One of Legion’s strengths through its first season has always been its unpredictability. In a world built from uncertain memories and warped perceptions, it’s hard to know what’s going to happen next. Which somehow makes Chapter 8’s opening a shock because it’s so... down to earth. After all the mind games and illusions, this starts with something very grounded and real: Clark from Division 3 waking up to the horrendous burns he received during David’s Chapter 1 rescue, and then slowly recuperating with his husband and son.
It’s interesting because yes, he’s technically the villain, but this also sets him up as just a guy doing a job that’s left him having to prepare for a now permanently disfigured and disabled life. His adjustment and recovery at home, intercut with flashbacks of the rescue that changed him so hideously, constantly push and pull you between two different aspects of his character - he’s the mutant-hunting big wheel in a shady government organisation, but also a man, father, and partner, with a newly ruined face and a walking cane. Overall, if anything, it’s made him more evil, but you can kind of see where he’s coming from. It’s not a job anymore, it’s become his life. “I’m going to war,” he announces when he returns to work.
At the same time David is coming to terms with his new, currently temporary, life without the Shadow King/Lenny - suppressed via an electromagnetic headband for as long as the power lasts. Finally free to be himself, released from a lifetime of perceived mental illness and psychic manipulation, he’s doesn’t actually seem that happy about it. After all that time trapped inside himself, he just wants to get away and now he can. “I’m so sick of me,” he declares before setting off to try and negotiate some sort of reconciliation between the mutants and Division 3.
Throughout, this is an episode of realisations and difficult reconciliations. In addition to David trying to broker peace with the enemy, Cary and Kerry are still struggling to get past her abandonment issues after Cary left her to rescue the others. While Melanie deals with the fact that her husband Oliver is finally back after 20 years in the astral plane but has no memory of her. “You remind me of someone,” he muses innocently. “Your wife?” she replies hopefully. “No, not that,” is her answer.
The negotiations between David and Clark might be about superpowers (“Look at you. You’re gods and one day you’re going to wake up and realise you don’t need us anymore,” exclaims Clark) but the struggle is very ordinary: “Well isn’t that the history of the world?” answers David. “People of different nations, different languages learning to live together?” The show’s been great at exploring the people behind the powers and this is another strong example. At the end of the day this is just about separate groups of people afraid of what’s different.
All this is happening while Lenny/The Shadow King steals away Syd to make her own deal - an escape in return for David’s life. Aubrey Plaza excels here in full horror mode, twitching and decaying due to her imprisonment. There’s isn’t anyone in this episode that doesn’t want something. (Except maybe Ptonomy who, without a use for his memory-hacking exposition powers, has struggled to find a place in the latter half of the season.)
It all builds up to an extremely satisfying conclusion that keeps you guessing until the end as you wait to see what Syd’s going to do, and then how it’s going to play out as the Shadow King body hops her way to freedom. It’s a little disappointing that the final moments play it so safe. Nearly every key character has a potential death teased but they all recover at the end. I don’t want any of them to die but it felt like high stakes were played but ultimately never delivered.
But it was at least a solid, proper ending. One that concluded threads, answered questions, and firmly closed off the season. That’s an absolute godsend in a world of TV that currently tends to end series on massive multi-episode cliffhangers and teases in the hope of renewal. But that’s not to say this doesn’t leave you wanting more. “Where shall we look first?” says Oliver, now possessed by the Shadow King, as they drive off together. Look for what? WHY? Then there’s the post credit scene where a mysterious drone steals David away. I don’t think I’ve ever finished a show with such a howl of ‘what the actual fuck?’ (and in a good way). Series’ creator Noah Hawley says the goal is to hit the same air date next year for Legion's return - it’ll be a long 12 months to wait but I think it’ll be worth it.