I noted last week that Legion seemed to be heading toward a paradox in its finale, and in one sense we certainly got one. David traveling to the past had an impact on his father, and future Farouk had maybe even more of an impact on his younger self, convincing him not to possess David by showing him how things would go if he did. But, on the other hand, we are left to wonder whether perhaps this paradox resolves itself through the timeline of Legion never existing. Does Charles remember adult David at the end of the day (after he has disappeared)? Does Farouk remember his future self?
Perhaps the recurring tendency for the show to begin with phrases such as “ostensibly on Legion” is a clue that at the end of the day, all of these events have in fact been erased. It’s true that Charles and Gabrielle talk about their experiences with David and Syd, for example, but that conversation occurs before the two disappear from reality in the last scene.
How does time work (on Legion)? Is it a jungle, or an ocean? Is there a difference? All that seems clear is that it is not a river, or a straight line. It can be changed, but perhaps only in a way that collapses the timeline that led to the change. That is, maybe other versions of events—like David actually killing Farouk—weren’t possible insofar as the paradox would be too strong. After all, doesn’t it make sense that it is the paradox of time travel that “awakens the demon”?
The time demons are stopped through the intervention of Switch and her father, whom we learn are four-dimensional beings (whatever that means exactly). If they in some sense are time, as Switch says, or least possess some control over it, it seems likely to me that it was only in seeing some way to restore order that Switch’s father was motivated to call off the proverbial dogs. One way or another, the paradox needed to be erased.
This would imply that the actions of the time demons are not as haphazard as I have previously thought, which I’m not sure holds up to scrutiny. It’s one thing when they are attacking those who have traveled to the past, as we see here, but previously they were wreaking havoc in the present from which David came, eating, for example, Lenny’s life with her daughter. Unless it’s the paradox of two women having a child that they are out to eradicate?
They also seemed more unstoppable previously, whereas in the finale it would seem Kerry can kill them with a sword, or Syd with a shotgun. But perhaps this is not an inconsistency, and it was merely the fact that they would keep coming forever that led to the plan to fight them in the between time and so on before. It does seem like a losing battle until Switch steps in.
So, You Want Us to Bake Bread?
If none of this ever happened—or both did and didn’t—where does that leave us in terms of thinking about whether any of this mattered? This is my suggestion, anyway: because of the agreement for Farouk to never possess David, the events of Legion are erased. The David we have come to know is erased, and so is Syd. None of the events we have witnessed over the course of three seasons will have actually happened.
Of course, they didn’t actually happen—this is a TV show. So what we get is Legion’s diegetic reality mirroring its non-diegetic reality. The imaginary is real; it’s just imaginary. The story is real; it’s just a story. When you think about it, the whole way we tend to distinguish between the “real” and the “fake” tends to break down.
Maybe these things didn’t actually happen, but they still have value. There is meaning in this story. Will Charles and Gabrielle remember these events that have no longer happened? I don’t know for sure, but I like to think so. Just like we will, who have watched Legion and loved it. It’s had an impact on our lives and how we think about them, just as it has for Charles and Gabrielle, who I imagine will now keep their son and raise him well. And Charles will go found his academy.
We don’t know what this version of Charles Xavier was up to in the original timeline of the show after giving up David to the Hallers, at least not with any certainty. Frankly if he was out there with the X-Men in this timeline that no longer exists instead of helping his son that would make him quite the asshole, ignoring a world-threatening problem that he had a hand in creating.
I imagine it wasn’t like that, though, in this version of the story. We can only fill in the gaps, but the events of Season 3 Episode 3 seem to have left him shaken, and Gabrielle in a downward spiral of mental illness. One can only imagine that she became more and more unstable, and he—not feeling equipped to raise a small child on his own—made the decision to give him up for his own well-being.
So, I think—and I am speculating, of course—that in the original timeline of Legion he never became Professor X or explored his powers further after those events. I imagine that he was shook, and spent his life caring for the woman he loved, who had become irreparably broken.
Imagine something else if you like, but the finale of Legion strikes me as a happy—if poignant—ending to the story.
Charles will become Professor X. David is erased from existence, but will have the chance to do it all again. Switch ascends to be some kind of fifth-dimensional time being, who’s got her teeth back. Syd gets a do-over, too, and we’re assured by Switch that it will be great. And I would presume the same goes for the Loudermilks, though this isn’t confirmed. Instead we get a touching scene between Kerry and Cary. But, logically speaking, they should be erased too, right?
Things with Farouk are a bit tougher to parse. Here again I like to think that the younger version will remember the intervention of the older, as much as the metaphysics of that feels hard to work out. If we presume that the older Farouk ultimately did learn his lesson—as seems evidenced by the scene where he gives his younger self the glasses—then it would be a shame if that were erased, and out of line with the thematic core of this finale.
Mother Do You Think They’ll Drop the Bomb?
Before Season 3 began, I wondered whether Legion knew what it was doing with David’s heel turn. I can say now with confidence that it did. This wasn’t a matter of turning the “hero” into the “villain”—those terms are too binary—it was a matter of making everything grey.
I refused to forget what Farouk did to David. I refused to forget what David did to Syd (and others as Season 3 wore on). I continued to question whether Syd quite had the grounding for thinking that David needed to die (my interpretation being that Farouk living at the end of Season 2 was indeed enough to stop David from ending the world, and that the whole timeline of future Syd thus collapsed and ceased to exist). But there wasn’t a side to take here.
Oliver and Melanie withdrew from the world, and as much as I like them, that’s just sort of a lame cop-out. Ptonomy became a weird kind of robot for Division, and Division itself was always a bit suspect. Kerry was pretty keen on killing baby David when given the opportunity. And Cary…well, OK, I struggle to find anything to say to question Cary, but he didn’t exactly have some kind of moral backbone through this whole thing.
This is the point, though: we’re all flawed. We are all, to some degree, broken. We’re not rational. Perhaps we are rationalizing—acting on the basis of emotion and unconscious desire and then looking for justification after the fact.
David: I’m a good person. I deserve love.
Farouk: No, you don’t.
None of us deserve love. None of us deserve forgiveness, whether from ourselves or from others. But this is just to say that it’s not a question of desert. It’s about something else. It’s Syd loving the baby David even though the adult David has wronged her. It’s Charles becoming convinced that war is not the answer. It’s Farouk shedding a tear after the older version of himself has shown him what he’s done.
And it’s David forgiving the mother who abandoned him in the finale’s central scene.
Mother Do You Think They’ll Like This Song?
If you’d told me that the finale of Legion would feature a full-length rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Mother” sung by Dan Stevens and Stephanie Corneliussen, I…well, I probably would have believed you because it’s Legion, it’s weird, and Pink Floyd is all over the place. But I was still surprised.
“Mother” might be my favorite Pink Floyd song—that’s a tough one, as I am a big fan—but whether it is or not, it has always struck me as one of their most powerful tracks. We all love our mothers, after all, even if things have been fraught, or fucked up. We can’t help it.
I’ve always thought the song probably lands with me a bit differently than it does with others, given that my own mother died when I was a small child, but Legion shows how effective it remains even in circumstances such as those—David’s mother didn’t die, but she did give him up when he was an infant.
So while maybe most people think about the song in terms of the question of a mother being over-protective, or over-bearing, as with the line about making sure no dirty girlfriends get through, for me the emphasis has always been elsewhere. Mom was supposed to be there to protect me, and to answer these questions when I’m worried.
Mother do you think they’ll drop the bomb?
She was supposed to be there when I felt insecure.
Mother do you think they’ll like this song?
She was supposed to be there to give me advice.
Mother will she tear your little boy apart?
And she was supposed to be there to console me when things go wrong.
Mother will she break my heart?
But she wasn’t, and she wasn’t for David either. He may have had an adoptive mother who did her best, as I had a grandmother who stepped up to help raise me. But it’s not the same. My grandma told me that I wouldn’t let her hold me after my mom died. I actually feel bad about that, but it’s apparently true. No one can replace your mother.
One way or another, mother is going to help build the wall. Unless, I suppose, if everything goes well, which I guess might be a thing that happens. But in a case like David’s, it’s built through the absence—like a force of love that should have been there to prop you up has been missing, and so you block yourself from what is there.
Mother should I run for President?
The world is fucked up. Am I the one to fix it?
Mother should I trust the government?
Should I trust the others who say they will fix it?
Mother will they put me in the firing line?
Is trying to fix it going to get me killed?
Is it just a waste of time?
But by the end of the song, David has reconciled himself to his relationship with his mother. Or, at least, he has enough to release himself from Farouk’s straight-jacket and continue the fight. And even if that’s just a step towards the next lesson, he learned one here. His mother loved him. She may have been the root of a lot of his problems, but not because she didn’t care. She was flawed and broken, too.
And to see David accept that is to get at what I think Legion is ultimately all about.
Mother Will She Tear Your Little Boy Apart?
This is a story about forgiveness: forgiveness of self, forgiveness of others…It might not seem like it, but this is what is at the core of Legion.
It’s a lesson about change, and letting go. Our characters have done some fucked up shit. Farouk possessed David for years. But that doesn’t excuse David for what he did to Syd, or to Lenny, or to Switch. Syd may have been wronged by David, but that doesn’t excuse her for the way she went on a war path trying to kill him.
No one in this story has an excuse.
But that doesn’t mean none can be forgiven. Indeed, Legion has fleshed out each of these characters so much that I want to do so. I want to forgive Charles and Gabrielle for giving up David. I want to forgive Farouk for getting caught up in this power-hungry thing. I want to forgive Syd for taking the way she was wronged and setting out on a path of vengeance. And I want to forgive David for all of his narcissism and hubris.
Because it all comes out of a place of hurt. Should they be forgiven? Well, no, because no one should be. That’s a category error. But we’ve been given enough to open the space where it’s a possibility. We can be empathetic. We can forgive.
And if the plot of Legion ultimately erases itself in the finale, maybe this is the point. It doesn’t matter if these things “really” happened. What matters is their meaning. And, so, Legion is over, but nothing of value is ever lost.