Legion: mostly interesting, frequently frustrating, occasionally boring, always beautiful to look at. The second season has come to an end, and I have Many Thoughts on the subject. So let’s dig right in, shall we?
When we last saw our mutants, David’s ever-increasing dickishness was giving Farouk’s a run for its money. Episode 9 explores the theme of connectivity. Ptonomy is psychically trapped in Fukuyama’s mainframe. We learn that as a teen Fukuyama was conscripted by the feds to snoop on the masses and store secrets in his unreadable mind. But Ptonomy isn’t the only one chilling in the mainframe. The Mi-Go monk has hijacked some of the code, and Ptonomy does the same to him, learning the monk’s secrets. Using a hacked Vermillion, he tells David that Farouk is buried in Le Désolé. Meanwhile, Future Syd sends Farouk to his former driver who trades the location of his body for a permanent dream state.
David hatches a complicated plan predicated on using psychic manipulation to push his friends into position. Syd (finally!) realizes the foundation of her relationship with David was built on quicksand. She loves the man she thought David was, the man he claimed to be, but she sees through that now. If Future Syd is any indication, that love is about to implode. We see the time ticking down on their relationship as they wander the desert together looking for the monastery. Every out Syd offers him, David fails to take. Where Syd wants to see the man under the mask, David thinks that as long as he wears the mask he doesn’t have to be the man under it.
Episode 9 gives us a look at what Melanie’s been up to all this time. In short: not much. She’s been high on vapor for most of her time at Division 3, but when Oliver gatecrashed a while back he and the Shadow King got their hooks in her. Melanie descends so deeply into her delusions that she sees them in everyone else. Melanie’s subplot is boring at best, regressive at worst. She survived her husband’s coma by becoming a BAMF, but his reemergence and possession suddenly turns her so fragile she can’t cope? All she does lately is whinge about how much men suck. Her whole raison d’être now is to moon over her deadbeat beau. To sideline the tremendous Jean Smart in a role that requires her to do nothing but sit around? Ugh.
At least Lenny, Amy, Cary, and Kerry come out of this episode well. Both couples rely on each other, but while Cary and Kerry want to return to their literal pairing, Amy and Lenny are desperate to separate. Aubrey Plaza was a joy to behold during Lenny’s sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll escapades. It’s nice to see her using the wide range of her acting skills again. With Kerry, however, Legion again does a disservice to its female characters. Kerry has spent her entire existence twinned with Cary. Through him and her adventures outside him, she’s aware of the world. But at the restaurant she’s hardly more than a child. She doesn’t understand idioms or basic human interactions, in contrast to every episode she’s been in before. Double ugh.
In the 10th episode we enter the home stretch. Farouk has his long-lost body back, and not a moment too soon. I checked out of that whole plotline and its repetitive, time-wasting offshoots ages ago. By this point I was firmly in the camp of Either find his damn body or Shut the hell up about it. But before we get to that, we have to wade through the madness of Le Désolé. Syd is yanked down into a hole using the world’s most obvious trick. There, Melanie again talks about nothing but dudes and broken hearts. Syd retorts, “I get it. Oliver left, and you’re pissed. But that’s not what’s happening to me, and honestly, I’m kinda sick of talking about it.” Until she isn’t. Again, Syd falls for a blatant act of manipulation and lets Melanie turn her against David. Except it’s not Melanie—or not just her—but Farouk wearing her like he did Oliver and Lenny. Farouk!Melanie convinces Syd that David has reached his psychopathic final form, but is he truly wicked or did the Shadow King make him that way? The distinction is rather academic to Oliver after David tortures him to near death. As long as David won’t take off his sadistic mask it doesn’t matter whether he or Farouk put it on in the first place.
With Division 3’s goons, Cary and Kerry arrive at the hole when they’re attacked by warrior monks. In the trunk of the souped-up car David left for Lenny was a massive gun which she uses to put down the last of the monks after Cary goes to town on ‘em. Down in the hole, Vermillion, Syd, Cary, and Kerry are stalked by Melanie’s maze minotaur. Cary comes face to face with the new World’s Angriest Boy, aka David with a bloody drill in hand and Oliver’s body (the real Oliver, not one possessed by the Shadow King) at his feet. In the final moments, Farouk interrupts the plan David hatched in Clark’s mind—the one involving a giant tuning fork-like device that would temporarily disable all psychic powers.
Opinions on the finale are likely to be divisive. David giving into his dark side was inevitable but also thrilling to watch. However, the way they treated Syd left me cold. Syd was manipulated by Farouk!Melanie into trying to kill David, then manipulated by David into thinking she was in love with him, then manipulated again into freeing Farouk and trying to execute David. He takes it one step further by raping her into submission. The second he wiped her mind I immediately feared a rape scene was coming, and boy, did it—that Syd called it “sex” rather than rape is your regular reminder that a man wrote this show. Her assaults are no longer about her but about the men around her. The show places all the blame for David going full Sith on Syd. Sure, David is delusional and evil, but the way the last act is framed, the final straw falls squarely on Syd. Everything about it makes my skin crawl.
The rest of the episode before and after is fine enough. Melanie and Oliver narrate their lives in his psychic plane from 3 years in the future. David and Farouk fight with music and animation. Lenny intervenes twice: first to trigger the choke, thus rendering Farouk helpless, and again to stop Syd’s bullet from striking true. Farouk is brought back to Division 3 for a show trial, but escapes and turns the tables. Clark, Syd, Cary, Kerry, Fukuyama, and Vermillion trap David and try to execute him, but he escapes with Lenny. Honestly, it was a lot more of the same—David insisting he’s a good person, Syd insisting he’s not, Farouk manipulating everyone by forcing them to face the one thing they want hidden, yadda yadda yadda.
When I heard that Legion was getting an extended second season, going from 8 episodes to 11, I knew there would be growing pains. And sure enough, Legion went from tightly constructed and precise to overstuffed and meandering. The bloat isn’t as bad as I feared it would be, but it’s there, and it’s the opposite of fun. The wonkiness of the tenth episode is a good example. Originally, that was intended to be the final episode of the season, but FX expanded it at the last minute. It went from one overfull episode to two underfilled ones.
Speaking of storylines I could do without, I love you Jon Hamm, but it’s time to pack in the educational interstitials. They don’t add much to the proceedings except time, and we already have too much of that as it is. These scenes are exactly the kind of thing you’d expect from prestige tv. They were interesting the first few times, but they keep pulling the same rabbit out of the same hat and expecting us to still be amazed. Is the narrator a real person? If not and these scenes are meant for the audience only, then where did the mutant chick come from? Given how David easily dispatched it (and how quickly the show forgot about it), does it even matter?
Looking back, the second season has had its ups and downs. More downs than I’d like, but the ups were good enough to make up for most of them. The directing was stellar throughout, the soundtrack perfection, and the costume/set design gorgeous. But, and this is a pretty big “but,” Legion has some major issues to work through with regards to women. Do I really want to watch a show where the protagonist is a rapist? Or worse, where the show tries to redeem him into an anti-hero? Frankly, I’m not sure that I do.
- “Whenever you learn something new, the whole world becomes that much richer.”
- “Gone to kill the monster.”
- “I love what we were. I’m just not sure if we’re that anymore.”
- I don’t especially care for Melanie’s insinuation that Kerry’s possible desire to be a “strong, sensual woman” is a delusion. Can we not punch down on trans people?
- “There is no world to save. It’s all in my head.”
- “I’m gonna go. You’re clearly having a senior moment.”
- “What if you’re not the hero?”
- “I’m a good person. So I deserve love.”
- “God has plans for you.”
- Some strong X-Men Legacy: Legion callouts in episode 10
- David is a villain who thinks he’s an anti-hero who can redeem himself into a hero. Syd is a rom-com heroine who realized she was trapped in an action movie.
- I don’t understand why Syd wouldn’t wait until David killed Farouk to then shoot him. Two world-ending birds, one stone.
- Amy hitching a ride in Lenny will not turn out well next season.
- Hey, old man Hawley, I don’t need some Gen X-er wagging his finger at me over my use of social media. The problems of the world today aren’t caused by teens on social media. As the Parkland kids have demonstrated, that’s where they’re gonna solve all the crap y’all dumped on us Millennials. Peddle your Black Mirror bullshit elsewhere.
Alex Brown is a YA librarian by day, local historian by night, pop culture critic/reviewer by passion, and QWoC all the time. Keep up with her every move on Twitter, check out her endless barrage of cute rat pics on Instagram, or follow along with her reading adventures on her blog.