WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for this week’s episode of Legion, “Chapter 11,” which premiered Tuesday on FX.
Legion has so far hewed close to its Marvel Comics source material only in its depiction of David Haller as the son of Charles Xavier, whose name is never spoken, and in the telepath's defeat of Amahl Farouk, the Shadow King, an event so important that it's been reenacted twice now, on both the astral and earthly planes. But what if the X-Men founder wasn't the valiant defender of humanity in the fabled battle, but instead a colonialist aggressor?
In this week's episode, the FX drama invites us to reexamine what we know about the psychic showdown. Or, well, Farouk invites David to do so.
Embracing the notion that every villain is the hero of his own story, the disarmingly charming Farouk (Navid Negahban) paints himself as merely misunderstood; a victim even. Serving drinks poolside at a sunny villa in the astral plane, he assures David (Dan Stevens) that he has no intention of committing nefarious acts once he's reunited with his body, hidden from him so many years earlier.
Taking exception with David's use of the word villain, which originally meant peasant, Farouk schools him first on the importance of language, and then of history. Here, too, Legion seems to deviate from the comic books, with the Shadow King once being a literal king, and not a crime lord in Cairo (mind you, the Shadow King entity predates Farouk, so there's some wiggle room).
"You call me a villain, me, the king," Farouk says. "King of kings; his majesty, the wise. For decades I rule over my country. I'm a good king, strong but just. My people, they prosper. And then your father, a white man [...] he comes. Does he speak our language? Does he know our customs? And he decides, what, that my people should have better? That he knows better? Who is he to make such choices?"
Not willing to cede the moral high ground, David fires back, "You fed off me when I was a baby, and I'm supposed to feel, what, sorry for you?"
It's a fair point, of course. A psychic parasite, Farouk inhabited David for much of his life, making him (and others) question his sanity. David bounced from mental hospital to mental hospital, where he was treated for schizophrenia that he never had. It was sweet revenge against the enemy who hid his body and vanquished his psyche to the astral plane, to torment the child that Xavier went to such great lengths to protect. Now we know why Farouk did that. To his mind, Xavier wasn't merely the man who "killed" him; he was an interloper, a usurper, a conqueror.
"You're still young," Farouk scoffs at David, who can't conceive of an enemy as "a brother with another name." "You think justice is a glass jar. You fill it with your hurt, your hate. Don't you think I have my own jar? I'm a refuge. You know the meaning of the word, refugee? Driven from my home, in exile, prisoner in another man's body."
Xavier did that to him, and Farouk has spent years filling his glass jar with hatred for that. It's difficult to blame him, really, if his version of events is true. Even if it's not, Farouk's thirst for vengeance has sustained him every bit as much as feeding David Haller or Oliver Bird ever did. It's a desire that runs so deep we almost have to wonder how much of the Shadow King's quest is for his body and the power such a reunion brings with it, and how much is to prolong the torment of his vanquisher's son.
Airing Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX, Legion stars Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Jean Smart, Bill Irwin, Amber Midthunder, Jeremie Harris, Aubrey Plaza, Jemaine Clement, Hamish Linklater and Navid Negahban.