How does time work on Legion?
It’s a question I don’t think we’ll be fully able to answer until after the finale next week, and even then I doubt things are going to feel straightforward. But if the claim that time is a jungle from Switch’s time travel tapes struck me as significant before, it does even more so now.
David’s plan of going back to the past to prevent his possession by Farouk failed, so his new plan appears to be to team up with his father to kill Farouk instead of just dispelling him from his body. But this not only causes Switch to lose more teeth—and worse—it brings the time demons back in a big way.
They, at least, can change time. This was established in my mind by what happened with Lenny and her daughter, amongst other things. However it works exactly (given that time itself is presented as not exactly linear), it would seem that they ate that part of Lenny’s life, and it’s just gone now.
But, then, did it ever really exist? Ostensibly on Legion, it did. Apparently on Legion, David’s attempt to go back in time caused this. Evidently on Legion, time travel can awaken these demons that eat time and alter it.
But it remains possible that this was what always happened.
This is a big question that runs through all time travel narratives. Can attempts to change things actually do so, or will they inevitably lead to the very events they are intended to prevent?
We won’t know where Legion will come down on this until after the finale, but certain elements seem to foreshadow that it will be in line with the latter option.
Farouk seems friendly before David intervenes and alters Charles’ perspective. And though Charles seems a bit skeptical and hesitant in his judgment of Farouk from the get-go, it really does seem to be David that pushes him towards the decision that Farouk needs to be stopped.
David insists that they will have the upper hand because it will be two against one, but then the episode ends with the older Farouk coming out of a painting on the wall to greet his younger self. And so it seems all too likely that we are gearing up for a battle with Charles and David on the one side and two Farouks on the other.
Is this, perhaps, always what happened in Morocco?
Of course, we’ve also got Charles’ assessment of David to grapple with, as he encounters the various versions of self that constitute Legion. It’s hard to imagine him feeling fine and dandy about what he witnessed in his son’s psyche.
That may contribute to a desire to defeat Farouk, along with the fact that he is clearly disturbed by the mind of the “tyrant” being trapped in a monkey, and those of his followers being stored in a little girl.
But if Charles and David succeed in killing Farouk, we’ll have a Grandfather paradox, insofar as it would be the David that resulted from Farouk’s possession that resulted in Farouk’s demise. If they fail, however, we’ll have a Bootstrap paradox, where an event from the future causes an event in the past, which in turn causes the events of the future.
We won’t know how that plays out until next week, but the time demons do strike me as a wrinkle that will be worth thinking about. Of course, their actions could fit into either of those paradoxical structures as well, but they also seem to be so chaotic that it’s hard to predict what will happen.
I don’t really like speculating about what will occur in the finale of a TV show (though I stand behind my Game of Thrones finale prediction as what I wish had happened), so let’s move to discuss some things pertaining to the main characters in Legion.
Kerry seems pretty nonchalantly OK with the idea of killing the baby David. It’s humorous, but this is a debate that some have had with a degree of seriousness, usually about Hitler.
If you could travel back to the past and kill baby Hitler, would you? Should you?
The morality here is a bit tough, as the thought of preventing something very bad from happening certainly holds some weight. Though, at the same time, you’d be killing a child that at that point had not yet done the very bad things.
So, is it right to kill someone who is innocent now in order to prevent them from doing something heinous in the future?
Or maybe is it a better plan to work on making Hitler a successful artist?
But it’s pretty clear that Kerry wants to kill the baby.
Syd seems to be in line with that second thought about trying to change the past in less violent ways. She doesn’t think the adult David can be saved, but she has to believe that the baby one can, and the second childhood we saw her experience seems to be play a role in how she comes to this position.
She devotes herself to trying to help Gabrielle be a better mother, and perhaps not give David up, and so on. If only she can make his childhood better, maybe that’ll do the trick. (Of course this largely ignores the influence of the Shadow King, and some things Syd says indicate that she may be putting more blame on David than is appropriate.)
But it’s not clear that this is going to have any effect. After spending some time chopping wood for some reason and giving Gabrielle advice, the latter asks Syd if she is really there, and all of the wood is suddenly no longer chopped.
The time demons are to blame, it would seem, but we also see Gabrielle’s concerns about her own mental state arising again here. She’s not sure that she is sane, and not sure that it matters. This would seem to explain how unfazed she is when Syd, Kerry, and Cary appear outside of her home.
We don’t have a lot to work with when it comes to Charles Xavier still, and it’s not clear how much it is appropriate to bring in from other sources.
As he’s been presented here so far, he seems like a decent man, who loves his wife and child. And it seems that he did indeed seek out Farouk in the spirit of friendship.
But this makes it rather unclear how certain scenes are supposed to fit in. Did he see what we did in Episode 3? And what about the scene early on here in Episode 7 in the theater?
Further, his interaction with Legion should make him suspicious of David, but it’s not clear how much it does so. Certainly he realizes that he is dealing with an unstable mind?
Finding a man’s consciousness trapped in a monkey must be disturbing. And discovering multiple other minds within that of a little girl has to be pretty disconcerting. But do we know that this wasn’t a tyrant and his followers?
One question worth asking is whether it matters. After all, even if we buy Farouk’s line on the matter, one could argue that what he has done is considerably worse than just killing the people in question.
But then there is Farouk’s previous characterization of Charles as a colonialist interfering with a culture he didn’t understand how to grapple with.
Maybe he should have left well enough alone? Perhaps he should never have come?
Farouk seems really friendly when Charles arrives, and like he is genuinely happy to have found a compatriot in the world who shares powers similar to his. Maybe it is weird to greet the man with a driver holding a painted portrait of him, but still, Farouk’s exuberance doesn’t seem to me to be feigned.
What a privilege it is to see and be seen!
It’s at least tempting to believe that he was being genuine, until David arrives and disrupts him. He reads David’s mind and keeps getting images of his hippie cult. The Caption Sensible song we previously heard when David broke through to the past gets a recurrence, and it’s hard to say what all exactly Farouk may have intuited. All we know for sure is that it was enough for him to excuse himself.
So, if we put things like the man trapped in a monkey aside, how malicious was Farouk prior to David’s intervention? Was this a trap that he’d laid for Charles, as David suggests, or was he perhaps truly looking for a buddy?
I have to say it struck me as the latter, but given what occurred over the rest of the hour, we’re never going to really know.
Is he the prince of lies, or does the name “Shadow King” merely derive from the way he puts on shadow plays for the children? Is he a force of evil, or did he just go too far, or in a suspect way, when he deposed a man who really was a tyrant?
If we look back to Season 1, the version that has him evil all along makes sense, but those events also occurred after what we’ve seen here in Season 3 Episode 7. And this is not in any way to suggest he should be excused for anything; it is just to note that Farouk’s character has become increasingly complex.
But then again, there are the scenes like the one I mentioned before, where he tells Charles he shouldn’t have come. And we have to ask where and how exactly these fit in.
I know there are those who have remained pretty squarely on David’s side throughout the course of this season, but his hubris and narcissism are on full display in this episode.
We can understand it. Convinced that Farouk is a malevolent force (and he probably is) responsible for all his problems, David wants to go back and fix it. He effectively wants to erase his own existence, or get a do-over.
But this is worth thinking about: the David we know would not exist if he succeeds. Not only would all of the death and destruction he has wrought be undone, he himself would be. And this is what he wants.
In this regard, whether or not Farouk was the cause of David’s mental illness becomes a bit irrelevant. You’re not responsible for the illness, but you are for how you deal with it. And to treat it as an excuse is to shirk that responsibility.
Worse, David seems to think that if he can only change the past, it won’t matter what he’s done. And while in the real world we don’t tend to encounter the alteration of past events as a live possibility, this structure of thinking that one is justified in using whatever means necessary to achieve a goal is something we can point to all over the place.
And, so, it is how he treats Switch in this episode that leads me to my deepest condemnation of David yet.
She’s a great character. Her dedication to David might have been a little under-justified in terms of the text of the show (as she does seem to have followed him freely, as opposed to having been psychically swayed to do so), but it’s been there and it hasn’t really felt forced. For whatever reason, our time traveler has decided to be on his side.
She loses teeth to help him go back to the past—more and more teeth—and ultimately collapses from the strain of the whole thing. And yet, when Charles asks about her, David says she is no one: a means to an end.
David’s narcissism and obsession with changing the past have become all-encompassing. And, again, this is somewhat understandable. Legion has done a great job of doing this in a way we can understand where David is coming from, leaving the space open where he might possibly even be right.
But even if he is right about the Shadow King, and even if he is able to change the past, the way he has acted is unjustifiable, and mental illness only goes so far as an excuse.
Presumably on Legion, we’ll see next week how this all pans out.