Heroes Become Villains in ‘Legion’ Season 2 Finale

Marvel’s “Legion” on FX might work depending on what state of mind you happen to be in while watching. It ends its second season by continuing to combine comic book twists with tripped out, almost psychedelic visuals. The big finale leaves fans to wonder all summer if the hero was a hero all along, or just a villain in waiting. It opens with a big showdown where it seems the line is clearly drawn between good and bad, but by the end credits the tables turn and, in classic comic book fashion, everything is turned upside down.

The finale opens with David (Dan Stevens), facing off in a final psychic battle with Farouk (Navid Negahban), also known as the Shadow King, while singing a spacey version of “Behind Blue Eyes” (told you this is tripped out). Nearby Lenny (Aubrey Plaza) takes aim with a rifle and shoots the power dampener which knocks out David and Farouk’s powers, thus allowing David to beat Farouk to a pulp. But just as David is about to end the Shadow King once and for all, Syd (Rachel Keller) to stop her lover from becoming a killer. But Lenny also intervenes and wounds Syd with a gunshot, she survives by David wipes her memory from the last few hours. As the episode progresses Farouk begins to pit David and Syd against each other, by revealing to Syd about the mind wipe. Everything is culminating as David must face what he already knows through looking into the future, that he will eventually use his powers to destroy the world.

For those unfamiliar with the X-Men comics, the season 2 finale will come as a welcome shocker after a season that has been more obsessed with looking trippy than shaping a strong narrative. “Legion” has been rightfully praised for its set design, cinematography and arthouse digital effects, but it is in this episode that the season justifies itself with great stride. David stands out as a Marvel character because of his unique complexity. He is fighting an evil force (the Shadow King) for most of the season, but he himself has a violent, dark side that slowly gets worse. Just because his adversary happens to be bad doesn’t necessarily make him good. This conflict fuels the writing in the finale, as David debates with other versions of himself in psychic interludes, as they try to convince him Syd is merely a break holding back his true potential. There’s no hopeful romanticism in this episode, even when David sees a vision of himself making love with Syd, in one of the show’s typically drawn out sequences. Some of the best moments take place after Shadow King is picked up by the always enigmatic Division 3 and he begins to play mind games with David, toying with his emotions. Of course the Shadow King, for it is he, throws David under the bus when he doesn’t get what he wants. He reveals to Syd what David did to her mind, essentially shattering their relationship.

Everything that was safe and established during the first two seasons simply vanishes in the final moments, as David is imprisoned in a chamber and Syd tries to convince him to seek help in order to control his rages. He eventually escapes and chooses Lenny as his partner in crime. It is a selfish move, because she won’t go against him, ever. David is not pretending to be nice anymore and seems ready to wreck havoc. For readers unfamiliar with the whole Legion storyline in the comics, spoiling what might come next would be a crime, but if the show follows the literary trajectory, it will be apocalyptic.

“Legion” is a labyrinth of a show, at times hard to follow because it basks in playing mind games and filling the screen with visual puzzles. But it holds your interest because it is so rich in its creativity. The opening battle between David and the Shadow King becomes a live action-animation combo as drawn projections of the two adversaries appear onscreen, in the form of samurais, dinosaurs and military machines. Although the finale has a much darker palette, there are small flourishes that are nice to look at, such as a small egg one of David’s projections uses to discuss his hidden nature. It would be interesting to run a poll on just how many devoted viewers tune in with chemical aids.

“Legion” ends with a refreshed storyline as the hero now becomes a dangerous, psychic menace. Can he be pulled back from the brink? The beauty of television and film adaptations is that they don’t always follow the published script, so we have a while to ponder just what might happen. This show is a mind bender, but never a sleeping pill.

Legion” season two finale aired June 12 at 10 p.m. ET on FX.