In the comics, one of the important facts about David “Legion” Haller is that his father is the famous (or infamous) Charles Xavier, Professor X, founder of the X-Men. This episode finally addresses that, although with a few changes to the story. There was a rumor for quite a while that Patrick Stewart might reprise his role as the telepathic hero for this show. Spoiler alert- he doesn’t. We do see some of the elements of Legion’s backstory in Chapter 22.
As is common with this show, the episode is a bit disjointed with some “what just happened?” and “when did this happen in relation to that?” moments. Most of it takes place in what is, presumably, Charles Xavier’s house, but a very different building than the famed “X-Mansion.” In the opening scene, there’s a baby in a crib, a mother writing a letter, and a father leaving to go on some kind of trip. In short order, we learn the baby is David, the mother, Gabrielle Haller, and the father is, of course, Charles Xavier. Not Patrick Stewart, Xavier is played by Harry Lloyd, probably best known as Peter Quayle from the cold war inspired sci fi drama, Counterpart. In various skips around their timeline, we see Xavier saying he found someone like him and has to go investigate, Gabrielle caring for David, and Xavier in the basement working on what is clearly a prototype of Cerebro. This, it seems, has led him to Farouk, and all the bad news that came from that.
At an earlier point in history, Charles is in an asylum being assessed by a doctor. We see Charles’ power letting him know more than the doctor would be comfortable with. Charles wanders the institute, and sits near a woman in a wheelchair, who of course turns out to be Gabrielle. As he tries to use his powers to help her, we hear some of the ugliness in her background but don’t see it. Given what she survived in the comics, I’m just as glad of that. Intrigued, Xavier asks about her and learns some of her background. Later, we see what I believe is equal part nightmare and memory of Xavier’s. Oddly, music more appropriate for the era of David and his cult starts bleeding through here, and we see a progression of several of the important moments in David’s life, which are years in the future. We get an idea of what’s going on when we hear Switch and David discussing what they’re seeing, and some things not working out as they had hoped. David is very frustrated to be a voice that no one can quite hear instead of making the changes to his past he wanted to.
Switch and David keep trying to figure out what’s going wrong with their time trip as the scene shifts back to more of the early days of Charles and Gabrielle’s relationship. This version of Charles is an artist, which I don’t think we’ve ever seen before. David is amused to realize his parents met in a mental hospital, but doesn’t share the joke with Switch. Gabrielle recovers from her catatonia, and they actually talk. They eat, and talk about apples, tomatoes, and telepathy. The two talk, and flirt, and are clearly falling in love between Xavier explaining his ideas about how telepathy should be used.
Xavier is in bed, and has a flash of an image of Farouk. Showing this institution has some odd, or at least lax, rules, Gabrielle ends up in his room, and bed, and they talk about dreams and the future. It’s never stated, but strongly implied, Xavier uses his powers to get them both released. This puts us back in the house we saw before, with David in his crib with a disturbingly familiar doll. David’s disembodied voice comments on seeing his family together, and Charles wonders what will happen if he passes his power on to his son.
The still helpless voices of Switch and David discuss his past, and he laments what’s coming. There’s a big trauma he keeps wondering about, and I wonder if it’s the root of so many of his future problems. I’m also not sure where the music keeps coming from, since it’s not part of what Switch and David are doing during all this. Maybe Switch’s headphones are too loud? David talks to his younger self, and tries to offer what reassurance he can.
There’s a really well-done special effect for one of the issues we know is coming. The show can be hard to follow, but the visual effects are usually pretty damn good. This is no exception, and you have to feel bad for the infant David. It’s a very tense scene, which is made odder by the tv. Whatever Gabrielle is watching seems to be in some Asian language, which is odd in 1950’s America. Or England. They never have explained why, with the Xavier’s being in America for a few generations, they all sound English. A few of the phrases on the tv sound familiar, and then it goes out, distracting Gabrielle. This may be what helped distract her at a critical moment. Then again, I don’t know how much of what was going on she’d be able to sense.
Things get weirder when Xavier calls home, with a really bad connection. As Gabrielle struggles to hear him, he says his trip was a mistake and he’s coming home. He has no idea how much of a mistake this was, or what it set in motion. There are a lot of flashes of images from throughout David’s timeline, and Gabrielle freaking out. David manages to finally sort of manifest as an image, but this is about when Xavier gets home, and there’s a regrettable misunderstanding about what’s going on.
Sent packing by the mental blast of the most powerful telepath on Marvel’s Earth, David and Switch end up getting ejected through one of her doorways back into the corridor of the timestream. David is frustrated, but this trip has clearly taken a toll on Switch. She says a few times in the episode that she’s never gone back this far before. Whatever David might want or demand of her, she’s done.
Xavier, confused about what just happened, does his best to reassure both Gabrielle and baby David. What we see, through some interesting camera zooms and scene shifts, is that it’s too late, and one of the worst events in David’s life happens in front of us. Oddly, this isn’t the one he was complaining about so much before. It’s a chilling scene, with someone borrowing a phrase that’s been used a lot earlier in the episode. And that’s what we end on.
What I liked: The effects were great. Lloyd did a much better job as Xavier than I would have thought. It was interesting seeing the early Cerebro. It was a good take on Charles’ and Gabrielle’s love story (although in the comics, it was a triangle, the third part being Erik Lensherr, later known as Magneto). Even with the skips in time, this was one of the more coherent episodes of the show. For the most part.
What I didn’t: I don’t get how they were spending so much time together in bed in an institution like that in what had to be the 50’s. If Charles used his powers to get them out, it seems like a step towards the dark side. The future music leaking through several times was odd and never explained. I do feel bad for young David.
I’ll give this a high 3 out of 5. I’m not sure the main plot progressed at all, but it was interesting seeing this version of David’s history.