NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Legion” are present in this review
Legion continues to present an unpredictable way to pan out its narrative, as “Chapter 22” yet again shifts focus for the show, now completely pushing Division 3 and its personalities aside for the time being. This time, the show presents what essentially amounts to a pure flashback episode, diving deep into David’s family history, namely how his parents met, and how David was born. This also naturally gives us our first real look at Legion’s portrayal of Charles Xavier/Professor X as well, portrayed by Game of Thrones’ Harry Lloyd for the Legion universe, whose history with Farouk is also touched on to some degree.
This should make for a pretty exciting episode, and at times, it truly does. Seeing the meeting of Charles Xavier and Gabrielle Haller take place in a mental institution over thirty years in the past, ironically echoing the meeting and some of the memories between David and Syd at Clockworks during Legion’s first season, makes for a lot of good character work. It’s also clever to utilize WWII as a device to introduce these two important characters from Marvel Comics lore, as Charles was a soldier who used his telepathy to make himself virtually untouchable to enemy soldiers in combat, while Gabrielle was a Holocaust survivor that was rendered catatonic, and ends up subsequently made lucid again by Charles’ mutant abilities.
We not only see Charles and Gabrielle form a romantic relationship, but also ultimately leave the institution together, which Charles ensures with his telepathic powers. After very simply walking out of the mental institution with his wife, Charles begins seeking out other people like him too, using what appears to be a very primitive version of his recognizable mutant-locating Cerebro device from the basement of their house. This creates several contradictions with 20th Century Fox’s X-Men movie canon, and seems to fully cement Legion as operating in its own private universe, not just a different timeline of Fox’s live-action X-Men universe, like The Gifted previously did. That’s fine and good though, especially now that Fox has been merged into Disney, and Fox’s standalone X-Men universe is being wrapped up for good anyway.
That said however, Marvel fans may be disappointed by the portrayal of Charles Xavier in this episode, at least to some degree. As much as the character does possess his familiar telepathic abilities from Marvel Comics lore, and even has a version of Cerebro at his disposal, Lloyd’s Charles Xavier isn’t wheelchair-bound, appears to have no X-Men, is never referred to as, “Professor X”, and spends most of the episode being very somber and quiet. This is a far cry from the energetic, cocky and lovable 1960’s/1970’s-era Charles Xavier that James McAvoy previously portrayed in X-Men: First Class especially. I get that this is a different version of the character, but Lloyd simply isn’t given much to work with. This results in a Charles Xavier that doesn’t feel much like Charles Xavier beyond the fact that he’s supposedly a powerful psychic, and eventually sired David. Beyond that, he might as well be a completely different character.
Even Charles’ fated duel with Amahl Farouk takes place pretty much completely off-screen, which is a huge let-down, considering how much this battle was hyped up during Season One. We get to see a bit of surreal trippiness when Charles finds Farouk with Cerebro, but that’s all we get. After that, Charles simply rants to Gabrielle later on that he found someone with powers like his, only to later claim that Farouk is a monster, and that he never should have gone to Morocco. This is one point where I really wish that Legion had gone harder into its usual sense of unrelenting weirdness. Instead, it presents this strangely poe-faced portrayal of the past, which at least feels interesting, but never truly essential.
In the end, all it amounts to as well is David trying to exploit the powers of Switch by going back in time to try and prevent his possession by Farouk as an infant. This at least ties into the current narrative of the show well enough, even if there are missed opportunities in exploring David’s past. Regardless, David’s attempts to manifest and warn Gabrielle about his infant self’s possession fail to work, with David only blending in with the ‘haunting’ presence of Farouk, which increasingly scares Gabrielle, until she once again returns to a state of catatonia. Right when David does manage to manifest in the past as well, he’s simply expelled back to the time stream hallway by Charles, ultimately failing to change history in any way. Switch is also incredibly strained after this point to boot, pulling out a loose tooth, and saying that she can’t go back that far in the past anymore. This once again leaves David without any real options to improve his fate, as the past is ultimately perfectly preserved, despite Switch previously being able to help David cheat death very recently.
Like I said, “Chapter 22” is interesting, but it fails to feel like a truly essential addition to Legion’s current narrative. Even our first meeting with this universe’s rendition of Charles Xavier is disappointingly dull, especially when his battle with Farouk unfolds entirely off-screen. In the end, the show just kind of spins its wheels here, especially when David fails to change the past, and there doesn’t yet appear to be any serious impact on the show’s present-day narrative. Personally, I don’t mind the fact that the Legion universe doesn’t appear to possess any X-Men, nor the fact that Magneto and the Mutant Brotherhood also don’t appear to exist in this world, but for such a drawn-out trip into David’a family history, we got disappointingly little out of it in the end. Perhaps this may change in the following episode, but we’ll have to see. With Switch seemingly out of commission now though, David’s next trip through time may be a long way off.
- Interesting chance to delve into David's birth and infancy
- Charles' and Gabrielle's meeting echoing David's and Syd's
- David's present-era self failing to stand out from Farouk's torments
- This version of Charles Xavier is disappointingly dull
- Charles' duel with Farouk takes place completely off-screen