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‘Legion’ Finale Review: Noah Hawley Goes Full Marvel Without Losing What Makes This Series Revolutionary

Even with a boss battle and mid-credits scene, "Legion" remained a challenging, innovative superhero story as "Chapter 8" provided enticing possibility for Season 2.

LEGION Chapter 8 Season 1, Episode 8 (Airs Wednesday, March 29, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: Dan Stevens as David Haller

Michelle Faye/FX

[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for the “Legion” Season 1 finale, Episode 8, “Chapter 8.”]

Let me first say this: If you stopped watching “Legion” as soon as the credits ran, start it back up and keep going. There’s a scene midway through that establishes one helluva cliffhanger compared to Farouk driving out of the woods: David and Syd stand outside on the Summerland deck, looking out at the night sky, when a little robotic orb appears floating in front of them. “Is that one of Cary’s?” David asks, right before he’s scanned and sucked inside the Magic 8-Ball-lookin’ device. Syd runs inside for help as David screams…and that’s how Season 1 ends.

Now then, back to the faux ending: After Aubrey Plaza’s performance as Farouk — a.k.a. The Shadow King, a.a.k.a., That Big Fat Thing With Yellow Eyes, a.a.a.k.a. The Primary Antagonist of Season 1 Who Was Finally Expelled From David’s Mind and Is Now Inhabiting Oliver’s — it’s impossible to imagine anyone else capturing the captivating personality of the mysterious monster. As fun as the auditions in “Chapter 8” were, as Farouk bounced from subject to subject — Rachel Keller with those eyes! — thinking Plaza’s turn would be gone for good still felt like an immense creative loss.

READ MORE: ‘Legion’: Noah Hawley on Season 2 Release Plans, Finale Easter Eggs, and David’s Burgeoning Clarity

…and then out walked Jemaine Clement. The song-singing, suit-sporting, mad scientist is a perfect new conduit, and not just because of the character. If anyone can go toe-to-toe with Plaza without blinking, it’s Clement, and that Season 2 of “Legion” will give us both actors portraying the addictively nasty big bad means the finale did an excellent job building excitement for what’s to come.

But “Chapter 8” also provided satisfying narrative closure to Season 1 as it opened up exciting new formal avenues for Season 2. Closure came with the beast that gives as much as it takes, Farouk, departing David’s mind. David’s primary struggle in Season 1 was freeing himself from the demon clinging to his psyche, and he did — well, one of them anyway. He’s still wrestling with “the mind-killer” — schizophrenia, or, more specifically, fearing that his superpowers are how his mind masks his schizophrenia — but David is moving past internal battles and heading toward external ones. Farouk is outside of his mind now, which means Season 2 has a bigger canvas to work with.

READ MORE: ‘Legion’ Review: Noah Hawley Crafts the Most Intricate, Intimate Superhero Story To Date

LEGION Chapter 7 Season 1, Episode 7 (Airs Wednesday, March 22, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: Jemaine Clement as Oliver Bird

And it all arrived in between a beautifully timed, double-edged joke circling Hamish Linklater’s character, The Interrogator. “Chapter 8” began in flashback, as we watched The Interrogator get caught in an explosion during David’s escape, recover with the help of his loving husband, and then swear vengeance on those who scarred his body and killed his men. That brought us up to where we left off last week, with The Interrogator and his goons from Division 3 surrounding David and his friends at Summerland.

That’s when punchline No. 1 comes into play: After all that buildup for The Interrogator, David twisted his wrist and reversed the scenario. The black-dressed assailants were tossed together into an ever-tightening stack of bodies, and The Interrogator was taken captive. Rather than culminate with his promised revenge, his master plan backfired faster than you can say, “Shit.” Linklater did a terrific job selling that joke, contorting his limited expressions from diabolically gleeful to quivering in concern, but it wasn’t until episode’s end that the Chapter 8’s framing around The Interrogator came full circle — and Linklater bested himself.

READ MORE: ‘Legion’ Premiere: The 9 Moments That Make It a Masterpiece

After the reality debates between David and Syd, ethical debates between Syd and Farouk, Oliver’s painfully late realization as to who Melanie was, and a whole bunch of crazy science stuff that culminated with not one but two explosions, only then did Linklater snag his best laugh of the night: “Remember when you told me not to be afraid?” he asked David, as the all-powerful mutant helped his former Interrogator up from the floor. “Yeah, that was a mistake,” David said. “We’re going to need to work together now, though.” “I know,” The Interrogator responded. “I’ll talk to them.”

LEGION Finale Chapter 8 Season 1, Episode 8 (Airs Wednesday, March 29, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: Hamish Linklater as The Interrogator

How their collaboration goes remains to be seen, but after building empathy for him all episode, it’s good to see The Interrogator on the right side of things. That being said, the key result of all this is that David won’t have to dig through his mind to find Farouk anymore — or fight to keep it trapped — which opens up a wealth of visual possibilities for Noah Hawley in Season 2.

Whether you were confusedly exhilarated or exhilaratingly confused by the wild production design that highlighted Hawley’s batshit crazy storytelling, it’s proven to be one of the most exciting elements of the show so far. It would be hard to argue any 2017 series benefitted more from the stylized sets, green-screen, costumes, makeup, and more.

READ MORE: ‘Westworld’: Thandie Newton Rules PaleyFest Panel as Showrunners Confirm One Major Theory

And while “Legion’s” technical accomplishments are a feat worth analyzing all on their own, here’s a brief list of our favorite production highlights from the finale: Hamish Linklatter’s melted skin (and creepy fake eye!), the squishy sound effects added to Farouk’s movements in Syd’s mind, and, of course, the many lasers, energy fields, and various VFX added to make David’s exorcism all the more powerful.

LEGION Finale Chapter 8 Season 1, Episode 8 (Airs Wednesday, March 29, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: (l-r) Rachel Keller as Syd Barrett, Bill Irwin as Cary Loudermilk, Jeremie Harris as Ptonomy Wallace, Dan Stevens as David Haller. CR: Michelle Faye/FX

Connecting the dots between Season 1’s frenzied visuals and David’s mental state, what holds them together is the ambiguous nature of the story’s core question — Is David a superhero or a crazy person? — and the many peripheral questions stemming from it: Are superheroes real? Is Farouk? Is David responsible for all of them? And, assuming the Summerland group is real, does Syd really love David?

(This last question is personally most troubling to me, as David’s recap of what’s happened to him this season reflected my own ongoing concerns about the coincidental good luck that’s led to his escape, empowerment, and romance. Are we really supposed to believe the love of David’s life just walked in the door and saved him? Even in the finale, Syd’s fateful kiss may have been to save his life, as we’re made to believe, or perhaps that was exactly what Farouk wanted her to do…and Syd knew it.)

“Did we win?” Syd asked when she came around. “Does it look like we won?” David answered. To his point, no. The destruction spoke for itself, and the mission continues. But to the show’s credit, Season 1 served as a definitive victory for David — though more of one before that mid-credits scene — Hawley, and viewers at home. Let the ambiguous adventure rage on.

Grade: A-

“Legion” Chapter 8 Acquired Music (per FX Networks):

Notes: “Breathe (In The Air)” by Pink Floyd

Notes: “On The Run” by Pink Floyd

Notes: “If I Ruled The World” sung by Jemaine Clement (“Oliver Bird”) – Visual Vocal

Composer: MARC BOLAN (BMI)
Notes: “Children Of The Revolution” by T. Rex

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