After tip-toeing around the fact for six episodes now, Legion finally let the cat out of the bag in regards to David Haller’s past in “Chapter 7.” For those who were paying attention, the flash of the famous “X” wheels on the wheelchair in Amy’s memory of David’s adoption was probably enough to confirm that David is, in fact, the son of Charles Xavier, a.k.a. Professor X. For others, the sequence in the grandiose classroom, in which David and the personification of his reason imagines the famous battle between Xavier and The Shadow King, the first evil mutant that Xavier ever faced, should have brought the whole ordeal to the foreground. This is, after all, the moment that led Xavier to create his groundbreaking school and the X-Men.
It’s undeniable that “Chapter 7″ required a major unloading of backstory and much of the dialogue in this episode was utilized for explanations and exposition. Much of this came from David’s conversations with his reasonable side, also played by Dan Stevens, before he blew the proverbial lid off of his illusory prison but that wasn’t the only time where the show felt as if it were earnestly trying to map out the world and the thrust of the plot. When Syd finally escapes her own sleepy prison, Carey runs down everything that they need to do to save their team from the hands of Lenny, King, and the Man with the Yellow Eyes, all three of which being extensions of The Shadow King. So, instead of following along with their actions to piece together what’s happening, the audience just becomes more aware when things go awry, which they inevitably did for Syd and Kerry.
This consistent telegraphing and scaffolding of plot, however, was a negligible annoyance in what was otherwise a thrilling entry in the limited series, perhaps the best episode since the pilot. It also tosses up a lot of possibilities as to what we should expect from the season finale next week, but it’s important to stress just how invigorating the episode was from scene to scene. Though not without an element of cheese, the use of black-and-white was a pretty clever signifier, inter-titles and all, and if there was any doubt of Aubrey Plaza‘s wildly expressive abilities in this show, this episode should put them to bed permanently. And though perhaps a bit saccharine, the reunion of Dr. Bird and her husband was a moving moment, one that helped balance the rampant, eye-popping action that went on elsewhere.
This episode also happened to have the series’ more horrific bits of violence, including the implosion of The Eye, and this lent itself well to the stakes of the episode. The entire episode tipped toward an operatic visual experience, including David’s explosive attack on the imagined Clockworks where they have been trapped. The exploratory sense of visual trickery that Noah Hawley set the pace for in the pilot has surprisingly kept up throughout all of this, and there were plenty of stunning images to be gleaned in “Chapter 7″ as well. The see-through booth where Syd and Carey talk about getting out; the concluding attack on Summerland, with the return of Hamish Linklater‘s half-burnt interrogator; and the charmingly low-rent animation that spells out Xavier’s fight with the Shadow King exemplify the series’ sense of imagination, even when it teeters on the ridiculous.
The best thing about all of this, however, is not the confirmation of Xavier’s presence here and the role of the Shadow King. It’s the final settling of David as a character, with the dramatic dynamic between him and the figure known most regularly as Lenny spelled out clearly. For all the wheel-spinning that has gone on in the prior episodes, the solidifying of this riotous, frustrating, and finally endearing central character, at least up to a point, feels hugely satisfying by the time the episode ends and Lenny looks ready to let the monster out once again. There’s one more chance to really dazzle before a big break before Season 2 of Legion arrives and at this point, there’s still plenty of reason to believe that the finale will deliver the goods.