Time for a trip down memory lane.
The episode begins with, of all things, a baby boy being watched over by his mother, who keeps a watchful eye over her son.
She writes letters to someone, asking how long they’ve been gone. At one point, we see a man leaving the home where he, the woman, and their son live. He takes one last look before heading off, as the woman wonders how they found this place. Was it all in his head? She wants to know if Charles is still there, inside of her. The woman then calls her child, David, her very beautiful boy.
This woman’s name is Gabrielle- Gabrielle Haller, played by Stephanie Corneliussen. As she rests in her bed, she later asks her husband, Charles, played by Harry Lloyd, how long he’ll be gone. He doesn’t know, but he’s found someone out there just like him. He won’t be alone anymore and he promises Gabrielle that he won’t be long. He tells a tearful Gabrielle that he will be back.
Days past and Gabrielle soon heads outside to find a random set of doors on the walkway. She walks around it and soon approaches the doors and presses her hand onto them…
From there, we cut to Gabrielle in a mental institution.
But then from there, we jump to Gabrielle reading Crockett Johnson’s “Harold and the Purple Crayon” to a young David.
As this happens, we see Gabrielle watching while Charles works on some sort of device in the basement. He eventually places the wired contraption on his head and turns it on. He soon begins to hear the thoughts of others in the world and zeroes in on one target.
The calm blue hue turns to red as he focuses in on a single individual…as well as a glimpse of the creature we of course know as the Devil with Yellow Eyes.
We then jump to the mental institution as Charles then sits with an individual who reads a few statements to him. The man asks if these mean anything to Charles, but then Charles reads his mind- turns out the man thinks that Charles is a useless lad. Dick.
As Charles heads out and scans the patients in the room, his attention is drawn to one woman in particular who is sitting in a wheelchair by the windows. He takes a seat next to her
Using his telepathy, he scans her mind and hears nothing but agony. With that, he asks a caretaker where the woman came from, and it turns out that she came from the camps. She has no family left to speak of. How tragic.
Later that evening, as we get another quick glimpse of the fun in David’s compound, Charles awakens from his slumber and goes for a peaceful walk through the forest.
He approaches an entrance in the ground and soon makes his way through the tunnels below as we revisit his time in combat as a soldier during the war. He’s soon tackled by a German soldier who overpowers him, but Charles telepathically instructs the man to kill himself…so he blows his brains out.
Another glimpse of present David goes by as Charles and Gabrielle relax at home. Gabrielle asks Charles if he heard something, but he did not.
They rest later that night, but more and more glimpses from David Haller’s future pop up.
Gabrielle continues to care for David as she wonders who he’ll become. What will he do? Indeed, we start flashing through David’s youth and adolescence as his powers develop. Gabrielle wonders if David will be content. Will he be a good shepherd like his father, or will he be like Gabrielle? Soon enough, David will learn that this world is an ugly place.
We hear David’s voice call out for his mother as Gabrielle walks through the home as if she’s in a maze. David asks Switch why his mother can’t hear him, but Switch has never gone this far back before. David wants to warn his mother that Farouk is coming, but Switch isn’t sure how long she can keep up her powers like this.
David telepathically tells Gabrielle that he’s come from the future and he does not want her to go upstairs, but she does just that. Indeed, the monster has already arrived…
Back at the mental institution, Switch informs David that these times are somehow linked. Charles shows Gabrielle a sketch he did of her, but she’s unresponsive. He finally opens the box that’s been resting on her lap, and inside is a doll- the same doll of “The World’s Angriest Boy in the World.” Only here is when Gabrielle looks directly at him.
Charles begins to search her mind again and hears more horrific noises, but when he opens his eyes, Gabrielle has gotten out of her wheelchair and is now staring out the window.
An astounded David is surprised that this is how his parents met. He finds it funny, seeing how this runs in the family. Charles goes over to Gabrielle, who admires what a nice, rainy day it is. Here, though, Charles is a fan of cherry pie, which they decide to eat. Gabrielle asks Charles if he’s heard of a tomato, as she’s never seen one before.
She thought it was an apple, so she took a bite. She asks if Charles saw them when he was in her mind. This catches Charles off guard. He explains what telepathy means, but he doesn’t know why he has this skill and why he can hear thoughts and memories.
He agrees that people deserve their privacy, so he doesn’t pry when he goes through their minds. He tries to help. Gabrielle asks if there are others like him, but Charles doesn’t know. Both admit that they aren’t well, but from what Gabrielle has seen in her lifetime, she doesn’t believe that people can change. Charles disagrees with that. She then asks Charles that when the time comes, prove her wrong. Sound familiar?
The two bond over cherry pie, chess, and more sketches. They even dance to David Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You In The End.” Soon enough, as the relationship develops, the two kiss.
One night, as Charles rests- we see glimpses of both Farouk and David- when he’s woken up by Gabrielle, who joins him in his bed. She tells him about her wonderful dream where they lived far away from this institution. The starts belonged to them. Right now, they’re in the madhouse, until they aren’t.
Charles tells Gabrielle to say the word- as there’s something that he can do. In that case, what are they waiting for?
They soon leave the institution and are happy brought together to the sound of “She’s A Rainbow” by The Rolling Stones. Again, sound familiar?
As the two watch over their newborn boy, David- who is given Gabrielle’s doll from her box- Gabrielle wonders if David will have nightmares, but Charles says that David is too young to have nightmares. Yeah, good luck with that theory, Charles.
David, meanwhile, wonders to Switch why his parents gave him away. What was wrong with him? Why didn’t they love him?
Charles wonders if he’s passed his ability onto David, but Gabrielle figures that would be better than their son ending up like her. Either way, Gabrielle is confident that David will be fine.
Present David watches over baby David and asks if he feels loved. Something scary is coming, but David promises to protect his younger self.
Gabrielle writes a letter to Charles and says that she believes the house is haunted. Either something is coming or perhaps she’s haunted. When she sleeps, she feels something beautiful watching over her, but when she’s awake, it’s like the shadows are coming for her. As she writers, pondering why Charles left her all alone, we see the shadow making its way up the stairs…
Gabrielle rocks baby David while present David tries to appear on the television, which soon flickers off altogether. Gabrielle sets David down and tries to turn on the television, while the shadow makes its way towards baby David, whom present David implores to cry louder.
The television turns back on as the broadcaster asks how long one can keep their eyes open. Gabrielle prepares to take the still-crying David upstairs, but she finds herself frozen in place as the telephone rings.
But it rings at a different time. She stops writing her letter and soon answers the phone. It’s Charles, and he tells Gabrielle that he’s found the individual by the name of Amahl Farouk. However, the reception isn’t the best for Gabrielle, who is at least able to hear that Charles is coming home since there’s nothing from him to gather from Farouk. Charles, by the way, considers Farouk to be some sort of devil. Of course.
Future David continues in vain to call out to his mother, but to no avail. However, when Gabrielle awakens one night, she hears David crying. But Gabrielle can’t go anywhere, for she finds that she’s been sealed in her room with no way out.
When Gabrielle can finally leave her room, she heads to the crib and finds David, but something is…off. For a moment, he has no face. When the child returns to normal after Gabrielle yells for him to stop crying, future David finally appears and Gabrielle can see him. However, David is looking older and a bit more sinister looking. Even still, Gabrielle faints.
Charles arrives on the spot and uses his telepathy to kick David out of the past, thus sending him right back into the time hallway.
Switch arrives not long after him. David wants to go back, but Switch won’t have that. She pulls out her tooth and tells David that they went back too far. With that, Switch passes out. David’s anger intensifies as he desperately tries to go back.
In the past, Charles cradles Gabrielle, begging for her to wake up, but she doesn’t. And the shadows have fully inhabited the body of David Haller.
In fact, we jump inside David’s mind as Amahl Farouk cradles young David Haller, his beautiful boy. With that, the episode comes to a close.
Legion often leaves me asking more questions when an episode ends, but with this one, I just needed a moment to process things. But who cares what I think?
Before digging into and dissecting this episode, we have to talk about the director behind the camera. Our director this week is John Cameron, who also directed Chapter 14 last season. If you’ll recall, Chapter 14 involved us seeing the multiple realities that David created after he’d learned that Lenny had taken over Amy’s body. It dealt with the trauma and fallout with us seeing David go to multiple worlds to escape the trauma.
Chapter 22 is a similar, intimate look at the world of Legion, but it’s back to basics here as we, in a way, sort of go back to the pilot. Okay, that’s not true. We do go back to the pilot and head to where things all began, not with David himself, but the meeting of Gabrielle Haller and Charles Xavier.
It was inevitable that Legion would give us David Haller’s parents. It was a matter of when as much as it was a matter of how it would happen. Legion tells its own story and isn’t beholden to the topsy-turvy timeline of the X-Men films. Hell, Dark Phoenix is in theaters and though we’ve got James McAvoy back in the role there, this series isn’t interested in trying to connect to that.
Noah Hawley is telling us his take on how these two meets and give birth to one of the most powerful mutants around, and he succeeds in a stellar episode that, I feel, is going to rank as not just one of the best of the season, but of the series. It’s that good.
When compared to other characters in Marvel Comics lore, there’s always an added layer of tragedy when it comes to the X-Men world. We’ve seen that in spades with Legion and the same remains true here. This isn’t about retelling the same story about humans hating and fearing mutants, but rather what parents fear the future could hold for their children if they themselves turned out to be mutants.
This fear isn’t rooted in delusion, but in the realities that both Gabrielle and Charles have faced. We get Gabrielle Haller’s comic backstory as a Holocaust survivor, which automatically gives her more in common with Erik Lehnsherr than Charles Xavier, and how that’s made her jaded towards the world. She’s seen evil in its purest form, so why would she think that people can change?
Gabrielle’s mindset here gives us one of the many parallels we get in this episode not just with David and Syd, but Charles and Erik. More specifically, how the two were portrayed in X-Men: First Class. There, Erik accused Charles of thinking that all humans were as kind as Moira MacTaggert, while Charles accused Erik of comparing all humans to Sebastian Shaw.
While Gabrielle and Charles don’t go that far in blaming all of humanity for the sins of a few, the parallel is there and whether intentional or by accident, it’s a callback that I appreciate. Whoever Gabrielle was during wartime, she’s not the same person when she ends up in the institution. Hell, she’s not even the same when she’s with Charles. It’s an endless cycle of tragedy for someone who deserves some hope in her life.
Sticking with X-Men parallels for a moment, the crux of Days of Future Past was changing your fate. Is it morally right to go back in time and alter your destiny in order to ensure yourself a brighter future? Do you risk upsetting greater forces by messing with the course, even if it means preventing a disastrous fate? We’ve seen this in Legion as we watched Switch go further and further back through the time hallway.
Can people, at their core, change who they are, as Charles believes? Or are we all just rigid, unflinching individuals, as Gabrielle believes? As Syd told David last season, Gabrielle wanted Charles to prove her wrong. They aren’t at odds, but they aren’t on the same wavelength with everything, either. It’s great just how much mileage we get out of Gabrielle and Charles in one episode.
Admittedly, a lot of that has to do with us as the audience being informed about surrounding events based on how Legion has presented itself. This helps fill in the blanks on who Charles and Gabrielle were and how they hoped their child would grow up in a world that would, yes, hate and fear him.
In the first season, Melanie called David a “world-breaker.” We learned later on that David himself would be the one responsible for bringing about the end of the world. With that, what he did to Syd, and now this attempt to prevent the Shadow King from first coming into contact with him, David is trying too hard to undo the past. Like Syd said, even if he changed things, he would still remember what happened.
Everything else would just be a facade because he would know that he messed with the fabric of time. But I’m getting ahead of myself. We’ll get to David in a moment. Much like “The World’s Angriest Boy in the World” in the first season, there’s a lot to take from the use of “Harold and the Purple Crayon” in this episode.
There, the boy uses his purple crayon in order to make a world just by drawing it out. The same is applicable to David who, with his powers, can mold reality into whatever he wants with his powers, as can Farouk and Charles. Now that Switch’s powers can take him back this far- I guess we can attribute this to Cary’s help?- he can change the past to however he sees fit.
But based on how things are presented here with David’s interference leading to Gabrielle fainting…and Charles casting him out…and neither of them noticing the Shadow King inhabiting David, it’s as if David is the architect of his own doom. The world that David creates ends up being the one that leads to the hell that is his life and led to him becoming the villain of this story.
While David keeping his mother calm brings no harm, this one instance of him trying to change the past leads to the butterfly effect that’s brought him to this point in the first place. Despite wanting to be loved and love others, David Haller truly can be his own worst enemy.
I’ve talked about David enough and am getting away from the true heroes this week. Stephanie Corneliussen and Harry Lloyd are excellent from start to finish in their portrayals of Gabrielle Haller and Charles Xavier.
Corneliussen in particular is great at giving us a layered Gabrielle who has been scarred by both her past and present. She’s unresponsive when we meet her at the institution, not unlike some of the patients we saw at Clockworks in the first season. It’s only when she meets Charles that things begin to change.
Her life seemingly becomes brighter, but she hasn’t turned into an overnight optimist. She still has her reservations about humanity, but she’s willing to lower her defenses just a bit when she’s with Charles.
This is where the obvious parallels to David and Syd in the pilot come in, even right down to the usage of “She’s A Rainbow.” When Gabrielle bonds with Charles, she feels at peace. She can open up with him about her past, cherry pie, and her feelings. While Charles’ life may have never been normal since he first discovered his mutant abilities, Gabrielle’s life will never be normal again because of what she’s seen.
It justifies why she’s worried about how David will be when he grows up. She’d love for him to have a normal life and to be a protector like Charles, even if that means he ends up being nothing like her. She knows that he’s destined for great things, but as any loving mother would, she wants to be his protector for as long as she can.
Unfortunately, that in and of itself is another delusion. It stands to question just whether Gabrielle and Charles actually ever left the mental institution. Or at least, did they leave under different circumstances? Charles said that he doesn’t like to pry, but it’s possible that instead of prying, he just projected this reality to make Gabrielle happy. He instantly says he’d do anything for her, so his love for her is without question.
But his priorities quickly change. From the moment we see him working on an even earlier version of Cerebro compared to First Class, Charles is on a journey to find others like him. His quest to find other mutants leads to him abandoning his now lonely wife and leaving his son just so he can satisfy his own ego. It’s not unlike Charles putting the X-Men in danger to satisfy his own ego, as we saw in Dark Phoenix.
Last season, Farouk described Charles to David as a sort of colonialist. That rings true here when Charles goes out of his way to try and change Farouk, but ultimately fails. We know about the battle that takes place and the ending result, but like David, Charles is painted as a villain compared to how we see him in traditional X-Men lore.
But like David, Charles doesn’t see himself as the villain. While not painted as some savior either, Charles does drop his wife and child to find this one mutant who he can’t bring to his side.
This obsession of his leads to Gabrielle’s increased loneliness and eventual insanity as she’s left with nothing more than her child. After all the happiness that Charles brought her, he leaves her to satisfy his own mission. It’s sad to see Gabrielle’s happiness crumble with each passing day and this culminates when the home she came to love eventually becomes a prison.
Or, more specifically, a haunted house. This is where we get into the horror aspect of the episode as the shadows haunt Gabrielle. She’s unaware of what this means for David, but she does at least know that something in her home is watching her. When she can’t escape her room or when she sees baby David without a face, I got chills. I’ll admit it. This show still knows how to make my skin crawl when it leans into horror.
David might believe he has good intentions, but he ends up doing more harm than good when his future presence causes his mother to faint. I can’t even begin to wonder what state Gabrielle will be in if she eventually awakens.
Not just Gabrielle, but Switch as well. We’ve seen that things happen to her body when she travels through time, and now going back this far has exhausted her. If David keeps on pushing her, he’s not going to have a time-traveler on his hands to help him with his mission. Perhaps that’s for the best in regards to teaching him a lesson against messing with time, but David so desperately wants to right his wrongs.
Quick side-note about Harry Lloyd, by the way: even though we’ve only seen him in one episode, he does great as Charles Xavier and manages to make the role his own in the same way that James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart did.
The parallels and callbacks were greatly appreciated. As mentioned, we have the similarities to how David and Syd met, but also nods to the relationship between Charles and Erik, as seen when Gabrielle and Charles play chess.
Switch and David are pretty much the audience in this episode, as they’re watching everything unfold just as we are. It’s as much an eye-opening experience for us as it is for them, in particular David as he gets to see his parents and how they raised him. More than that, it adds more tragedy to his character when he wonders why they gave him away, as well as his many attempts to stop Farouk.
But even David Haller couldn’t prevent that, and we end on a down note with young David in the arms of Amahl Farouk. You already know where the story goes from there.
What we don’t know yet is where the story goes from here. David has tried once to meddle with the past, but I’m certain it won’t be his last attempt, even after Charles kicked him out of the past. This was a fantastic, tragic episode carried by the powerful performances of Stephanie Corneliussen and Harry Lloyd as Gabrielle and Charles. What will David do next? Who knows? But I’ll see you all next time for Chapter 23.