To say that FX’s new X-Men-themed TV series, Legion, is keeping its cards close to the vest would be putting it mildly. The series premiere raised far more questions than it answered about the nature of powerful mutant David Haller. What are David’s ties to the X-Men? How much of what we’re seeing actually happened, and how much was merely the hallucination of a dangerously unstable mind? When the heck is the show even taking place?
However, one of the biggest mysteries surrounding the show right now involves a strange villain called “The Devil With Yellow Eyes.” This dark figure has a habit of showing up and silently tormenting David in his weaker moments. It’s tough to say whether this character is even real or a figment of David’s overactive imagination, but based on the comic book source material, we have a few ideas.
Potential spoilers continue below, so read on at your own risk.
It’s probably worth checking out our X-Men’s Legion Explained Feature, as the premiere wasn’t very forthcoming on who he is or exactly how his mutant powers operate. But in brief, in the comic books, David is the son of Charles Xavier and an Israeli woman named Gabrielle Haller. Mutant powers tend to grow exponentially more powerful with each new generation, and with a mutant as powerful as Professor X serving as the baseline, it’s little wonder that David ranks among the most powerful people on the planet. Unfortunately, he also inherited his mother’s psychological problems.
David suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder. His mind contains hundreds of split personalities, each of which manifests a different mutant power when it takes control of his body. The “Legion” name is specifically an allusion to the Biblical demon – a man possessed by numerous evil spirits.
It’s not clear yet how closely the show intends to adapt the source material or if David’s blood tie to Charles Xavier is being retained. Already, it seems to be diverging in terms of its portrayal David’s psychological problems. In the pilot, David is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia rather than DID. However, based on the similarities between the pilot and the 2012 comic book series X-Men Legacy, we strongly suspect that all of the scenes set inside the psychiatric hospital are part of a massive, recurring hallucination in David’s mind.
In X-Men Legacy, David exerts control over his hundreds of splinter personalities by trapping them inside a psychic prison. Serving as the literal warden of his own mind, David is able to let specific personalities out of their cells when he needs to make use of their powers. We’re guessing the psychiatric hospital seen in “Chapter One” serves the same function. It’s possible that all of the patients, even Aubrey Plaza’s Lenny, are simply David’s splinter personalities that he’s struggling to keep under control. We wouldn’t even be surprised if the “real world” seen during David’s escape is simply another level of this massive, Inception-worthy hallucination. The battle between mysterious government agents and the mutant heroes who rescued David could simply be another manifestation of the turmoil plaguing his mind.
So how does the Devil With Yellow Eyes fit into that equation? In X-Men Legacy, the greatest threat to David’s carefully constructed psychic prison is an especially powerful splinter personality named Fiend. Fiend was created in response to the death of Professor X in Avengers vs. X-Men. Basically, David didn’t take the death of his father that well, and in response he subconsciously created a powerful new personality that looked like a yellow, demonic version of his father. Sound familiar?
We wouldn’t be surprised if the Devil With Yellow Eyes is meant to be the show’s take on Fiend. He’s not a real character, but rather a particularly powerful and dangerous offshoot of David’s mind. He’s nothing more or less than a psychic demon that follows him wherever he goes, waiting to wreak havoc on his life.
That still begs the question of whether the Devil With Yellow Eyes has the same connection to Charles Xavier as Fiend. At this point we know that Legion isn’t connected to the X-Men movie universe, which theoretically leaves creator Noah Hawley free to pull in whichever X-Men characters he chooses. Perhaps the death of Charles Xavier happened shortly before the start of the series, leaving David in an especially vulnerable state. That death could even explain the escalating tension between humans and mutants, sparking the war David now finds himself a part of. However, the show doesn’t necessarily need that tie to the X-Men. The Devil With Yellow Eyes can be a Fiend-like villain spawned by another devastating tragedy.
The other possibility is that the Devil With Yellow Eyes is actually the Shadow King. The Shadow King is a recurring villain in the X-Men comics and probably Xavier’s single biggest nemesis after Magneto. Their rivalry dates back to before the formation of the X-Men, and the Shadow King was even responsible for re-paralyzing Xavier’s previously healed body in a storyline called “The Muir Island Saga.” Xavier doesn’t have a lot of luck in that regard.
Legion also played a role in “The Muir Island Saga,” where the Shadow King tried to possess his body and harness its incredible power. That makes it all the more likely the show might try to work the Shadow King into the picture. Essentially, the Shadow King is a psychic demon who exists on the astral plane and tends to possess the body of powerful telepaths in order to gain a foothold in the real world. His physical forms tend to be twisted and morbidly obese, reflecting the Shadow King’s depraved, hedonistic personality. That certainly matches the description of the Devil With Yellow Eyes. It’s also worth noting that the Shadow King’s own yellow eyes are often his most prominent (and sometimes only) physical feature when depicted in his astral form.
If the Devil With Yellow Eyes isn’t meant to be the show’s take on Fiend, then we’re guessing it’s the Shadow King. In either case, this is a villain that seeks to take advantage of David’s vast power and vulnerable mental state. In either case, it’s very possible the Devil With Yellow Eyes has direct connections to Charles Xavier. The only real difference is whether this villain is a part of David himself or an outside force.