Legion: 2.06 Chapter 14
Alternate realities are kind of a staple of superhero comics. Being as they are entrenched firmly in science fiction, time travel and other such means allow us to see versions of the characters we love in timelines where things play out differently. The ultimate “What If?” scenarios, writ large and in Marvel's case, even given their own eponymous comic. That's what this episode was. A What If? But it wasn't anything so fantastic as “What If Spider-Man had joined the Fantastic Four?” or “What if The Phoenix had not died?” but a much simpler question. What if David's life had turned out differently?
With no particular event triggering these visions of other timelines, other than the thematic gut-punch at the end of the last episode, we were treated to a handful of different versions of David's life and how they could have played out, specifically if he had never gone to Clockworks, never met Syd and never got involved with Division 3.
Jumping between different versions, also skipping time, Legion spun its web, or more accurately its branches as a tweaked out junkie David surmised to his friend, being as he was somewhat aware of the possibility of his alternate lives. There was a billionaire David, who financially controlled so much of the world. There was the David who still lived with Amy, heavily medicated and working at some kind of milk distribution centre, stacking boxes, always just stacking boxes. And there was the older David, now bald and in a wheelchair, invoking the very iconic image of his biological father, who had to be cared for by an equally elderly Amy.
Amy it seemed, was one of the constants throughout the episode, which lead me to presume that maybe the entire episode was playing out in David's head. A way to see if there had been anyway that both he and she could have had a decent, normal life if David just hadn't been caught up with Division 3. Considering how much of a fan of Katie Aselton I am and how gutting it was to see her again last episode only for her to be unceremoniously done away with, it was great to have this episode explore her character somewhat, giving Aselton different versions to play, but always with her own constant; Her love for her brother.
Over the course of the episode we would see how, if indeed at all, any of the different versions of David were connected due to the time skips. Coffee-boy David, who helped his boss avoid a potentially disastrous business deal by reading the minds of her prospective partners, turned out to be destined to become the billionaire version we had seen earlier. The richest man in the world, whose former boss now worked for him.
But indeed not everything was positive for this David, as a glance of his reflection revealed none other than Amahl Farouk, predicting that it might have been possible that in some futures Farouk had taken over David or worse, David had embraced Farouk and used his powers to subtly conquer the world. There was only one seemingly truly happy version of David. One that was married with children. No signs of medication to keep his mind in check. No signs of the Shadow King rearing his ugly head. But so ethereal, so dreamlike were these visions as to belie their genuineness. No, there was almost certainly no true happy ending for David.
Indeed in nearly all potential version of his life his mental health issues, exacerbated by his powers and the curse of carrying Farouk's diseased mind around in his head, lead David's life down a path of misery and suffering. Whether he was the tweaker who became the rambling hobo, attacked on the street by youths before his power reflexively kicked in to defend himself, making him public enemy number one before ultimately being cut down by an alternate version of Kerry. Or the milk stacker who simply forgot to take his meds, started seeing visions of the Devil with the Yellow Eyes and was accosted by police for fear he might be dangerous, leading to his getting shot. There was a clear and prescient theme of society's lack of care when it comes to the issue of mental health.
Time and again David was shown to be let down, cast aside, brutalised or killed for simply being who he was. The version where he was shot may also had lead to two different futures, one where he didn't survive with Amy visiting his grave and the wheelchair-bound version where an infirm David relied entirely on his sister for care. In fact it was only when the story looped back round to this reality that David started to maybe see that things weren't all that bad. That if he had sought help, had gone to Clockworks, acknowledged his issues as well as his powers, it may have been the best of all options despite all that happened after, especially to his sister. Finally coming back to reality, David was revealed to still be reeling from last episode's revelation, possibly only moments having past, accepting this reality, a reality where his sister was gone.
In its own totally out-there way, this episode showed us, in multiple ways, how we as a society can fail people suffering from mental health issues. In a world of mutants and superpowers those issues are only heightened, sometimes to fantastical levels. Still I believe this “filler” episode, was once again a much needed stop on our journey through this story, a final farewell and love letter to Amy and a stern reminder that the most vulnerable amongst us still have it within them to live worthwhile lives if only given the chance. David, ever the tragic figure, has never truly been afforded that, which is why of I were the Shadow King, the focus of all of this version of David's pain, I'd be going into hiding right now.