'Legion' Spoiler Review: Thoughts On ''Chapter 8''

Well, the first season of Legion is over and it's a good thing we already know a second one is on the way because it left us with one hell of a cliffhanger. However, "Chapter 8" built to that cliffhanger in the most satisfying way possible, delivering gonzo action and wild character beats while also exploring its themes with humor and style. Let's take a closer look.

A Dash of Humanity

"Chapter 8" follows up last week's big cliffhanger with one of its most ingenious openings. We flash back to events of "Chapter 1," where the Interrogator (Hamish Linklater) is brutally injured during the Summerland crew's rescue of David. We watch as Clark (because that's his real name) wakes up in the hospital, covered in bandages. His husband and his son are waiting for him and offer their full support during a painful recovery process. Clark struggles with his disfigured face, but his husband sticks with him through thick-and-thin. Eventually, he's ready to return to his job and do his duty – he has to protect the world after all, and he's not going to take a desk job just because he was hurt in the field. 

It's a brilliant subversion of comic book villains (and Hollywood villains in general). Clark didn't transform in baddie with a scarred face and a an evil-looking skull cane overnight. He's an actual human being with a rich interior life and people who love him. His job may look evil from our perspective, but he's convinced that he's doing the right thing and is acting to protect the human race. And considering the threats Melanie Bird is throwing around, he may have a point.

In this opening scene, Clark, the Interrogator, offers the enemy a personal face. These aren't inherently bad people out to exterminate mutants – they're scared people who are completely unprepared to deal with their changing world. They're only human. Literally. With Walter dead and gone, we're left with antagonists who need to be educated rather than defeated. That's quite a shift and one that David Haller seems ready to embrace. After all, he could kill everyone with a snap of his fingers, but instead chooses to talk things over. With great power comes great responsibility, indeed...and an often overlooked component of that responsibility is recognizing that your enemies may be just as complicated as you.

David's Mania

Mental illness is nothing if not unpredictable and it's hard to look at David in the opening scenes of "Chapter 8" and not wonder if he's entered a manic state. One of the dangers of battling one problem is that you can create another – use the wrong medication on a depressed person and you can trigger mania, where despair transforms into dangerous overconfidence. For the first time in his life, David is in full control of his mind and body. He's battled his illness and has won a victory. It's still there, literally lurking within him and waiting for the chance to escape, but he's overcome it and can see light at the end of the tunnel.

And suddenly, he's effortlessly disarming a squad of soldiers and making plans to achieve world peace. One problem opens the door to another. Even if that second problem looks like an improvement, it can be overcompensation. And it can be just as dangerous.

While Legion sometimes pushes its metaphors to the background in "Chapter 8" in favor of locking in on the story and its characters (as is necessary), these moments serve as a quiet reminder that the victories of "Chapter 7" are only temporary. You don't defeat schizophrenia or bi-polarism or depression as much as you lock yourself in a stalemate with it...and you don't defeat a psychic parasite as much as you use your scientist friend's special collar to make it a prisoner within an imaginary coffin.

Unmaking Soup

Of course, Farouk (or the monster, or Lenny, or the devil with yellow eyes, or the World's Angriest Boy in the World) isn't done with David or the rest of the Summerland crew. It's just biding its time, making its re-emergence known to Syd as she visits the psychic "white room" inside David's mind. It's telling that this encounter plays out so differently than past showdowns with this parasite – Syd is cautious, but she's no longer terrified, even as Farouk literally drips black goo with every step (as usual, Aubrey Plaza is having a ball). Once you understand your enemy, you can confront it. Once you know the illness, understand the "tumor," you can look it in the eye and discover how to defeat it.

It's during this scene that Legion drops one of its best lines. Farouk tells Syd that to remove it from David's brain is to unmake soup...and how the hell do you unmake soup? It's a part of David now, Farouk insists. Separation just isn't going to happen without doing serious harm. In a show that's always found incredible ways to visualize mental illness, this exchange verbalizes it. You don't unmake soup as much as you struggle to change the flavors to be more bearable.

Of course, everyone does try to unmake the soup. Using gadgetry cooked up by Oliver Bird, David enters his own mind to push Farouk out, flashing through past memories while Pink Floyd's "Breathe" provides a weary, psychedelic soundtrack. But then, just as things go wrong, "Breathe" gives way to the next track on The Dark Side of the Moon, the stressful, fast-paced "On the Run." Legion was clearly made by Pink Floyd fans (Syd is named after the band's original lead singer, Syd Barrett), but rarely have these overplayed tracks been utilized so well.

Farouk confronts David and their resulting conversation will be familiar to millions of people: your disease arrives right when you're in the process of recovering, of finding your balance, and insists that you are inseparable. "What am I without you?" That's a good question. David is undoubtedly the man he is in these moments because he's had a bitter, evil monster that wants vengeance against his father inside his brain...but that doesn't mean he has to put up with it forever.

Going Full Superhero

After weeks of beating around the bush, Legion finally went full superhero show. Granted, it went full superhero show in the most Legion way possible, with body-swapping and bizarre psychic powers. Like with the final action scene of "Chapter 1," these moments are more satisfying because they're so rare – this is a comic book adaptation where every conversation is as rich and entertaining as superheroes pummeling each other.

But Legion does deliver the goods when it comes to superheroes pummeling each other. Realizing that David is losing his battle with Farouk, Syd leaps into the fray and kisses him, activating her body-switching powers and putting Farouk into her own body. From there, the Summerland crew tries to contain it, but their adversary is powerful – it leaps from body-to-body, effortlessly taking down each member (and knocking Melanie unconscious with a psychic gunshot). Of course, it all comes to a head in the hallway, where the Farouk-possessed Kerry faces off against David and the resulting explosion of psychic energy sends the parasite flying down the corridor...where it finds a new host in Oliver Bird, moments after his memories click into place and he remembers the existence of his beloved wife. Ouch.

While we've seen superhero brawls like this before, Legion's big fight scene arrives at a point where it matters. The point isn't that these characters are exchanging blows. The point is that these characters are exchanging blows at this moment for very specific reasons. Too many superhero stories end with action because that's where these stories are supposed to end. Legion's action builds on previous thematic ideas, bringing them to a big, effects-fueled conclusion.

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"If I Ruled the World..."

Unfortunately, the temporary defeat of Farouk also means placing a great character in harm's way. Jemaine Clement's Oliver Bird has been a treat since his first appearance, the kind of eccentric weirdo Legion is so good at cooking up, and his psychic hijacking by David's monster couldn't come at a more heartbreaking moment. He's been back at Summerland for all of an hour before he's gone, off on a road trip with the show's main villain. Legion doesn't even pause to offer closure for its cast of heroes – they're in total disarray when we last see them.

It's a great cliffhanger for two reasons. First, it plants seeds for what we can expect from the second season, specifically Farouk and Oliver on a journey to track down and kill David's mysterious and powerful father (whose identity was revealed last week, to anyone who was paying attention). Second, it promises that the show's two best scene-stealers are now literally connected, which means we have a lot of Clement/Plaza scenes to anticipate at some point next year. That is incredible news.

If you stuck through the end credits, you were treated to one final scene: a mysterious sphere approaches toward Summerland, scans David, and somehow traps him within, flying away and leaving Syd confused and rightfully freaked out. Not even Legion is above doing superhero post-credits scenes, it seems (although this one is weird and goofy and raises all kinds of questions).

In Praise of the Cast

Legion is over for now and I'm certainly going to miss it. So I want to spend my last section of my last review talking about something that I have admittedly ignored over these past few months: the show's cast.

Every week, I have found time to say nice things to say about showrunner Noah Hawley and his team of writers and directors, about how this show manages to be an engrossing superhero tale and brilliant deconstruction of mental illness. I have not found time to always praise Dan Stevens, who is awkward and funny and charming, playing a complicated guy with the perfect note of self-deprecation. I have not found time to always praise Rachel Keller, who is so sweet and endearing as Syd that she waltzes right over any accusations of just being a "girlfriend" character.

Let's also pause to appreciate how Jean Smart, a veteran character actress who lends gravity to any situation, helps sell the show's most preposterous ideas. Let's appreciate how Bill Irwin and Amber Midthunder have such an unlikely and endearing chemistry. Even when the show ran out of things for Ptonomy to do in the home stretch, Jeremie Harris was a reliable presence, offering a more "normal" presence amongst this cast of oddballs.

And yes, let's once again talk about Aubrey Plaza and Jemaine Clement, who take such strange characters and imbue them with such humor. Plaza, in particular, has emerged as a frontrunner for the best pop culture villain of 2017 – Farouk/Lenny is some kind of lightning-in-bottle creation, the convergence of the right actress, the right writing, and the right show. I'm going to miss the good guys of Legion, but I'm going to miss its villain even more.