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'Legion' fades out with oddly peaceful finale

Navid Negahban as Amahl Farouk, the 'Shadow King,' or maybe just a misunderstood guy (??)  on FX's 'Legion.' Navid Negahban as Amahl Farouk, the 'Shadow King,' or maybe just a misunderstood guy (??)  on FX's 'Legion.' Image: suzanne tenner / fx By Proma Khosla2019-08-13 16:44:06 UTC

Warning: The following post contains spoilers for the final season of Legion.

THIS IS THE END.

That's the declaration that opens Legion's series finale, before the end invokes the beginning and before a warning, up front, that the show's conclusion will be as mired in uncertainty as its entire three-season run.

And yet Legion has always been adept at wrapping up a story arc. The show's arresting style was always its source of mystery – not what happened, but how it happened, a question often ignored as artistry took precedence over mechanics. This might have been what attracted you to Legion, or it might have been what turned you away, but it is the core of Noah Hawley's serpentine sci-fi opera, and it will be missed.

Legion, based on the Marvel comics by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz, began as the story of David Haller (Dan Stevens) – a misunderstood mutant victimized by the parasitic telepath lodged deep in his mind. But in its third season, Legion was no longer that. It became the story of how David weaponized his victimhood against the world, against reality, against time itself – just to prove, as he constantly undermines himself, that he is a good person who deserves love.

"David, the victim, the boy pretending to be a man," laughs his nemesis Amahl Farouk as the duo prepare to duke it out one last time on the astral plane (Navid Negahban remains magnetic from his first to his last second of screen time on the show).

In the final hour, David and his father (a humble telepath named Charles Xavier) face off against two Farouks from different points in time, physically fighting in the mental space and eventually, uh...sorting out their differences.

"I bet you're going to turn out extraordinary without me."

It's somewhat anticlimactic, especially in a superhero story, to conclude not with victory and bloodshed but with a smile and a handshake. But it's also remarkable, and the type of twist Legion just about gets away with (just imagine the same scene not eviscerated in a Marvel movie). It may still cause contention, but the key here is that David – season 3 David, Legion himself – is not a good person. He has murdered, manipulated, committed sexual assault against someone he once loved. He doesn't get to kill the bad guy and we forget everything else.

Even before he fades into the space-time continuum, David isn't presented to us as a redeemed hero. He's tired and bruised from decades of fighting his own mind, and while he knows Syd (Rachel Keller) won't forgive him, you can feel his hope in their last moments together.

"I bet you're going to turn out extraordinary without me," he says wistfully.

"Yeah, I am," Syd says without missing a beat. She's no longer angry, but she's determined. She's going to have a better life this time – they both are – and she's ready.

The same accountability is not afforded to Farouk, who returns from seeing his future acting like David's favorite uncle. Even the Farouk of the past is a "monster," according to Charles, but he stands before the Xavier father and son, reformed but still guilty and inviting David over for some light world domination in the future. Pass!

David (Dan Stevens) takes on his daddy issues in the form of Charles Xavier (Harry Lloyd).

David (Dan Stevens) takes on his daddy issues in the form of Charles Xavier (Harry Lloyd).

Image: suzanne tenner/fx

Charles explains to David that the deal with Farouk is mutual respect; they respect each other's right to live...never mind Syd, Cary, Kerry, or Switch – sweet Switch! – all of whom are staking their lives for David, who does not deserve it. The Loudermilks in particular seemed destined to die in battle, especially after the losses of Lenny and Clark earlier this season, and their survival made us want to see their future, not an entire new life they had no say in starting.

The phrase "the end of the world" has been tossed around a lot this season, a strange false equivalence for what we learn could be the end of time itself. Each season thus far questioned the very meaning of identity, mind and soul, of reality itself, with time being the next logical frontier. As time collapses in on itself in the final episodes (a thrilling display courtesy of editor Curtis Thurber), it became increasingly likely that the show would end with everyone lost along with the very fabric of the universe. (When they do succeed, Syd bafflingly takes credit, saying "I think we just saved the world" after Switch – brilliant Switch! – and Switch alone saves them.)

Of course, it wouldn't be Legion without a psychedelic musical number, this time Pink Floyd's "Mother" as a duet by David and Gabrielle when he thinks Farouk may have him cornered. By Season 3, you get the sense that Legion tested just how far it could push the phantasmagoria before we'd call for an end. The limit should have been reached long ago, yet each bizarre addition in Season 3 feels like part of the show's DNA. Legion, in its tenure, reached narrative gimmick immunity, a status shared perhaps only by Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Man Seeking Woman.

With three seasons and barely 30 episodes, Legion was nothing if not a feat of visual artistry, a meditation on the human mind that necessitated engaging our own in order to participate. At times it was a mess of color and confusion, but at its best it pushed us to understand the psyche and empathize with one another. It did not end in cataclysm, as it rightfully could have, but with that most human of tendencies: the dream of a new and better future.

Legion Season 3 is available for a limited time on FX. It will eventually join Seasons 1 and 2 on Hulu.

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