The first season of Legion gave us one of the best supervillains on TV. Depicted as a childhood boogeyman, a superpowered demon, and a gleefully perverse Aubrey Plaza, the parasitic Shadow King became the second star of the show. And let’s be real: We didn’t seriously expect him to be defeated in eight episodes.
The finale concluded the inevitable showdown between David and the Shadow King, who has been leaching off his psychic energy since birth. The good guys managed to expel him from David’s mind, only for the Shadow King to possess Oliver Bird (Jemaine Clement) instead. From a viewer’s perspective, this is basically the ideal outcome. Aubrey Plaza and Jemaine Clement playing a crazed psychic villain in season 2? Bring it on.
Speaking of villains, the finale brought back a familiar face: Clark the Division 3 agent, who seemingly died in episode 1. He originally felt like a run-of-the-mill law enforcement character, but Chapter 8 transformed him into a compelling antagonist. After receiving third-degree burns while fighting Melanie Bird’s mutant squad, he developed a more sympathetic motivation than the baseless evil of the Shadow King. We also learned that he has a husband and child, humanizing him in a similar vein to Daredevil‘s Wilson Fisk: sweet and loving at home, but ruthlessly dangerous at work.
Following the improbable love-at-first-sight romance between David and Syd, Legion turned out to be surprisingly great at telling atypical love stories. David and Syd can never physically touch, Clark and his husband are a sweet couple who kill innocent people for the U.S. government, and Melanie and Oliver Bird are decades into a strange and tragic relationship. After 20 years on the astral plane, Oliver returned with no memories of their marriage. And now he’s been possessed by an evil mutant who Melanie must fight to destroy.
Clark’s return hints at a more familiar X-Men trajectory for season 2, although showrunner Noah Hawley made it clear Legion will not directly adapt the comics. Chapter 8 included the first real conversation about human/mutant politics, with Clark articulating his fear of mutants taking over the world. The mutants are rightfully fearful in return, but while Melanie and Ptonomy herald a new age for mutant supremacy, Syd and David just want to live a normal life. All these viewpoints are sure to clash next season, because the mutants may have to join forces with Division 3 to defeat the Shadow King.
Legion is a polarizing show, an experimental attempt to adapt superhero comics in a less literal, more atmospheric fashion. Some viewers felt that season 1 was more style than substance, although I’m inclined to think the style was worth it. An eight-episode series doesn’t necessarily require a complex plot, because with a few exceptions, it was a pleasure to watch such an artistically ambitious show. It captures the weirdness of the X-Men comics, with mutants whose superpowers screw them up and define their lives in unique ways. It also has a healthy sense of the absurd, reminding us that “serious,” adult comic book adaptations can be as fun as you want.