Every villain is the hero of their own story.
This review contains spoilers for Legion’s Season 2 finale, titled “Chapter 19.”
A delusion begins like any other idea, as an egg. That egg was laid in the first season of Legion, and tonight, we saw it hatch.
The eleventh and final episode of Legion’s second season picks up with David and Farouk on a collision course. Farouk finally has his body back. David is unshackled, unhinged and ready for vengeance.
Music and sound have been a prominent motif in this season, and the pair’s beyond bizarre entrances to the tune of “Behind Blue Eyes” somehow feel like an appropriate capstone to it all (it’s worth noting that Lenny’s new blue eyes were a major catalyst for David’s rapid unraveling).
This is it, we’re told, the showdown to end all showdowns. Good vs. evil, the fate of the world in the balance. Since that tremendous dance sequence in the season premiere, we’ve been curious as to how this climactic battle would eventually be visualized, and it does not disappoint.
A buzzy, syncopated display of neon and flash sets the stage for David and Farouk’s psychic war, literally overshadowing the physical reality of these two characters more or less just standing in front of each other.
Just when Farouk gains the upper hand, as future Syd hoped he would, Lenny intervenes. Using the weapon David planted for her, she activates the “Choke,” temporarily suppressing their mutant powers. With no telepathic protections, David turns the tables in a savage way, beating Farouk with his fists.
He almost certainly would have finished the job, ending the Shadow King once and for all with a rock to the head (as prophesied all those episodes ago), but Syd arrives with a gun and an agenda. She’s here to stop David, and while she hesitates on the trigger, it’s clear that her mind is made up. Despite David’s pleas, Syd fires, and David finds himself trapped inside his own head.
Faced with betrayal from the person he trusted the most, it seems that David’s psyche has begun to crumble. Various aspects of himself emerge, one cold and logical, another egomaniacal. While Legion has always played coy with its comic book roots, this seems like a direct throughline to the original Marvel Comics character, who drew power from his multiple personalities.
In any other show, this would seem like a non-sequitur, a step away from what we would have assumed to be the big moment of the season finale: the resolution of David and Farouk’s showdown. Instead though, Legion reveals that this was, and has always been, a distraction.
The true reveal, the true delusion we have been operating under, is that it was never about the Shadow King. It was about the premise we accepted, so quickly and without hesitation, that David is the hero of this story. Despite his shortcomings and his flaws, we wanted to believe that ultimately, he is a good person, and deserving of love.
Back in physical reality, David has been saved at the last moment by one hell of a shot by Lenny, shattering Syd’s bullet in mid-flight. With Syd knocked unconscious by the blast, David finally goes too far, choosing to manipulate Syd’s mind, effectively tricking her into loving him again.
Division 3 arrives, late to the party as usual, taking Farouk and Lenny into custody to face judgement. David and Syd return to headquarters, where Syd can tell that something has changed, she just isn’t sure what.
The pacing in this episode is bizarre, and occasionally frustrating. Coming off of such a huge high, the season finale segues into a much quieter second half. It feels strange to leave so many threads hanging. Ptonomy is still trapped in the machine, Cary and Kerry’s reversal has yet to really be addressed, and clearly, Lenny and Amy have plenty of unresolved business.
But as the season draws to a close, all of that is pushed aside to make room for a much more vital idea. The show’s big external conflict turns inward, as David grapples with this one last decision he must make; a decision that will forever shape who he is as a person, and what path he will ultimately walk.
David goes to visit Farouk one last time, and in a subtle but powerful exchange, we get the sense of a truth that has been eluding us all this time. Mutant powers didn’t make David a hero. Instead, they’re what will ultimately drive him to become quite the opposite. The line between David and the Shadow King grows increasingly less clear.
Power, as it seems, always corrupts. Oblivious to his true predicament, David doubles down on his plan to kill Farouk, regardless of what Division 3 decides, while Farouk himself prepares one last trick.
It all comes to a head in the season’s final moments. Arriving at Farouk’s trial, David recognizes just a moment too late that he has been betrayed. His former allies at Division 3 and Summerland have realized the truth of David’s nature, and demand that he give up his powers and receive treatment.
While at times the finale seemed to ramble and meander on its way here, it was all worth it to get to this scene. Dan Stevens is in absolute peak form here, evoking all of the complexity of a character whose mind is being torn in so many disparate directions.
At this point, we as the audience know full well where David goes from here, and yet Stevens manages to infuse the moment with a certain element of empathy. His sense of betrayal is so palpable. If not justified, it’s at least understandable. David is on the wrong path, but he doesn’t know that. To him, he’s still the hero in this story.
For 19 episodes, we have been right there with him. Despite the growing evidence to the contrary, we believed that ultimately, David would be vindicated. We deluded ourselves into thinking David was the hero, when in fact, he makes a far, far more interesting villain.
As the show’s second season draws to a close, Legion is finally born, a force of unimaginable pain and destruction.
This story has never been about fulfilling audience expectations, and has frequently found its strongest footing when it’s actively subverting them. The show’s final twist in the closing moments of the finale, transforming David from a misunderstood hero into a full-blown villain, is exhilarating and provocative. While I’m somewhat frustrated that the finale chose to evade any real sense of closure, I am without a doubt excited to see how this plays out in the next season.
In the end, what is the sound of truth? That sound, it seems, is Legion.