Legion S2– Episode 11: “Chapter 19” (Season 2 Finale)
Starring: Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Aubrey Plaza, Navid Negahban, Bill Irwin, Amber Midthunder, Hamish Linklater, Jean Smart, and Jemaine Clement
Written by: Noah Hawley
Directed by: Keith Gordon
Trigger Warning: The review contains mentions of sexual assault.
”I am a good person. I deserve love.”
The above line breaks my heart for a couple of reasons. For one, it really cuts to the heart of why I love David Haller as a character. He is someone that, no matter the circumstance, be it his mania or melancholy or his tremendous powers, will always be just a person trying to be said person and do the right thing. He just wants to help and he just wants to belong. The other reason it breaks my heart is that it was said on a show that made David Haller an abuser of women.
By now I am sure you’ve heard about this season’s “cliffhanger.” Hopefully, you are just as disappointed in it as I am. Damningly it even comes after an hour of truly great television. A true season finale, one that draws its threads of the story together tautly (and super weirdly) and then explodes them into bravua showcase of its cast and story arc. I just don’t know why it had to cost every bit of that goodwill on top of core characterization in return.
So, this finale’s other slightly smaller headline is that David’s insane, “Mouse Trap” like plan actually works and Farouk is captured. This stuff is what makes up the episode’s explosive first act. Hawley and director Keith Gordon really go for it. The pair meet in the desert, floating eerily above the ground like proper god and belting out a stellar Jeff Russo cover of The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes.” Farouk SPEAKING the lyrics in Farsi, which is a brilliant touch.
The screen then explodes into CG mental projections as the pair battle each other on the astral plane. This bit is an undeniable high point for the episode. Legion rarely has set pieces, even by normal comic book adaptation standards. When it does, they do it so goddamn perfectly. Giving an arthouse feel to something so goofy. This scene even throws out some canny specific comic book shoutouts to a possible Proteus cameo to a showing of a recent Shadow King redesign from Charles Soule and Jim Cheung.
The cast also really shows out here in this finale, especially Rachel Keller. The script takes them to some WILDLY out of character places. The cast really imbues this finale with the weight and gravitas that it so properly deserves. Keller’s scenes in particular, right in the aftermath of the Shadow King’s defeat, deliver gut punch after gut punch beautifully emoted from Keller. She stands steel calm even while she is covered in Melanie Bird’s Minotaur’s blood. Dan Stevens continues to prove a worthy foil for her, but….Jesus Christ, am I still just so disappointed in the place we leave David going into S3.
The worse part is that Noah Hawley could have gotten to the place we leave David, having experienced The Turn to evil in the wake of his Dissociative Identity Disorder being confirmed, without having assaulting Syd. He could have stopped with the mindwipe. Which is already so grossly Charles Xavier I could spit, and then gone from there. But, nooooooooo, since this is prestige TV and they already got away with Syd’s problematic origins (another choice that baffles me the more I think about this season), they have to have some form of sexual assault plot line. But only this time it comes at the cost of the show’s core relationship and the fundamental characterization of its TITULAR CHARACTER.
I apologize for my lack of objectivity about this. I just love this show and David Haller too much to just handwave this away like certain sects of the audience and fandom seem to be able to. Hawley is a writer that really likes to delve into “Action/Consequences.” Hell, just look at Fargo for examples. However, to fundamentally break the emotional cores of your show and to this extreme just seems like such a barren and horrible place to leave the show going into S3. Thankfully the fandom has amazing Leigonaires like @sydneybaretts who came through in the aftermath of this character breaking finale to offer a thread of hope in the form of a theory centered around Future!Syd. Also giving a possible ray of light between her and David in the wake of The Turn.
It just occurred to me. The scenes with Future!Syd. According to the Vermillion they happen I wanna say 20-30 yrs from s2. Syd never gave up on the David. “Her” David, the David before The Turn that we witness in the szn finale. (long thread) pic.twitter.com/Nfggw6vrsV
— jade. 🦊 | SAW MUSE ON 4-8-19!!! 🎸🚀✨ (@sydneybaretts) June 16, 2018
I am very glad the show doesn’t seem to have any plans to let David off the hook about this. Doubly that Hawley and the writers have left themselves plenty of narrative feints to possibly (god, hopefully) walk back a lot of this stuff. It shouldn’t have ever come to this. I know it probably shouldn’t have taken 800 to say, “Most of it is amazing, until it rips your heart from your chest.”, but that was all that I had for you.
Verdict: Watch It. Share In My Pain, Legionaries.
Season Grade: C
Before “Chapter 19”, Legion was headed for a high B. Possibly even a low A depending on what transpired during the finale. But episode 11 really, truly disappointed me and left me with a very sour taste in my mouth regarding probably my favorite mutant ever created. That’s not a place you want to be when you love a show like this as much as I do. Am I being overdramatic? Probably, but I am willing to take that on for the spirit of MY David Haller in the ashes of one of fandom’s great OTPs.
Until next season, Long Live the Legion, and I’ll be seeing you.