‘Legion’: Who Is the Shadow King?

     March 23, 2017

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Last night’s episode of Legion, the penultimate of the season, finally gave us some clarity with regards to the show’s main villain. Up until now, creator Noah Hawley’s adaptation of the Marvel comic has largely eschewed superhero conventions, opting instead to focus on Dan Stevens’ David Haller from a psychological perspective. This whole season we’ve been meant to question what’s real and what’s not, because David is constantly questioning what’s real and what’s not. But these last couple of episodes have introduced the concept that Aubrey Plaza’s Lenny is a manifestation of a “parasite” that’s latched onto David’s brain, and last night’s “Chapter Seven” finally gave a name to that parasite: Amahl Farouk, The Shadow King.

At the beginning of last night’s episode, Cary Loudermilk (Bill Irwin) was rescued by Oliver (Jemaine Clement) in the Astral Plane, and during the course of their conversation Oliver revealed that the “monster” is Amahl Farouk, which he learned from reading David’s mind when he was trapped in the Astral Plane. Cary responds by saying he should have picked up on this, because Farouk disguised himself in David’s memories as his childhood dog King, which never existed. The name “King” refers to Farouk’s other name, the Shadow King.

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Image via FX

Meanwhile, David is trapped once again and conversing with his “rational mind” as he works backwards to figure out where the parasite came from and why it’s after him. He comes to the conclusion that his father, another mutant, battled this “parasite” and won—but the parasite didn’t die. It attached itself to David as a baby, and either because he feared it would find the child or because he didn’t want it, David’s father hid him away. David hasn’t connected the dots just yet to the Shadow King, if he even knows who that is, but between the Two Davids sequence and the conversation between Cary and Oliver, we got a shockingly big exposition dump.

So who is the Shadow King and what’s his/her deal? This is actually the first major piece of comics lore that Legion has embraced, as the Shadow King’s comics story is very similar to the one David lays out. The character is a telepathic mutant named Amahl Farouk who made his Marvel Comics debut in 1979’s Uncanny X-Men. His comics backstory involves some psychic hijacking in the 1930s as he worked for two of Adolf Hitler’s special agents, but his Legion relevancy comes into play in his biography from the 1970s.

In the comics chronology of 1971, Farouk became a crime lord in Egypt, crossing paths with Charles Xavier who, in the comics and very likely in the show, is David’s father. Farouk unsuccessfully tries to persuade Xavier to join him in his criminal activities, and the two eventually engage in battle on the Astral Plane where Xavier defeats Farouk with a fatal psionic attack—just as David posits in the show.

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Image via Marvel Comics

Farouk/The Shadow King is actually the perfect villain for this show’s first season, as Hawley’s entire conceit for the series was upending tropes and really digging into issues of psychology and mental illness with mind-bending visuals. Since the Shadow King is able to possess someone’s mind, and since David’s telepathic powers led him to believe he was schizophrenic, the lack of reliability regarding David’s thoughts and memories turned out to be a symptom of the Shadow King’s meddling. Moreover, since the Shadow King is seeking revenge against Professor X for his defeat, this opens the door for David to go looking for his real father when the dust has settled.

The penultimate episode found the team subduing the Shadow King, only to find themselves in the dangerous custody of Division 3. So will David take off Cary’s electromagnetic device and let the Shadow King out of the box in order to escape? Are we in for another violent outburst from Lenny? It seems that way, but that poses more questions and leads to even more problems for the group.

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