(If you want it.)
Well it turns out, as per usual, that Noah Hawley knows exactly what he's doing, and has the entire time. The first couple episodes of Legion were stunning stuff: a highly impressionistic, overtly stylized and psychedelic exploration into the mind of a schizophrenic superhero that included a handful of dance numbers for good measure. By the time episode six had come and gone, though, I was wondering when Legion was going to shake off some of its stylistic cobwebs and give us some actual narrative stakes we could sink our teeth into. Turns out "Chapter 7" was exactly the delicious meal I was waiting for, serving as something of a decoder ring for almost everything that had come before it. Everyone's narrative objective became clear, the stakes were raised and finalized, and strange comings and goings were made clear. It was not only a masterful episode of television, but one that was somehow necessary to understand the mastery involved in the episodes that had come before it. That's some pretty impressive stuff, right there, and the finale of Legion's first season followed suit as expected.
Things more or less pick up right where "Chapter 7" left off, with a newly-in-control David returning to his home base with Team Summerland, only to be confronted by a badly-burned Interrogator and an armed cadre of Division 3 commandos...but not before we take a little bit of a detour. The opening minutes of "Chapter 8" backtrack a bit, exploring what happened to The Interrogator (the fantastic Hamish Linklater) after he got lit the fuck up back in "Chapter 1." The decision to humanize The Interrogator was a smart one, and not only because it means we get to spend more time with Linklater. (And serious props to Hawley for his matter-of-fact depiction of the Interrogator's same-sex, mixed-race family.) Instead, giving us a chance to see how The Interrogator has been impacted by the events of "Chapter 1" help us understand the fear he expresses when he tells David that Division 3 is worried mutants will eventually realize they "don't have to listen to [humans] anymore." It also makes it easier to swallow his shifting alliance when it happens late in the episode: since we know this guy isn't an out-and-out monster, his ability to be reasoned with and actually do the right thing works on a dramatic level and doesn't seem like an easy narrative cop-out.
Not that it would have been necessary. The Interrogator's change of heart looks to be an indication of interesting things to come, instead of a setup for Team Summerland going to battle with Farouk alongside Division 3 (which I had kinda hoped for just a little, maybe). Instead, it's up to David to vanquish Farouk once and for all, a process that covers a few different sequences, all of them brilliant.
Hooked up to a machine designed to suck the Farouk right out of his mind, David finds himself making his way through his memories to the tune of "Breathe in the Air," watching Farouk disappear from them as he starts to cleanse himself...until the song melts into Pink Floyd's "On the Run" and Farouk begins to fight back. The sequence is yet another brilliant moment in which Hawley figures out the perfect way to visually realize a highly abstract and mostly mental sequence of events.
In fact, the most important thing about this first season of Legion might very well be Hawley's uncanny ability to figure out exactly how to represent some deeply abstract concepts. From the upside-down camera work to illustrate David's body switch in "Chapter 1" to Lenny's song and dance number as she tears her way through David's memories in "Chapter 6" to the fucking incredible dialogue-free sequence set to "Bolero" in "Chapter 7," Hawley has consistently figured out the most engaging and stylistically adventurous way to tell David Haller's story. The result, as a whole, is easily a contender for Best TV of 2017 so far, and with season 3 of Fargo getting ready to premiere next month, it looks as though Hawley is just getting started.
There's really nothing to interrogate about this episode, or about the season, really. They're both stunning examples of A+ work, a bold and cohesive vision realized with a degree of authenticity not often on display. David's journey over the course of the last eight episodes has been a gripping one, and the post-credits stinger only indicates that there's more fun yet to come.
Oh, and also...
• The needle drops in this show have been second-to-none, pretty much all season long. T. Rex's "Children of the Revolution" was the perfect closer.
• Hamish Linklater had no shortage of fantastic one-liners this episode, with "Are you threatening the entire human race; do I have that right?" maybe leading the pack. Also he managed one of the only deliveries of "He seemed nice," that actually works.
• Let's please write all of the articles about how incredible Aubrey Plaza was this season. Another interesting byproduct of this show will be getting to see the interesting work she does in its wake.