After last week’s diversion to felines & fiction (That’s what I should’ve titled it!), we’re back to televisual spoiler reviews for the latest finales of Legion & Sense8! It’s a telepathic two-for-one!
The first season of FX’s Legion was a superhero origin story told in a dazzlingly unconventional way. Everything that was superlative of the first season’s production carries over. It excels because of its excesses! This is the most enthralling show on TV! Give it all the awards! Even when the plot in shifting towards a standard superpowered showdown, it’s supremely surreal.
Division 3 is not the boring bureaucracy I had expected. Led by Admiral Fukyama, it’s more bizarre than Brazil. There are no sane spaces in this show. One scene of Admiral Fukyama’s basket helmet illuminating made me suspect he’d be an adaptation of Xorn. I also suspected this concealed that he was actually inhabiting Farouk’s original body. Even the image of his head being a mature delusion chick was a red herring. He’s exactly what they introduced him as, which is still pretty weird.
As Syd, Rachel Keller looks too much like Jennifer Lawrence. This would disorient me less if Mystique in the X-prequels spent more time in her natural blue form. I liked when she switched bodies with a cat. Instead of being made by Division 3 as suggested or the Shi’ar (as Dark Phoenix synergy), future Syd sent the sphere in the previous finale to contact David.
Polyglot Shadow King is a phenomenal foe. Even without possessing thralls, he’s so persuasive at bending truth. He perceives himself as a wrongly deposed monarch trying to reclaim his birthright. Farouk even makes a case for Professor X separating his mind & body an instance of aggressive western colonialism. His goal is find the location of his original Amahl Farouk body. Unlike the comics where his psychic essence is really all that matters, Farouk’s body is as incorrupt as a saint. The Shadow King ends up victorious on the chessboard.
One theme of this season is minds alienated from their bodies. The Mi-Go monks are even named for Lovecraft aliens that collect human heads in jars. Ptonomy’s body may be dead, but his mind lives on in the D3 mainframe. Amy Haller’s body is alive, but Lenny is the one predominantly controlling it. Ditto Oliver Bird with The Shadow King. He also extracts & rejuvenates the Minotaur from Melanie Bird’s subconscious. (What does Minotaur blood taste like, Kerry?) Aside from this motif being her mutant power, Syd is separated from her future self by time to the extent that she views her as a distinct being.
Most episodes feature asides on psychology, such as cheerleaders with contagious tics, narrated by John Hamm. (Many car commercials in betwixt are narrated by him as well.) These introduced the delusion chick, which becomes directly involved in the narrative. These culminated in a facile lesson on fear fermenting into violent intolerance referencing the Salem witch trials whilst being thematically on point for X-Men. Then the epilogue sermon ruined it by strongly implying texting & social media turned people into narcissists. (It seems more likely that these have made it apparent that narcissism is more widespread than previously estimated without being the direct causation.)
The episode where Farouk turns Amy Haller’s body into Lenny’s is one of the best examples of body horror on television. Everything from Amy’s impending sense of dread to the transformation was legitimutantly horrifying. Even the light pulsing through the blinds onto Farouk’s incorporeal face was spooky. Despite or because Farouk claimed it was a favor for David, this will go down as one of the greatest moments of bastardry! On the other paw, the episode introduced a delightful doughnut truck shaped like a submarine.
David, Farouk, & Oliver all have expansive telepathic powers plus some vaguely defined others. It’s often tricky to know whether the feats they’re performing is actually happening in reality, psychic illusions, or a visual metaphors. Without knowing exactly which powers they have, it’s also confusing as to why they don’t use them more extensively.
The season starts off with a lot of exciting developments: the hunt for Farouk’s body, The Chatter disease locking people in their own minds, warnings from a dystopian future. Then the pacing starts meandering in the middle. While they’re good character pieces, the episodes set in Syd’s mind & multiple realities for mourning David derail the momentum. (The Syd-centric episode makes the case that she’s equally amoral as Farouk & David.) The delusion chick hatching out of Ptonomy like a Brood also felt random. There’s no link to how the metaphorical delusions from the asides became literal parasites in the narrative … unless John Hamm is the real Big Bad. Is he the mysterious Mister
Sinister Sunday? (Or is it Mr. Sundae?) At worst, this comes off as Noah Hawley making things up as he goes without rhyme or reason. While this disorienting series is primarily designed to resonate emotionally, that doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t make sense.
Melanie points out that the female love interests in hero narratives always play second fiddle to their men. So far the show lampshades this without subverting it. Even when Syd thinks she’s taking initiative, she’s being manipulated by Farouk. The closest is Cary Loudermilk encouraging Kerry Loudermilk to become more independent in case he dies, although it’s unclear if she can even survive his mortality. Since the show’s not over, they have time to show this change in agency.
One of the twists is that future Syd asked David to help Farouk because he’s the the only one capable of averting the end of the world … caused by future David. Farouk learns of this when he telepathically reaches out to future Syd for spoilers. Present Syd begins to doubt that David’s heroism once Melanie (under Farouk’s influence) shows her what’s inside his mind. (You’d think Syd would suspect something was amiss with Melanie too.) After Lenny cuts short their fantastic musical 2-D animation psychic battle (where Farouk still doesn’t manifest monster armor) by pinging the anti-power tuning fork called The Choke with a sniper’s bullet, Syd prevents David from going Cain on Farouk’s temporarily mortal brain by attempting to kill David. So it seems as if The Shadow King cunningly created a self-fulfilling prophecy to further prolong his lifespan.
The climax of the finale is explicitly Kafkaesque when the trial of Amahl Farouk becomes the trial of David Haller. Syd believes David psychically violated her because she wouldn’t have consented had he not suppressed her memory of trying to renovate his face with lead. (An ickier comic book parallel is the implication that David physically raped his mother during “Legion Quest’s” time travel escapade.) The worst betrayal is that Farouk is inexplicably at liberty again despite centuries of crimes. They can both be supervillains on trial, Division 3! Way to undermine the nobility of rejecting revenge! Rather than having his autonomy & identity stripped away from him again, David shirks this intervention. Much like Magneto’s bipolar daughter over on The Gifted, Xavier’s schizophrenic son has been thrust into quasi-villainy! (Those crazy kids need a crossover of commiseration.) Evil future David finally has a flattop & the outfit from his solo series! It’s funny the penultimate episode calls him “Legion the World Killer” when Supergirl has been fighting Worldkillers this season.
The violation in the finale is unsettling. Fiction tends to make rapists as repugnant as possible so that viewers understand the vileness, but it’s messier when the perpetrator doesn’t understand what they’ve done. David thought suppressing Syd’s memories was repairing their relationship not crossing a line. It can be seen as a tragic cycle of abuse since Farouk spent decades raping David’s mind. Even Syd used her mother’s body to have sex with her mom’s boyfriend, whom got arrested for statutory rape when the effect wore off. Consent is already thorny before superpowers are added in. (Marvel doesn’t want you to recall when Professor X gave his student, Dani Moonstar, unsolicited orgasms whilst dressed as a gladiator.) I doubt season three will abandon these ramifications since it’s been a major component of the series.
I was wrong about the bonus episode doubling as its series finale. (It seems more likely that they had enough scenes shot to make an additional full episode rather than the season was going to end a whole episode sooner.) It’s coming back for season three! Although this season wasn’t flawless, it was still astounding television.
Sense8, the show that redefined clusterfuck, had the best wrap up for a prematurely cancelled show since Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars. (The Guardian has THE WORST take.) It also condenses a season’s worth of plot into something surprisingly coherent. While most of the cluster’s individual arcs remain open-ended, at least it plowed through BPO to provide closure for the overarching plot. The cluster is geographically united for most of it, so the logistics problems become fitting everyone into the same shot instead of intercutting footage from multiple countries. Its finale should’ve been released on August 8 for the cluster birthday! (Maybe Netflix just wanted to latch onto Ocean’s 8 buzz?)
The Lacuna Mother sucks! It feels like a leftover tease from before the series was cancelled that should’ve been cut. The scene just stops the momentum with pretentious non-answers reminiscent of The Architect from The Matrix Reloaded. Now is too late to introduce a higher Sensate level beyond the nonsensical rules. It gives a tiny bit more background motivation to
The Cannibal Whispers Milton, but it’s really superfluous overall. The convoluted BPO flashbacks seem welcome in comparison.
So many snapped necks & squibs! They attacked a Camorra stronghold without wearing any armor. Amazingly none of the main characters died! It’s hilarious that BRPO’s chairman finally appeared just to get Snoke’d. It’s ironic that Lila is played by Valeria Bilello given Wolfgang’s obsession with Conan the Barbarian. Despite all the murders, none of the cluster nor their compatriots faced any legal repercussions.
The Sensitive Eight are all about feelings. It’s one of those rare series that elicits vicarious joy on a regular basis. Some of those sequences may go on a little too long, but it’s a pleasant respite from the “serious” television where characters are constantly miserable. Between the writing & acting, I was rooting for the entire cluster. It’s so rare to find a show where no main characters or pairings drag it down. Thank you, Wachowskis!
I felt so bad for Rajan prior to this because he essentially had the James Marsden role. (Look for him to be jilted by Princess Sally Acorn in the Sonic the Hedgehog movie!) Surprisingly this subverts the typical love triangle drama. It turns out worried Kala doesn’t need to choose between Rajan or Wolfgang. They can be polyamorous!
It all leads up to the lavish wedding of Nomi & Amanita atop The Eiffel Tower. Then everybody gets a happy ending! The finale delivers on both definitions of the term fan service!
Next up is The Incredibles 2 … or the third season finale for Supergirl? ULP!