Everything Goes Back to the Beginning in the Series Finale of ‘Legion’
In its mind-bending fashion, FX’s “Legion” bows out. Trippy but surprisingly simple, the series finale goes through the show’s usual motions of psychedelic dreamscapes, time travel and archaic dialogue only to end on the simplest resolution imaginable. But it’s a shame that this comic book TV adaptation was only around for three seasons. Even when it became too confusing for its own good this series exposed the visual timidity of other shows. Experimental in an arthouse way but action-driven for the mainstream, “Legion” was never a bore to watch.
David (Dan Stevens) is still in the past, coming face to face with father Charles Xavier (Harry Lloyd). Showing off their ability to conjure psychic weapons, the two then enter another realm where they find the grand villain of this whole affair, Farouk a.k.a. The Shadow King (Navid Negahban). Ah, but there are two Farouks actually, one from the past dueling with Charles and the one from the present who has been battling David. It’s now or never so David attacks modern-day Farouk and the two disappear into the astral plane while Charles and his Farouk sit down like gents to try and resolve this little war. Meanwhile Syd (Rachel Keller), Cary (Bill Irwin) and Kerry (Amber Midthunder) are still with David’s mother Gabrielle (Stephanie Corneliussen), surrounded by Time Eaters. Cary and Kerry decide to merge (literally) to confuse the flaming-eyed monsters. Don’t forget about Switch (Lauren Tsai), also trapped in portals of time under threat from the Eaters. But when her father appears she seems to find a way to both save everyone and set them on a new course.
For its three seasons “Legion” has operated like a modern-day show that would have played just as well in some psychedelic ballroom back in the 60s. Hallucinatory visuals have referenced everything from Alice in Wonderland to the Grateful Dead. But the series finale slightly tones down the extreme visuals, still retaining a dreamlike quality while focusing on wrapping up this whole journey. Still, it gets trippy. Farouk manages to put David in some kind of psychic straight jacket, taunting his infantile quest for revenge. This leads into a long sequence where David starts singing Pink Floyd’s “Mother” with visions of Gabrielle crooning along for a few moments. It can’t be “Legion” without a classic cut thrown into the soundtrack. Bodies will meld together, Switch will seem to dream within a dream, waking up and spitting out her teeth in the time travel realm before her father wakes her up and explains that it was a pseudo-Freudian symbol. She was losing her “baby teeth” and attaining true knowledge. Earlier in the episode there’s an elegant set of neon visuals as David and Charles shape psychic tools for battle like a glowing sphere and psychic bullet, both pulled out of their respective ears. In a way it makes sense for “Legion” to have vintage LSD-style tones since its comic book of origin, “X-Men,” was a product of the 60s.
Aesthetics aside the concluding chapter to David’s saga takes on a poignant, bittersweet tone. Writer/creator Noah Hawley puts aside cliché resolutions. There are no fiery deaths for villains in this episode or triumphant final scenes for the heroes. At its heart “Legion” has always been the story of an orphan. David’s rages stem primarily from having been denied a healthy childhood and feeling abandoned by his father. The opening scene in this episode is a montage of memories of David’s sad early years. Love is not something easily attainable in this world, whether for David or his one-time lover Kerry (left scarred for even having been involved with the telepath). While in his straight jacket David even yells, “I’m a good person, I deserve love!”
The final episode becomes a metaphor for facing the past and starting all over. Charles cuts a deal with Farouk: David and his allies will get a chance to start all over, literally, from infancy and in return Farouk’s existence will be respected and hostilities with Charles will cease. It is Charles’s chance not only to apologize to David, but to promise that now he will be a real father. Present Farouk also uses a pair of glasses to make past Farouk look into the future, and everything his present self has experienced. With tears in his eyes he acknowledges what he has learned.
After so many mazes of time travel logic and telepathic visions, “Legion” ends as a moving note on regret and second chances. Charles vows to Gabrielle that he’ll be there for their family. Yet the most moving scene is the final one, of David and Kerry looking at infant David, waiting to fade away. When David tells Kerry she’ll grow up this time into someone better because he won’t be in her life she can only confirm that yes, it’s true. There’s room for false romanticism. Fittingly, the final shot closes to The Who’s “Happy Jack.”
If other comic book shows, like the string of cancelled Marvel titles on Netflix, failed to grab because of a repetitive, somewhat stale nature, “Legion” was actually bolder than most. Like “Hannibal” it went for visual palettes you rarely see on the small screen, taking itself seriously as art as well as entertainment. Comic book lovers could, of course, endlessly enjoy all the cross references to other Marvel worlds, but there was always an impressive sense of artistry. Though the story has now closed, it was a trip worth taking.
The “Legion” series finale aired Aug. 12 at 10 p.m. ET on FX.