This review contains spoilers for the Legion season 2 finale, “Chapter 19”.
The question one should ask about Legion, which ended this week after a middling second season, is whether it’s all too little too late. Of course, the show will be back. Much like how cockroaches would apparently survive a nuclear winter, so too are superhero properties immune to the fickle whims of television executives. Chapter 19 didn’t close the book. The problem is that after eleven mostly aimless episodes the book is all stuck together and smells like self-indulgence.
You might wonder how we got here, but the answer is obvious and uninteresting. Legion repeatedly put style over substance. A relatively straightforward core plot was stretched so thin that when it turned sideways it wasn’t even visible anymore; not to the characters, most of whom felt underserved, and least of all to us, the audience. All the episodes spent on psychedelic diversions swiped the credit card of creativity. Now it’s time to foot the bill.
Had it occurred a few weeks ago, David being repositioned as the show’s villain would have mattered more – to me, at least. But in the Legion season 2 finale it not only felt slightly overdue, but rather insignificant. What was bold was how “Chapter 19” had him to commit to villainy, by mind-wiping and raping his girlfriend. I can’t say I was expecting that. Then again, I wouldn’t expect my cat to start flying, but I’d be hard-pressed to ignore it if it did. Do we award points for shock value? If something is unexpected, is it better?
Who can say? Anyone who valued Legion’s insistence on being atypical probably appreciated David’s moral one-eighty, even though if we’re being fair he was halfway through the turn already. Future Syd has consistently been a harbinger of David’s impending doom. In “Chapter 19”, we briefly see Melanie and Oliver in the astral plane, happy enough, but starting to experience the side effects of their isolation. When Oliver asks why David “turned”, Melanie says it’s because Syd showed him his future.
David doesn’t understand. Relationships are complicated. Spouses who try and predict the future are bad enough; one who knows it must be a nightmare. So when Syd interrupts his plan to deal with the Shadow King and tries to shoot him dead, he only has the bickering versions of himself to turn to. And, I suppose, Lenny, who tries to shoot Syd with a sniper rifle, but only succeeds in hitting the bullet she meant for David.
There’s a mouse involved in all this, for some reason. Farouk uses it to pass a message to Syd. In the meantime, Cary discovers David’s treachery. When he arrives to testify against Farouk, David, having deluded himself into believing he’s still the hero, realizes that the trial is his own. He must answer for “future crimes”. He really is mentally ill.
This is all, again, fair enough. I imagine if I hadn’t disconnected myself from the show’s manic energy I might have cared more, but it was undeniably well-done and cracked a window into what Legion could be if it were a little more restrained and a lot shorter. The eight-episode first season still felt an hour or so too long. When a ten-episode sophomore season needs to order an additional sixty minutes to offset its own indulgence, that’s when you know something has gone wrong.
Nevertheless, there are those who continue to appreciate Legion’s determination to be different, even at its own expense. Those people value the abstract dalliances into philosophical metaphor, perhaps more than they do the development of plot and character, or at least just as much. For those people, David escaping Division 3 with Lenny at the end of “Chapter 19” was probably a promise, rather than a threat. As for me? I’ll see if me from the future has any idea.
“Chapter 19” was the Legion season 2 finale. Check out our full series coverage.