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Legion’s finale is one of the season’s best episodes, but still can’t save it

A great episode for a troubling season

Michelle Faye/FX

When Legion started, I was excited for the possibilities it brought.

Showrunner Noah Hawley managed to attract — and keep — my attention with his work on Fargo, and after the first episode of Legion, I was hopeful he was going to bring the same kind of storytelling to the X-Men universe on TV. Unfortunately, as time wore on, it became clear that Hawley was willing to sacrifice substance for style, and that ultimately made watching Legion less fun at times.

In that regard, Legion’s finale manages to fix a few of the series’ biggest problems. Like Mr. Robot and Westworld, if the second-to-last episode of Legion is used as a way to reveal the biggest pieces of information. With Legion, that refers to the Shadow King and its influence over David, along with a history of why he embedded himself in David’s brain as a child. The episode went over the Shadow King’s relation to David’s father, Professor Charles Xavier, finally answering a question fans have had since the show started.

Also like Mr. Robot and Westworld, Legion uses its finale to neatly wrap up most of its loose ends. We finally find out what’s happened to the interrogator, played by Hamish Linklater, from the first two episodes. David finally rids himself of the Shadow King in an intense one-on-one conversation between him and Lenny. One of the best scenes finds Sid and David sharing a very Matrix-like moment, with Sid leaning down to kiss David when he’s at the Shadow King’s hands. This inevitably saves him, furthering their relationship and ending the war between David and the Shadow King at the same time.

What Legion’s finale does spectacularly well, however, and should be commended for, is closing the chapter one one book while teasing the starting of another. After David manages to rid himself of the Shadow King once and for all, his moment of celebration is ruined by the realization that the monstrous entity had to be transferred somewhere. The Shadow King cannot exist on his own. He has to manifest himself in another body, and Legion finds a way to play this out beautifully. By attaching the Shadow King to Oliver Bird, the Shadow King is no longer an internal demon David must contend with, but a physical one.

The second season will most likely follow David, Syd and the rest of his team as they try to hunt down Oliver and the Shadow King, but it’s never fully stated. Hawley teases the possibility of the second season without diving into it, unlike Westworld, and the finale feels better crafted because of it. It’s a spectacular episode that acts as the final cherry on top of the ice cream sundae, but despite that, it can’t save the show from its biggest weakness.

My number one concern with Legion was that the story Hawley was trying to tell wouldn’t really amount to anything. After the credits on the finale rolled and the post-credits scene played out, that concern was validated. It’s not that Hawley didn’t do a decent job wrapping up the story — I just wrote at length about how he did — but for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you what Hawley was trying to accomplish.

Like many viewers, I became obsessed with Legion’s aesthetic and lost interest in the story as it became less important to the overall show. That sounds ridiculous — what’s the point of a television show without a story? — but in the case of Legion, it was absolutely the case. Hawley wanted to create a feeling, and he didn’t need a story as much as he needed characters and cinematography to do that.

Michelle Faye/FX

By the end of the series, I realized I didn’t care for the characters and that was mostly because I didn’t care about the journey they were going on. I did originally. When David and Syd were first introduced to us, I empathized with their feelings of isolation and alienation. I wanted them to succeed, find love and live happily, but that quickly disappeared over time. As Legion morphed into a new show right before my eyes, I quickly discovered I wanted the series Hawley promised in that first and second episode than the one that was delivered.

Still, with all of that being said, I did enjoy Legion. I don’t think there’s any show, now or in the past decade, that rivals what Legion was able to do with cinematography, lighting and art. Hawley did create more than a show; he created an experience. But at times, I yearned for a more linear storytelling experience. I wanted to know more about the characters, and I still feel like I never really got a chance to.

I’m hopeful for Legion’s second season. It seems like the point-of-view is going to switch around, so that David isn’t the sole focus. I would love to know more about Syd; one of my favorite moments from the finale was Lenny and Syd’s conversation in Syd’s head. It seems like Hawley is finally going to give us the opportunity to explore Syd more, and that’s a welcome change.

Legion didn’t fail as a show, but it could have done things a lot differently to make it even more spectacular than just being a visual spectacle week-after-week. It’s intriguing, and I’m still intrigued, but I want a little more stability going into the second season. I have faith in Hawley’s vision and the creative team behind the show.

I guess all I can do now is wait.