This review contains spoilers.
3.6 Chapter 26
After giving Syd a second chance to crawl before she runs in the light-hearted Chapter 25, which I admittedly may have been too harsh on, Legion gets back to its bread in butter with the penultimate Chapter 26. This show is always at its most compelling when it’s toeing the line between psychedelic superheroics and nervy horror, like David Lynch adrift in a sea of Jack Kirby comics. Tension permeates almost every minute of Chapter 26 as Charles Xavier unwittingly falls into the Shadow King’s trap, David struggles to keep his more malevolent personalities in check, and the truly unsettling Time Demons bear down on Syd, Cary, and Kerry.
The Xavier stuff works like gangbusters and it’s a shame that his journey into Farouk’s web wasn’t interspersed throughout the season like last season’s lessons on insanity. Harry Lloyd gives us a version of Charles that we haven’t seen on screen before, and his compassionate, naïve and searching portrayal of the character is a great foil to both Farouk and David. On the same note, I love the way that Navid Negahban’s performance of a younger Farouk feels like a more lively, animated version of the villain compared to the cool customer that we’ve come to know. Perhaps it’s part of the ruse, but it really feels like a distinctly younger portrayal of the character and it’s wonderful work by Negahban.
David’s actions in the episode also offer a full picture of who this character is at the present moment. David is so desperate to connect with his family and stop the parasite that he blames for destroying his life, that he’s blind or maybe just unfeeling to the collateral damage he may cause in the process, mainly as it applies to Switch. By episodes end, Switch is reduced to basically a toothless husk, explaining that just because she has the ability to travel through time doesn’t mean that her body is strong enough to endure it. David’s reaction to her sorry state is callous; he basically reduces her to being a means to his desired end, and Charles is disappointed by David’s cold response. David’s desire to kill Farouk just makes him more monstrous, and eventually brings out the other Davids aka Legion. I like the way that their calls for “Daddy” echo David’s many followers. Charles is able to use his own abilities to escape David’s mind, but once he realizes that Farouk is imprisoning so many people within the bodies of the mute children that populate his palace, he realizes his hope of friendship and optimistic belief that Farouk could be reasoned with dissipates, and turns back to David for help.
Meanwhile, Syd, Cary, and Kerry end up in Westchester at the future X-Men mansion and meet Gabriella. There are so many fascinating conversations that take place between Syd and Gabriella about child-rearing, children’s desire to feel safe, and hereditary mental illness. Syd and Kerry even play out the old “if you had a time machine, would you go back and kill Baby Hitler?” scenario, in this case subbing in David, and Syd emphatically makes the case that baby David has yet to do anything wrong and is still capable of change. As cutesy as it may have been, Syd’s time with Melanie and Oliver taught her crucial lessons about how to compassionately raise a child that turns into a hero instead of whatever it is that David has become.
All throughout the episode are some stunning visual sequences, like Charles witnessing himself slaughtered like a bull by a matador, Farouk’s fake tale of the tyrant and the king, and the Time Demons’ erasure of the X-Mansion. Between the sinister vibes in the Shadow King’s Moroccan palace, the noticeable hiccups in time, and the Time Demons’ slow descent on Syd and Co., Chapter 26 is full of palpable dread. Things only seem to get worse by the episode’s end, when the present-day Farouk emerges from a painting owned by the past version of the character.
Legion’s series finale, Chapter 27, appears like it will be a showdown, father and son vs two versions of Amahl Farouk. I’m excited to see how Hawley represents this conflict, as he always eschews traditional battles in the astral plane for something more impressionistic and unexpected. However, the thing I’m most anxious to see in the finale will be how they resolve the story between David and Syd, which has always been the beating heart of the series. If David changes his past, will it just fix everything that’s come before? It can’t be that neat, can it?
Read Nick’s review of the previous episode, Chapter 25, here.