Legion hasn’t exactly been shy about its connection to Marvel Comics; the company’s name pops up every episode, preceded by “in association with.” But Noah Hawley’s X-Men series has been less explicit about its connections to the larger X-Universe. The word “mutant” is tossed around as casually as a heavily armed Division 3 foot soldier or pesky door blocking the way to a super-secret underground facility, but the series has so far been less than forthcoming when it comes to naming names and showcasing familiar characters outside of an admittedly changed and now ready-for-primetime David Haller. All the while, though, the question of if and when the show would draw a more distinct line back to its source material has lingered.
So far, that line has existed in the set design, with numerous Xs popping up in the background, an implicit reminder that Legion is cognizant its specific comic book origins. But while the series – or more to a point, its remarkable aesthetic – is willing to make such nonverbal gestures toward the funny books, the characters have been demonstrably less so. That was until David’s sister Amy dropped the bombshell most knew was coming: David was adopted.
It was the sort of revelation that came late in the season and promised to take the series and its protagonist on a different journey than discovering whether or not everything presented to the audience so far was a figment of one very powerful mutant’s imagination, or if it was in some way grounded in reality. While Legion has mostly proven deft at toeing the line between being delightfully, creatively weird and pushing the narrative toward something – anything – that matters beyond the show’s ability to question the reality of its characters, the promise that there were answers – or at least someone out there with answers – helped ground the occasional nebulousness of the story and give it the hint of direction it needed.
While Legion mostly fooled around with the concept of stalling for time (or simply stalling time) last week, and in the process found out early on that there were some television storytelling formulas that would remain cliché no matter how stylistically dressed they were, ‘Chapter 7’ is here to provide answers… sort of.
Noah Hawley hasn’t been shy about exactly where Legion fits into the larger X-Men Universe and how important it is to first stand on its own – though there has been some confusion when it comes to the series creator’s intentions for more mainstream Marvel mutants making appearances and producer Lauren Shuler Donner, who has claimed Legion is its “own universe”. Still, the question of David’s origin has lingered over nearly every episode, and that query has only grown more pronounced since the series drew a big circle around it. Add that to the Devil With the Yellow Eyes finally getting a name (two, actually) in ‘Chapter 7’ – which doesn’t beat around the bush in letting everyone know the parasitic psychic entity using David’s mind like his own personal wellness retreat is Amahl Farouk or the Shadow King – and you have a recipe for some genuine comic book-inspired intrigue.
The confirmation of the Shadow King is a long time coming and with it comes the sense that Legion is paying off one of the more elusive questions lingering since the series premiere. But while giving the villain a name concretizes him to a certain degree, one that moves the idea of the entity beyond a disturbing visage and occasionally taking the form of Lenny – a feat worthy of recognition since the character technically has no corporeal form – it’s what the hour does in terms of defining Farouk’s motivations that helps Legion (and David) solve for X. That is: drawing a line (literally) to Professor X without explicitly naming Charles Xavier as David’s father.
The notion of solving an equation is especially apt, as ‘Chapter 7’ has David and his (British) rational mind’s efforts to uncover the truth of his origin and the nature of the monster living inside him unfold in an astral lecture hall. It takes the idea of someone talking to themselves to a whole new level, but it also takes the task of delivering backstory and exposition to a more creative place than most other shows might have the freedom to go. Because so much of the series takes place in David’s head and is presented from such an extreme and extremely skewed point of view, Legion isn’t moored to a sense of reality necessarily, so an animated origin story told via a series of chalk drawings in a lecture hall located in the astral plane does right by the series while making what is essentially a massive info dump into a pleasant animated diversion. It also comes as close as the series has come to saying, “Yes, Charles Xavier is David’s biological father.”
Legion is not exactly the subtlest show, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be. So dropping transparent signs like a wheel with an X in it and a suspiciously bald, well dressed, and powerfully psychic line drawing doing battle with a vague representation of the Shadow King is about as close to a confirmation as you’re going to get before someone names David’s father outright. It’s a smart move. Professor X has zero currency in Legion‘s unique universe, so blatantly name-dropping Chuck X at this point would be little more than some really gross fan service. Besides, one name in the episode is enough, and Amahl Farouk has even less currency than Charles Xavier. Hinting at David’s genetically advantageous beginnings is enough for the moment; Legion needs to make the Shadow King into a less shadowy figure if the season is going to amount to more than its admittedly gorgeous spectacle.
By all accounts, though, Legion has successfully opened the door for a more firmly stated admission of not just David’s parentage (does no one care about Mother X?) but also the series’ place in rather nebulous borders of Fox’s larger X-Men universe – especially when this corner is crafted in association with Marvel. How far that door opens will likely depend on next week’s finale. But considering FX recently renewed Legion for a second season, it seems the show has done what Hawley wanted, and proven it can stand on its own.
Legion season 1 concludes next Wednesday with ‘Chapter 8’ @10pm on FX.