FX’s Legion has never been what you might call an easy watch. Wrestling with ideas of loss and love, time and reality, this is a show that pretty much never spells anything out for its audience. Instead, Legion leaves its viewers on their own to navigate the strange world of its story, which is full of unreliable narrators, offbeat fantasy interludes, bizarre voiceovers from Jon Hamm, and dozens of musical numbers.
Its story is deeply complicated, frequently doubling back on itself to alter our perceptions of events or characters we thought we understood. Heroes turn out to be monsters. Villains become something like friends. Perceptions about what is and is not real change from week to week. As viewers, we’re often left unsure about whether to trust the story we’re seeing, and how to feel about the characters telling it.
The series finale is no different.
Legion ends by giving us another beginning, one that completely rewrites everything that has come before, and asks us to believe that this is somehow enough. That the promise of something is just as satisfying as seeing that same possibility fulfilled, and that it’s this final act of hope—for a fresh start, for a better and different tomorrow—that really matters.
The past is altered, thanks to a deal struck by David Haller’s father, Charles Xavier, and the Shadow King, Amal Farouk, who apparently does love the boy whose body he inhabited for so long. David, his ex-girlfriend Sydney, and all their friends as we know them are erased as a new timeline takes hold, one which promises David a childhood full of all the love and stability he never received during the version of his life we watched unfold over the course of the show.
Will this be enough? The difference between perception and reality, between desire and outcome has always been a key piece of the story that Legion is telling. “Chapter 27” itself certainly seems to imply that things can and will be different for everyone in this bright new future. The series ends on such a hopeful note—David and Sydney reunited, seemingly at some kind of peace with one another—that it’s hard not to believe that somehow, in spite of everything, their lives will all turn out okay.
It’s a leap of faith, one whose answer we will never know. This uncomfortable uncertainty is all part of what makes Legion such compelling television, but it’s certainly a lot more work than your average superhero drama. And that’s probably because it isn’t one. Not really.
Sure, on paper, this is superhero story. David is a mutant with extraordinary powers, who can read minds and alter reality if he feels like it. Sydney can swap bodies with someone just by touching them, and the Loudermilks literally inhabit the same physical form.
But this isn’t a story of people with powers, at least not the way we’ve all been taught to expect. Legion isn’t about what makes mutants special. It never has been. It’s about what makes them, and all of us, human.
The series’ dedication to telling that story (in the wackiest, weirdest way possible) holds up right to its final moment, which doesn’t so much conclude the tale of David Haller as offer us hope that a better reality is out there than the one we just spent three seasons watching unfold. It allows us to believe that things can be different, that David, Syd and everyone else have perhaps earned some sort of happy ending. Or have been somehow granted one by a benevolent universe in the chance to try again.
This is, after all, what David has spent most of Season Three working toward. Sure, we spent an uncomfortable amount of time in his Manson-esque cult house, as he brainwashed women into offering up the love and devotion he felt he was long owed by the world. But his obsession with the time traveler Switch was always about giving himself a second chance, erasing the version of David Haller who’d become the villain he’d always feared. David’s dedication to this plan was so absolute that he ruthlessly murdered what seemed like hundreds of people, drove Lenny to suicide and ripped out Sydney’s mind at one point, justifying it all with the claim that these actions would no longer exist once he changed the past.
That David now gets the fresh start he always wanted certainly doesn’t erase or justify the horrors of what he did along the way. But Legion has never once let us forget that David (quite literally, most of the time) contains multitudes, and Season Three has shown us his regret and pain along with the demented power trips. This is a show that has taken a great deal of pleasure in muddling our ideas about heroes and villains, and what makes someone either or both of those things. David and Farouk are both monsters who’ve killed people and tried to bend the world to their wills. But it’s not all they are, and on some level, that apparently still matters. At the end of the day, each of them can still choose a different path.
Sydney’s decision to rescue rather than kill baby David is an act of kindness, yes, but it is also one of hope. Hope that this child, who is not yet the monster she knows, might grow up to make different choices and become something other than the man who hurt her so badly. And succeed or fail, David deserves a chance at a life without a monster in his head, simply because it’s the right thing to do. He doesn’t deserve it. But in a world where he and others have deemed themselves gods, this is still what grace looks like.
The show doesn’t explicitly answer the question of whether David’s mental illness—or his many, many multiple personalities—can ever truly be cured, even if he grows up in a home full of love and active parenting. Will David always be Legion, on some level? Possibly. Probably, even. But perhaps the absence of the Shadow King will keep his mind from fracturing too badly. Maybe the presence of his real parents, and everything that entails, will teach him to value others and live life differently. Maybe. At least that’s now a possibility, when it wasn’t before.
Legion’s ending somehow seems both extremely final and completely wide open. Yes, we’re saying goodbye to these characters we came to care about over the past three seasons. At least as we knew them, anyway. But as Switch says just before the series concludes, nothing good is ever lost. Though their stories will inevitably turn out differently in this unseen, unwritten future we will never experience, there is hope that some part of this glittering, painful, beautiful reality will be still be with them. Legion wasn’t ever going to be a show with a traditional happy ending. But maybe this is as close as it gets.
Lacy Baugher is a digital producer by day, but a television enthusiast pretty much all the time. Her writing has been featured in Collider, IGN, Screenrant, The Baltimore Sun and others. Literally always looking for someone to yell about Doctor Who and/or CW superhero properties with, you can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.