FX’s new Marvel series Legion kicked off this week with a mind-bending first episode that immediately established it as something very different from the superhero TV crop, be that the comic book crossovers of the Arrowverse or the grittiness of Marvel’s Netflix series.
Nobody knows where the new X-Men show is heading, but by all accounts “Chapter 1” was a big slice of setup, introducing David Haller and his repressed abilities, establishing the wider cast of characters and giving a taste of the show’s weird tone before ending on a note that leads into the season’s main story. There are a lot of dangling threads about David, his reality, and even what time period his show is set in, but the creepiest mystery introduced in the pilot is “The Devil with the Yellow Eyes”.
A mysterious figure that is somehow linked to David’s consciousness, the Devil had a presence throughout the episode – most pointedly in the final scene, where he watched David’s decision to leave with Syd and Melanie. There’s not much to go on beyond some extremely unsettling character design, but there are several prominent possibilities for who the Devil really is.
The most logical candidate has to be Shadow King. A being of psychic energy, he has strong links to the comic version of Legion (he was introduced through a showdown with Professor X, David’s father, and later took on Legion himself) and his methods fit perfectly with the warped reality that Legion has established. Shadow King’s main offensive power is the possessing of humans, and it could be that The Devil with the Yellow Eyes is either the result of the Shadow King trying to feed on someone as powerful as David, or a deceptive attempt to trap him.
It’s a big idea that takes some time to get your head around, and that’s a pretty apt description of Legion so far, making the Shadow King a logical fit. It could be too much of a core X-Men concept to use in this independent story, or at the very least hew too close to genre convention – something that the show largely rejects. That said, the epic long take detailing David’s escape did establish there could be more conventional superhero elements within the show. If Fox is ever going to use a character like Shadow King, doing it in a show centered around mind powers makes a lot of sense.
The other popular comics character people seem to suspect the Devil to be is Mojo. A blobular alien from the pointedly named species of Spineless Ones, he was a recurring X-Men villain who essentially parodied TV executives of the 1980s and 1990s; he ran the ostentatiously named Mojoverse, a dimension of people addicted to combatant shows. The popular thinking with Mojo is that Legion has somehow become trapped in the Mojoverse, providing an alternate explanation for all the inconsistencies in David’s reality. The “alt universes” the creators have talked about is actually the Mojoverse, and if the first season’s a hit then the second will expand into the standard X-universe proper.
While the main reasoning behind the theory might at first seem to simply be the design – there’s certainly a physical resemblance – it’s what he represents that makes him such a potent possibility. Legion has established itself as a distinctly self-aware show with the skewed realities and the ways that every possible filmmaking facet is used to heighten them (and that was just in the first episode); so it wouldn’t be out of the question for the show to evolve to be a commentary on television in some form. Imagine Deadpool, but instead of the character breaking the fourth wall, it’s the themes.
The main knock is how out-there the basic concept is. Not only is Mojo an alien, but in the comics he has no direct link to David Haller. Legion isn’t exactly going for extreme comic faithfulness, but it’s a rather random direction for the show to go in given the wealth of ideas within the core source.
An Abstract Side of Legion
Both of the previous examples used X-Men as the basis for their theories, but as Legion (at least the first episode) feels rather removed from the mythology it may be beneficial to take a look at the other core influence on the series’ story: showrunner Noah Hawley. He’s best known for his work on Fargo, and in that show’s second year he pulled a similar “wait, what?!” mystery.
Early on in season 2, there were several moments in which characters carried out inexplicable actions – ran out into the middle of the road, lost hours of their time – in what was suggested to be as a result of alien intervention. This came to a head in the penultimate episode, where a bloody shootout between desperate mobsters and unsuspecting police was interrupted by a flying saucer – an incredibly weird turn in an otherwise grounded series. Of course, the alien spaceship wasn’t a literal part of the plot per se, but a deus ex machina inserted into a story that is erroneously claimed at the start of every episode to be “based on true events.” It was a way to call attention to the contradictions inherent in adaptation; the only way Patrick Wilson could get out of the bloodbath in Episode 9 was through some divine intervention, and as saucer hype was high in 1970s middle-America, that’s what the show used to plug the gap. It was an aesthetic choice posing as a narrative one.
It may be that the Devil is a similar device to that, something that exists purely within David’s mind as a visual representation of his darker side, rather than an explicit presence in the story. This would be rather strange given how much it’s leaned on in the first episode – Fargo‘s UFO was used very sparingly – but with all of Legion‘s weirdness it’d hardly be out of place.
The Devil with the Yellow Eyes is one of the most striking images coming out of Legion “Chapter 1”, one that hints at a bigger overarching story than just the romance between David and Syd. There’s not much to go on at this point (put us in a pool and threaten to shock us, though, and we’d say it’s probably Mojo), but whatever the reveal is, it’s one that’s sure to shape what the show is going forward.