a brief mention of Division One we don’t know the difference between these Divisions. There are some interesting aspects of the agency though, namely the great tracking shot they are introduced with in Chapter 1, the bizarre ‘fabric screens’ they use instead of regular monitors and the agent known as “The Eye”.
The Eye, real name Walter, is shrouded in mystery throughout the season and perhaps too much so. He’s a great presence onscreen with his bad suits, one milky eye, Mick Hucknall hair style and penchant for wood whittling. In the first episode we see him whittling (great word) a piece of wood into the form of a dog and later we see that there is a caged dog at the Division Three facility but bizarrely this is never explained. What is explained, albeit briefly, is his backstory and we discover he used to work with Cary and Oliver before turning bad, Magneto style. Although I guess he’s the opposite of Magneto because he went to work with the government to track down other mutants but we never find out why. Oh, and he can take the form of other people, becoming a perfect replica except for his milky eye.
Chapter 6 finds David, Syd, Melanie, Cary, Kerry, Ptolemy and The Eye unknowingly trapped in an Astral Plane illusion version of Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital as patients and Amy as a nurse. Thematically I’m not entirely sure why Amy is a nurse when the others are not. It’s probably just to give her something to do because after her rescue it just feels like she’s along for the ride for the rest of the season. The Shadow King, of course, takes the role of the doctor in the form of Aubrey Plaza’s Lenny or “Dr Busker”. This gives the villain total and ultimate control over all of their minds and effectively makes him God and the concept of mutants becoming Gods is a theme that is toyed with throughout the show. In the illusion, David is allowed to live in limited luxury with books and time to paint to keep him content as The Shadow King pillages his mind. It’s a fun else-world style episode that ends with Oliver, whose been trapped in the Astral Plane for decades, coming to the rescue and contacting Melanie, Cary and Syd.
Chapter 6 highlights just how great Aubrey Plaza is in the show. She was great as Lenny in the first episode but it’s not until later when she gets to play The Shadow King in the form of Lenny that she truly shines. She’s a familiar face to David which makes him automatically trust her but also allows her to be the ultimate tormentor. Plaza is perfect for the show: hot, crazy, fun and scary. Her dance sequence to “Feeling Good” is incredible, showing The Shadow King’s newfound power and freedom as well as giving us an excuse to watch Aubrey Plaza hump a chair.
Chapter 7 is easily the peak of the first season with one of my favourite sequences of a TV show in years. The Shadow King locks David in a tiny part of his mind, symbolised by a coffin, as the big bad takes complete control and locks down Clockworks to find the missing patients. Oliver brings Melanie, Ptolemy and Cary’s minds into the real world where time is frozen and works on restarting it while Syd searches for Kerry in Clockworks and David breaks free of his mental restraints. This all occurs during a sequence set to Jeff Russo’s version of Bolero and is just as mind fucking-ly awesome as it sounds complete with black and white sections, silent movie-style intertitles and gruesome deaths. It’s a sequence I never get bored of watching and is barmy in a way only Legion can make succeed. Oliver is successful and the group is freed from their mental prison while David, using a nifty-plot-device-of-a-headband, traps The Shadow King temporarily in a recess of his mind. This event also causes Oliver to awaken but with an impaired memory; he’s unable to remember Melanie at all. During the Bolero sequence it’s The Eye that The Shadow King kills (he gets scrunched up like a crisp packet) just because the big bad grows tired of him; it shows The Shadow King’s strength and confirms he’s main villain but it’s a little unsatisfying to see a cool character get quickly killed off.
The Shadow King is the primary antagonist of the season and the show does a great job of slowly setting him up. At the beginning we see him in glimpses under different disguises that have allowed him to stay in David’s mind unnoticed. He’s been King the dog and “The World’s Angriest Boy in the World” book character in David’s youth and as an adult David sees either his friend Lenny or the scary “Devil with Yellow Eyes”, a character that is genuinely terrifying due to the great makeup. The Shadow King has always been there influencing and feeding off David while constantly hiding and changing memories to survive. With the ‘memory work’ it has to survive in a different way and takes over David more noticeably, changing his personality, instead of staying in the shadows. It’s Brubaker’s final words, “It wears a human face”, that leads our mutant heroes to the truth. The Shadow King is known to Cary and Oliver, although it’s not stated how, and we learn it is a very old mutant whose consciousness has separated from its body and lives in the brains of others like a parasite. We also learn that The Shadow King’s real name is Amahl Farouk but is it possible Farouk was just another host and not the villain’s true origin?
While trapped in The Shadow King’s version of Clockworks, David speaks to his rational mind, who’s portrayed by a British version of himself (gotta love stereotypes) and figures out why he was put up for adoption all those years ago and the truth about his father. He works out that The Shadow King knew David’s father who was also a powerful mutant and is implied, but never stated, to be Charles Xavier. The Shadow King and Xavier do battle and The Shadow King is defeated but manages to get away. Xavier sends David away as a baby to protect him but The Shadow King warps (is that the right term?) into David’s brain and has been torturing him ever since with mental illness while also lying in wait to take full control of David when his powers are strong enough in the hopes of battling, and this time defeating, Xavier again. All roads seem to lead to Professor X and while I’m hoping Legion recasts the role and keeps the universes separate I’m never anti-Patrick Stewart. It’ll be interesting to see how they tackle this in season 2.
And this brings us to the season finale, Chapter 8, which when compared to the previous few episodes, is something of a disappointment. It begins with David now being sane and in full control of his powers. It’s cool to see him like this, especially him levitating with ease when they return to Summerland. Soon Clark, the Division Three interviewer from the first episode, shows up, now badly burned, and David proposes a truce between the Summerland mutants and Division Three and the season ends with them in a shaky alliance. Meanwhile, with the help of some technical stuff, Syd’s powers and Pink Floyd on the soundtrack, The Shadow King is removed from David but manages to squirm itself into Oliver’s brain just as he regains his memory of Melanie. The final scene shows Oliver and a mental projection of Lenny driving off to “somewhere warm” while Children of the Revolution by T-Rex blasts on the radio.
While I’m unconvinced on Division Three I do like the character of Clark a lot and his reappearance in the finale is important. He shows that Division Three isn’t all bad, or at least doesn’t have to be, because of the time we see him share with his family. Hell, he’s a poster boy for modern-day wholesomeness, complete with a gay lover and an adopted black son. His appearance in the final episode also bookends the season by contrasting the difference in David between the premiere and the finale. As for David, it’ll be interesting to see this new level-headed version of him develop in season 2. Will him being sane for the first time in his life just as he starts to enter an insane world bring about a new form of insanity? I can’t wait to find out.
To conclude, here’s some random thoughts on Legion as a whole and also the post credits scene that finishes off the season:
- Legion has made for a great pairing with Jessica Jones season 1, the show that was the focus of my previous revisiting series. Both have personal and psychological stories and villains and rank among my favourites of the genre on TV.
- The relationship between Cary and Kerry (two people who share one body) is fascinating to parallel with the relationship between David and The Shadow King. I hope for more comparing/contrasting between the two in the second season.
- The sequence at the end of Chapter 5 where the team infiltrate David’s childhood home is fantastic. The Shadow King cuts off all sound so the team can’t talk to each other or notice that they are being stalked and, as Legion’s best moments often are, it’s played for both laughs and horror.
- At a stretch I feel like Chapters 6 and 7 could have been one episode (much like Chapters 2 and 3) but the show’s atmosphere and tone often make up for moments when the plot feels a little thin.
- Normally I’m not a fan of shows not having episode titles but ‘chapters’ really do fit Legion very well because the show is just one long story in a way that feels novelistic. While I’ll of course watch week-to-week for season 2, the show is well suited for a quick binge.
- There is a reference to a “Major Briggs” in the final episode which is a Twin Peaks reference if ever I’ve heard one.
- Ptolemy doesn’t want to make peace with Division Three in the finale so it’ll be interesting to watch him in season 2 when they join forces.
- While in the Clockworks illusion, Cary had to leave Kerry for a short period of time which made their relationship a little frosty when they returned to the real world. They hug in the finale so it looks like they’ve made up but I wouldn’t be surprised if they are still at odds come season 2.
- Amy gets little to do in the final episodes and I don’t know if she even needs to be in season 2 of the show. I wouldn’t be surprised if she gets killed off early on.
- I missed the post credits scene when I watched the show for the first time and only came to find out about it recently before this rewatch. We see Syd and David talk at Summerland before a weird spherical drone flies in and sucks up David. The final shot is the drone flying away with a tiny David banging on a window in the drone’s centre. The drone could be Division Three but I’m leaning towards a currently unknown third party. Happily, we’ll find out very soon when Legion returns to our screens on April 3rd.
What did you think of the first season of Legion? What do you think will happen in season 2? Let me know in the comments and geek out with me about TV, movies and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.