WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for this week's episode of Legion, "Chapter 24," which aired Monday on FX.
Hurtling toward the conclusion of the series, the third season of FX's Legion has been building up its central character, David Haller (Dan Stevens), as a threat who may destroy the world. We know he has the power to do so, and his means and motives have been explored over the past few episodes. However, we’re now coming to a true sign of the end times: major character death.
There have already been deaths on the show, and also a few fake-outs that suggest we don’t necessarily need to worry about anyone coming to a permanent end. Lenny (Aubrey Plaza) was killed in the first episode, and through some odd circumstances has gone on to become one of Legion’s most prominent characters. Clark (Hamish Linklater) appeared to not only be dead, but unimportant on the larger scale, until he was reintroduced in the Season 1 finale and joined the regular cast in Season 2.
Not to mention, of course, that David himself was executed by Sydney (Rachel Kellar) in this season’s premiere, and promptly returned thanks to his new access to time travel. But the latest consequences of the ongoing feud can’t be so easily erased, and everyone except David gets a hard reminder that this is a world in which anyone might die.
Clark’s husband Daniel (Keir O'Donnell) has probably been presumed safe, if only by virtue of remaining mostly off-screen. He’s appeared only twice before, the first time as the humanizing element when Clark was transformed from a minor villain into a diligent, wary soldier beloved by his spouse and son. Unlike Clark himself, Daniel comes across as gentle and idealistic, in spite of working for the same militaristic agency.
As soon as he appears in this week’s episode, flirting with Clark over video chat as he rides in an armored vehicle protected by guards and Vermillion, there’s no doubt Daniel will be the first named victim of David’s war. Even so, it’s difficult to brace for the brutality with which David enters the scene. If he’s the god he thinks he is, he’s a vengeful one, ready to wipe out anyone who won’t cooperate. But his interest in Daniel isn’t just a matter of an eye for an eye. David kills everyone surrounding his helpless target, but then extracts the information he needs from Daniel’s mind and leaves him alive, with his long-term memory permanently wiped.
David’s trail of destruction continues through the entire episode, apparently bringing him way past any point of redemption. However, his flippant apathy and his singular focus on reclaiming Switch (Lauren Tsai) reveals something about his current state of mind: He truly believes he’ll be able to start over. Nothing is real to him, and nothing he does matters, because as far as he’s concerned he’s making a practice run through a video game.
Even in his own sanctum, there’s precious little he cares to preserve. When the noisy festivities of his followers annoys him, he eliminates dozens of them at once, clearing the room to call out for Lenny.
“You killed them,” one of the few survivors observes, and David responds with incredulous laughter: “I didn’t kill them, they’re just ... someplace else.”
It’s interesting that Lenny is the one person aside from Switch who seems to register as "real" for David, as she’s the one who refuses to join him in letting go of reality. Still grieving for the partner and daughter she lost in the last episode, she calls out David’s narcissism, takes a stand for her own understanding of the truth, and then, shockingly, kills herself rather than bending to his plea for her help.
As the acts of war ramp up, the countermeasures from Division 3 grow proportionately more desperate. Their airship base graduates from high speed flight to low Earth orbit, while Switch is held in a chamber designed by Cary (Bill Irwin) to hide her from David’s telepathy. Their efforts come to nothing, though, when Farouk (Navid Negahban) decides he would rather fight than run, and summons David straight to the ship.
There’s no defense against him worth mentioning, once he’s there. Clark, who has just barely begun grieving his husband, gets teleported into space like a piece being removed from David’s game board. Kerry (Amber Midthunder) is kept occupied by three brainwashed women that David has brought along, armed with blades and possibly superpowers.
The last hope lies with Syd, whose ability to switch bodies may be the only way to defeat David at this point. She makes an impressive effort, taking an earlier suggestion from Farouk to get close enough to touch her former boyfriend. Her professions of lasting love are convincing enough that they might still have some truth to them, but once she has control of David’s body she’s fully determined to stop him for good. She lasts long enough to make a chilling discovery about what’s going on inside his mind, but not long enough to win.
Reunited with Switch, David claims to have a new plan which still involves going into the past but doesn’t depend on changing his childhood. It’s doubtful that he’s learned anything from these last few disasters, but since we don’t know what his new plan entails, there’s a chance that it may actually work.
David certainly still believes it. He may be fully aware that he’s at fault for Lenny’s death, but his tenderness as he holds her for a last goodbye shows that his lack of guilt comes from his faith in his own omnipotence, not a disregard for the people who have cared about him.
“No one who dies is really dead. You see that, right?” he explains to Syd. “The past changes and the future...disappears. So Clark, Lenny, we all get a do-over.”
For those in the audience who regret losing Clark or Lenny, the show has put us in an unexpected spot: hoping that David is right. After this week’s massacre, we could all use a do-over.
Airing Mondays 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, Navid Negahban and Lauren Tsai.