Legion's second season finale was a reminder that its titular character is not a hero.
In fact, Legion Season 2 Episode 11 made it very clear that, despite what David himself may think, he's this story's villain. As this season has progressed, David's actions have been more morally compromised.
The lies and secrets that he promised not to tell have piled up, so much so that Syd and the rest of his friends feel obligated to save him from himself.
That final scene, one which sees David take a step toward villainy that he may not be able to come back from, is so powerful because, for perhaps the first time, we get a sense of just how far gone David is.
He's lost touch with reality almost completely and instead is telling himself a story about what is true and what isn't, and about who is and isn't a hero.
Sydney, the person he wants so desperately not to lose, is slipping away from him, and instead of letting her go, he uses his power to keep her trapped.
Legion works because of this relationship, and because, although the show is not exactly easy to follow, it always grounds its bizarre tangents and honest emotional stakes. This show is about the battle for David's mind, and Sydney's inability to save him.
What if you're not the hero? What if you're just another villain?Sydney
The show has given time to its supporting players throughout the season, but here the show focuses almost exclusively on David and Syd and the relationship between them.
Dan Stevens gets the lion's share of the honors for his wonderful work on this show, as he should. He played three different versions of David in this episode with aplomb.
Stevens' role may be flashier, but Rachel Keller's performance is so nuanced and emotionally complex that she's often the most captivating thing this show has to offer. This episode was focused on Syd's realization that the man she's in love with is not who she thought he was, and Keller sells that tragedy wonderfully.
It's really sick, what you're doing to her. Don't you think?Farouk
The episode's opening sequence, which depicted the battle between David and Farouk with stylish animation, was suitably surreal, but the episode was characterized by interactions between its characters.
In fact, this finale was one of the more straightforward episodes of Legion's entire second season, in part because it attempted to be a summation of all of the ideas that creator Noah Hawley and his writers had thrown out in the previous ten episodes.
Not all of those storylines completely track. Farouk's trajectory is still slightly muddled -- he may not end the world like David is supposed to, but why exactly does that mean he's allowed to do whatever he wants?
David, you drugged me and had sex with me.Sydney
Even so, Legion works because it's willing to play with complicated characters.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Legion's second season was the dichotomy that it established between villainy and heroism. David wants so badly to see himself as a hero and Farouk as the devil, but Legion doesn't work that way.
David can stop Farouk and still be on the wrong side. He can be a mutant with incredible powers and be mentally ill. If Legion Season 2 Episode 11 was anything, it was a rejection of the idea that humans are only one thing.
Ultimately, it's David's insistence on relying on his own worldview that leads him to completely abandon the people who are trying to help him.
I'm a good person. I deserve love.David
The show remains one of the most stylish on television, in part because it is often hugely self-indulgent, unwilling to deny itself any impulse. This episode is fairly straightforward, but it still features an extended opening sequence set to The Who's "Behind Blue Eyes."
Legion is fascinating because it seems to lack any self-control, but that also makes the show a sprawling, messy saga of one man's battle against his psychosis. The stark tragedy of this episode is that it reminds us that this is not a battle David is going to win.
The difficulty the show has always had is that, while Stevens is compelling, David is a confusing, complicated character who often feels unknowable. He's charming and sweet, but he also clearly has a fondness for torture and murder.
Now, Legion has taken a step towards suggesting who David is, and all of the sweetness that Stevens played through its first two seasons may prove especially crucial now that David has decided that he doesn't need Syd nor any of his other friends at all anymore.
Sydney: What do we do now?
Clark: Now we pray.
David's power may be inherently corrupting. The show seems to continually be asking whether anyone that powerful can even be blamed for bending others to their will. How do you know what is right if you consider yourself a god and not a human? Why should you have to play by other people's rules?
Through its first two seasons, Legion has asked us to sympathize with a villain who wants to be a hero. Now, it seems he may have finally given up on trying to be something he's not.
The show is all done for the year, but when it returns, be sure to watch Legion online.
Do you think Legion Season 2 ended well? Do you think it did enough to justify all the strange tangents taken? Let me know in the comments below!