There’s no such thing as a good war. Benjamin Franklin’s dictum remains true even if you can go back in time and prevent a war from happening. Watching David unleash his powers on the forces of Division is nothing if not disturbing, a demonstration of just how far gone he is, how fully committed the psychic has become to the idea that anything and everything is justified in his pursuit of altering the past, because—in his mind—none of it will matter if none of it comes to pass. When Switch asks if everyone on the ship is dead, he answers glibly. “Most—or none, once we go back.” David’s become a monster in hopes of undoing his own monstrous ways. He’s lost sight of the crucial rule another superpowered TV hero once said: If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do.
The death toll in “Chapter 24" is startling, regardless of whether David manages to succeed in altering the past to prevent any of this from occurring. After Farouk delivers the location of Switch to David (apparently angry that Division refused to follow his lead), our protagonist-turned-antagonist goes on a rampage, killing just about everybody with nary a concern. Clark and Lenny are perhaps the most high-profile deaths, but it’s David ripping out Syd’s mind, essentially killing her in all ways but the biological, that signals his transformation in the clearest way. His mind is fractured, true, and as Syd’s consciousness gets buried in an avalanche of Davids, all announcing “I am Legion,” she seems to realize that what she thought of as David is actually a multiplicity of identities working in tandem, albeit a contentious one. But the David we think of as “dominant” David no longer sees a problem with what happened, either; to him, it’s just an unfortunate necessity en route to changing the past. “I’m sorry,” he says to her, softly. “I’ll fix it.”
But actions can’t be undone, even if they end up, well, not happening. That’s the subtext behind all of Syd’s statements in the conversation they have prior to her attempt to take over his body and get Kerry to kill him. “I’m not mad any more,” she tells him, and while it’s unclear whether she means it or it’s just a ruse to get his guard down, her kindness and understanding disarms him enough to make her larger point: It doesn’t matter if he resets the past, and they never meet or fall in love. The Syd she is—the person he fell in love with, the one for whom he’s supposedly trying to enact this cosmic do-over, will always be the person he assaulted. That Syd doesn’t change just because he creates another one. In fact, all his actions thus far are leading to a worse one: Erasure. “Do you think it hurts? Being erased?” she asks, and the point couldn’t be more clear, even if she does claim to long for the same second chance he wants. Second chance or no, this Syd only gets the one life, and he’s taking it from her.
And yet. It wouldn’t be Legion if we didn’t also get a moment to consider the regret and pathos still roiling inside David. The show does a Magnolia moment here, passing across all our major characters—living or dead—to sing along to a slowed-down version of “(What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love, And Understanding.” It makes sense that the song is a plea, and a question. David doesn’t get why people can’t see him the way he sees himself. He’s asking, over and over, in every conceivable way, “Don’t I deserve love? Why can’t I just get what I want?” The song gives voice to his (at least partially) earnest sense of grief. And it takes him out of the equation, more importantly: If the world is wicked, then his actions aren’t the problem. He’s not bad, he was just shaped this way.
And it’s also not a coincidence that he needs a song to express his feelings, because whenever he tries to convey such thoughts with his own perspective, in his own voice, he gets tripped up, or someone—Lenny, Syd, whoever—calls him on his bullshit. This is a pattern: Think back to the season-two finale, as David glided above the ground towards his nemesis Amahl Farouk. He was trying to express his sense of isolation and loneliness in the moment, how being in possession of such massive powers wounds him in ways he can’t fully describe. And he did so with The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes.” There’s a psychological component at work behind what some people see as the arbitrary musical interludes, and it’s especially true with regard to David. He’s someone who needs other people’s words to express his most vulnerable emotions, so he turns to song to find them. And it’s true in nearly every instance: He may not have been the one singing it to her, but even Switch’s recruitment was done via the song “Something For Your Mind.”
And yet, for all the feeling expressed by a multi-person singalong, the real tragedy of the episode belongs to others. Lenny can’t even live with her grief. The character who began all of this giving the fewest number of fucks has finally run smack into the loss of everything she was struggling to build, and it broke her. Old Lenny would have just demanded a druggy mind-wipe and gone about her business. New Lenny has realized the hollowness at the heart of David’s promise; he only makes you feel better by taking away the part of you that can feel anything else. He makes you not you. So she takes herself out of the equation, before David can remove her pain, and strip her life of the only meaning she had found. R.I.P., Lenny.
And Clark’s pain is just as bad, even if we confront in a more roundabout manner. Watching David delete Daniel’s long-term memories was already painful, but to then watch Clark watching the video of his husband in the past (because the still-living one doesn’t even know who he is) is to see a particularly wrenching narrative play out. Alzheimer’s is a gutting disease to endure, especially for the loved ones; now imagine someone actively causing it, rather than the vagaries of fate. That’s cruelty on a level it’s hard to really understand. And to make it a playful joke—to turn Clark’s gun into a rubber ducky before teleporting him outside to die in the silent drift of space—is just the kind of sick spitefulness that shows how far David has fallen. He can’t even grant Clark dignity in death. He may not find any in peace, love, and understanding, but David sure seems to know what’s so funny ’bout war, hatred, and ignorance.
Switch’s allegiance is fascinating to watch unfold. She seems to understand the people of Division are trying to do the right thing, but they also have the Shadow King. She’s with David, as a result, but not without reservations. She really doesn’t want to lose any more teeth. So let’s hope David’s new plan goes a little better than the old one. Because at this point, the only thing that would be more tragic than all this death would be all this death and nothing on the other side of it. Switch’s lessons are telling her time travelers are the loneliest people in the world, but she’s starting to see firsthand that there might be something lonelier.
- Even the previously-on montage before the episode is running in reverse chronology, now.
- Cary and Kerry were fairly marginalized this episode, despite Kerry’s fight against David’s followers.
- Still, Kerry got in one of the best lines of the episode: “We’re going to space?!” Amber Midthunder’s excited delivery was pitch-perfect.
- Legion significant music cues of the week: Along with the aforementioned Nick Lowe cover, the episode-opening song was Rachid Taha’s “Tekitoi.” And the track playing over the slow-motion dancing of the cult in David’s now-suburban house is Peter Gabriel’s “Games Without Frontiers.”
- Farouk: “A sweet boy, undone by revenge. It breaks my heart.” Same Farouk, seconds later: “Take what you want. Gods make rules.”
- Clark’s death genuinely surprised me. R.I.P., Clark. Who knew we’d end up here after the events of the pilot? Well done, Hamish Linklater, for imbuing this character with such soul.