The highest-browed superhero TV series ended on a low note for both characters and viewers last season. Last night’s Legion season three premiere - the final season - was a sort of recalibration to season one, where David is dealing with several mental health issues, and also everything else in the world is weird as hell, too. It’s a solid start... I just don’t know if that’s enough.
The problem is, of course, David Haller’s (Dan Stevens) abominable sexual assault of Syd (Rachel Keller) in the season two finale. It remains to be seen how, and how much, Legion will handle this storyline going forward, and if it explores it with honesty, and with its victim as much as its main protagonist. I’m not particularly optimistic in this regard, but it’s certainly plausible that a showrunner of Noah Hawley’s calibre knows what he’s doing here.
The two previous season premieres have been packed with a wide assortment of nonsense bordering on gibberish, some of which turn out to have deeper meanings and ties to the overarching story being told. It rewards careful viewing and patience, so making any real determinations based on 45 minutes of screen time about what’s going to end up mattering by the end is a crap-shoot.
Previously, it’s helped that David has been such a charismatic character, drawing us to him, and with him through the craziness until it started being rewarding. Now that he’s much less likable - and let’s not forget, he’s also still technically destined to destroy the world - getting through all that deliberate weirdness is more of a drag than it used to be.
It also really doesn’t help that when we finally find David, he’s in charge of a cult of pregnant virgins and providing some kind of blue drug juice to keep them all happy.
There are about a hundred explanations of what David is actually doing here and after his heel turn last season, it definitely feels gross. I doubt he’s actually supposed to be something as reprehensible as the situation implies, but it’s a bad call to start him there.
Honestly, the only reason I’m optimistic here is because of the new character Jia-Yi, who seems perplexed by what she sees and not disgusted. More importantly, the main reason I cared about David here is because Jia-Yi cared about him.
Jia-Yi is a wonderful addition to the cast, played by Lauren Tsai. She’s a newcomer, which gives the whole show that “fresh start” feeling as she slowly meets the characters and learns the narrative.
She’s also a time-traveller, who David lures using very Legion-y instructions (“Follow the yellow bus; don’t trust the mustache.”) because he wants a time traveller to fix things - not his past mistakes with Syd, but with Amahl Farouk (Navid Negahban), who somehow crawled his way into David’s head when he was a baby, and Charles Xavier (who will eventually played by Harry Lloyd, a.k.a. Game of Thrones’ Viserys), David’s dad, who fought and defeated Farouk, but somehow failed to protect his son.
That’s the source of his problems, he reasons, seemingly trying to push that “unpleasantness” with Syd under the proverbial rug. Then a Division 3 strike team led by both Farouk and Syd take out everyone in his compound, and Syd shoots down David herself.
But... time travel.
Jia-Yi creates a door to enter the timestream, which looks like a curving hallway, very on brand for Legion. As a narrator explains time travel rules - don’t come back too soon, don’t go back too far, don’t go back too often to the same time or you’ll wake up the demon - Jia-Yi, now calling herself Switch (no, not that one), after she’s dubbed such by the blissed-out Cisco Ramon of the commune, travels back an hour or so to warn David of the attack.
It takes some convincing, but once the attack starts he’s ready... until Syd shoots him in the chest again, killing him. So Switch pops into another stream, into... a pleasant garden, where Farouk awaits.
It’s mostly a get-to-know-you chat, and Switch escapes, at which point Farouk tells the others at Division 3 that David now has a time traveller pal and will be tougher to catch. Yes, Farouk is now a full-fledged member of the team, alongside Sid, Cary (Bill Irwin) and Kerry (Amber Midthunder), Barry (Hamish Linklater), and a robot that Cary built that looks exactly like the sort of deceased Ptonomy (Jeremie Harris) who is still Mainframe, the computer which is the heart of Division 3.
Yes, it seems like a supremely bad idea to keep Farouk on the team, but on the other hand, he’s the only person who can really stand a chance against David’s powers. Also, Farouk did zap everyone with a bit of mind control at the end of last season, which is probably still holding firm. He is, after all, a pretty bad dude.
And yet, so amiable! After his run-in with Switch, it’s still two hours til the attack, and he asks Syd not to go on the mission. Syd explains she’s not in love with David anymore and this is just a job. But Farouk explains, “Revenge is not a job.”
He also states, “Love must be turned into another emotion,” which I genuinely love - exactly like matter cannot be destroyed, only changed in form. Syd’s passion has turned to a deep desire to see David dead, but Farouk doesn’t change her mind about the mission, at least. She’s with the team when they land—at which point David teleports his whole commune away, house and all. Switch got to him in time. The end!
There’s enough good stuff in there that I’m looking forward to watching play out over the season, and it’s mainly Jai-Yi-related. How did she develop her time travel powers? Why did her father only visit her via remote TV access? Why does her dad own so many robots, and why does Jia-Yi hate them so much? (Jia-Yi tells Farouk she’s helping David and not him because David is a man and he’s a robot is weird but definitely interesting, so I expect much more robotics going on in the future. Plus, robot Ptonomy!)
But there are a few others: What was up with Scottish David hanging out in Cult Leader David’s backroom? What’s the deal with the “first” tattoo on Syd’s wrist? And what are the plans for the Blue Drug Juice? Dude was making a lot. I’m definitely intrigued, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous.
I can easily see this show taking another bad turn, and a few more after that. But I certainly hope not, and I think there is some reason to hope. Here’s what Hawley told the Hollywood Reporter about season three:
“‘What the show is following is this cycle of mental illness. We met David [Dan Stevens] who had been at his lowest point and tried to kill himself, then he meets Syd [Rachel Keller] and he gets balanced out.
He’s on his meds. He gets out and everything’s going great for a while, and he thinks maybe I don’t need these meds. He goes off the meds and spirals down, which is where we find him now,’ Hawley said. ‘The question now is can he get back to some kind of good place, or is he gone for good?’”
That’s a good story to tell, and part of recovery is accepting that you’ve hurt the ones you love, and how you need to do your best to atone for that hurt, according to their needs, not yours. That’s a very good story to tell, and I hope it’s the one Legion’s final season is about to tell.
Lenny, the Breakfast Queen, Froster of Flakes, first of her name.
Switch is indeed a Marvel comics mutant. He’s a dude. Anyone who gets upset over Switch getting a gender change for the character’s TV debut depresses me immensely. He also has different powers than this version.
Cary has developed collars that hide people’s minds from David, which is why they were able to get in a sneak attack. I imagine they’ll be wearing those every minute of every day forever. I sure would.
I know Legion has never been afraid to get silly, but I laughed every single time the tactical assault team pulled out a giant hook to grab that guy. Every. Single. Time.