With just two episodes left in the first season of FX’s Legion, we thought we would take some time to properly introduce our readers to the show’s big baddie. You might know him as the yellow-eyed Devil, Lenny, or Benny, but all of these personas are just pieces of a much larger, more powerful entity called the Shadow King. Legion fans who aren’t too familiar with the comics (hi, Joey here) might not know that creator Noah Hawley was prepping the yellow-eyed Devil as this major X-Men villain, but day one fans like our own Scoot Allan (more from him below) have been waiting for them to namedrop the Shadow King since the very beginning.
So let’s take a look at the origins of the Shadow King, and what that might mean for the rest of this season of Legion.
In the comics, the Shadow King is the spiritual manifestation of the dark side of the human mind, those bad thoughts that get tucked away in the back of our collective consciousness. One of the first known possessions by the Shadow King was a powerful mutant named Amahl Farouk, who physically looks like a less distorted version of the Shadow King that we’ve seen in Legion. Farouk’s abilities allowed him to feed on the shadows of their souls, which allowed the Shadow King to take over his body. This is something he has needed to do since the dawn of humanity, otherwise he would exist only on the Astral Plane, which has been explored more in these six episodes of Legion than any of the X-films that have hit the theaters.
The Shadow King is one of the X-Men’s most dangerous villains, which is ironic because he is actually partially responsible for the formation of the X-Men having confronted Charles Xavier in Egypt, after the future leader of the X-Men was pick-pocketed by young Ororo Munroe, who would grow up to become Storm of the X-Men. It was this confrontation with the powerful Shadow King – which ended with Amahl Farouk dead and the Shadow King again stranded on the Astral Plane – that helped inspire Xavier’s dream to gather a team of mutants to face off against evil like Farouk.
He also once possessed the psychic New Mutant known as Karma, who was believed to be dead by her teammates. Using her power to possess people and overindulging his gluttonous appetites, Shadow King became severely obese – so much so that her teammates didn’t even recognize her – and amassed a worldwide criminal empire under his control before the New Mutants realized what had happened to their former teammate. It’s a chilling precursor to the possible plans Shadow King has for David once he’s able to fully take control of his body. Which has actually happened in the comics before, during the Muir island Saga.
At a time when there was no official team of X-Men, Shadow King was attempting to regain control of Storm, who had been reduced in age to childhood again. David Haller was on Muir Island with Moira Mactaggert and tried to use Cerebro to locate Storm. This allowed the Shadow King to possess Haller, and try to use the young boy (not quite as aged as our TV version) to lay waste to the surface of Muir Island. He eventually faced off against the newly formed X-Men in the Astral Plane using Legion’s body and powers, though the team was able to overcome the Shadow King. We’ve seen what Shadow King can do with David’s abilities in “Chapter 5” as David lays waste to the entire Division installation that was holding his adoptive sister Amy hostage, and it only scratches the surface when it comes to the extreme’s of David’s true abilities.
These are just a few examples where we’ve seen the Shadow King play a similar game, not just with powerful mutants in general, but David Haller/Legion in particular. It also shows a few instances where Shadow King is the direct impetus for the creation of the X-Men, which could actually mean very big things for Legion in the future. Especially if the next season sets out to try and find David’s true biological father, Professor Charles Xavier, which could prove to be the real reason Shadow King settled in David’s mind – his need for revenge on Xavier. – Scoot Allan
Check out the alternate promo for this week’s upcoming episode “Chapter 7”, which officially reveals the Shadow King and sees a dark turn for Aubrey Plaza:
Over the last six episodes, Legion has created this world where there truly are endless possibilities. Whether the fight is going on all around David or inside of his very mind, Hawley has managed to fit in rich character moments, exciting visuals, and thought-provoking ideas in greater quantities than most film franchises. Episode 7’s formal introduction of the Shadow King marks a turning point in the ambitious series, elevating it from origin story to full-on superhero saga. All while creeping us the hell out:
We already know that Legion will be returning next year for the second season, and it’ll be interesting to see how they wrap up this season’s various threads in the final two episodes. The performances have been almost unanimously fantastic, and the show burst out of the gate with a singular vision that it’s been exploring relentlessly for the last few weeks. It may very well be the most ambitious show on television today, and the Shadow King will surely introduce more mental, physical, and spiritual obstacles for David to overcome in the upcoming episodes.
Images: FX, Marvel Comics