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Which Paradox Will It Be? (Legion: Season 3 Episode 7)

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.

Farouk is stuck in the between time as a time demon appears

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?

Faourk talks to Charles over dinner

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

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?

Kerry and Syd stand in the doorway of the house debating the morality of killing baby David

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

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.

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Charles

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?

The devil with the yellow eyes appears next to Charles 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

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!

Charles and Farouk eat dinner together

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.

Farouk guides a shadow play

David

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.

Switch grasping a column right before she collapses

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.

Charles tells David that everyone is someone

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.


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Written by Caemeron Crain

Caemeron Crain studies philosophy and is a writer and head of the TV department at 25YL. He is also one half of Drink Full and Descend, a podcast that started in relation to Twin Peaks, but has now moved beyond it, and has begun to explore Surrealism. He lives in Brooklyn and has a cat.

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  1. I always thought the way David Switch was how Division 3 and Summerland saw him in season one, as a tool, a weapon, a means to an end and not a real person. I feel David responds and reflects the apathy or other actions given to him. His stance seems reactive a good deal of the time.

    I think for some reason, Syd is going to raise David and be his adoptive mom. Which makes the later stuff as his girlfriend odd. But hey, it’s Legion.

    It feels like it will be a double Farouk vs Daddy X and Legion, but will it be? For one, it will not be a straight out fight. It will be arty. But as you point out, either win produces a time hiccup. Maybe it will end a way were no one really wins or at very least, Daddy X should win, for there would not be an X-Men school without him. So, I wonder if both the SK or David die or are banished in a way that stops the world from ending.

    My main worry is that it might go to an Occurrence on Owl Creek Bridge place, where he did hang himself and it is all what he felt happening before he died. This was an idea in season one, where Syd and him were going to be killed but he and the SK went to an alternative realm. I forget this is in the first montage of Legion, how far we have come. 🙂

    I really have enjoyed the show. The writing for female characters could have been better. I feel ladies are still seen through an intense male gaze, but feminist white male gaze? I mean, it explains why Syd fires off Atwood quotes at the hip while killing someone she just was in love with in the last episode. Who are to fear who in this show? Really? And I still do not get the rotten apple lecture of last year if it did not apply to a witch hunt aimed at David.

    I was hoping the time travel lectures would continued but this season being short was a little uneven. I feel even a longer season would have written out characters motivations more in a way
    I could see, ah, this is a good guy or this is a bad guy. I feel most of the cast is grey and will stay grey. No matter what Hawley or anyone says. Just because someone says a character is a villain or hero or if the character themselves says it, does not make it real. I am glad Legion lets me draw my own conclusions anyway. I enjoy the characters but I am not rooting for anyone, just wondering how this is all going to end in a mere hour!

    It would be nice if Syd suddenly took a Blindfold turn, since I see her a lot like Syd and she even had a streak in her hair like Rogue which reminds me of Syd too. I was hoping that her alternative raising would shake her “all men are bad and only want power” streak, but I had to roll my eyes when she started up a Melanie like men rant yet again. It gets old, even Syd told her this and now she is doing it and Syd’s talk with Gabrielle seemed very morbid on both ends. I feel bad that the show views mental issues in a very bad light, like they are not fixable. Or that if you grow up as a mutant with nice adoptive parents or a single mom who is doing the best she can to raise a child who will not let you touch them, is not enough. It needs to be a nuclear family or your real parents. Nothing else will do. Which is odd since Dan Stevens himself was adopted.

    Will we ever know where SK manipulated characters started and ended from last season or are they still being manipulated? Will Benny ever come back? Will the show retain its humor until the bitter end?

    I also feel Switch might turn once her Daddy shows. To me he seems like a mutant too, powers unknown and since this season is all about daddy issues, we might as well. 🙂 She seems to have a power stronger than everyone else much like the Fates in Mythology had power over the Greek and Roman gods. She could be pushing people through doors and to who knows where.

    I hope the Loudermilks do something other than freeze. They and Lenny were very underused this season. Made me sad. I feel Kerry says what the audience wants to hear and Cary is the moral compass and probably if I had to root for anyone, it would be him. I mean, everyone could be erased by the end, which they will be anyway. Unless I get that sweet Howard the Duck/Legion buddy movie in the Marvel Universe of movies! 🙂

    • Yeah, I am really curious to see what they do. I expect to be surprised, which is a great thing about this show. Last week’s episode really felt to me like Part 1 of a two part finale. I can’t imagine anyone waiting once this is all available at once. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I expect it will leave us with questions. That seems pretty unavoidable, actually…Not long now!

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