Based on the Marvel comics by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz, this is the story of David Haller (Dan Stevens), a mutant with extraordinary abilities. He just doesn’t know it yet. Diagnosed with schizophrenia in his youth, he has been transferred from mental hospital to mental hospital for a number of years. In his early 20s, David is now a slave to routine: three meals a day, therapy, meds and sleep. The rest of the time, he spends his in his own thoughts chatting with his talkative companion Lenny (Aubrey Plaza), a supposed fellow patient. Haller’s current routine is disrupted by the arrival of the troubled yet pretty Syd (Rachel Keller). After a shared shocking experience, David begins to think that quite possibly, the voices in his head might be real.
For those like me, who are firmly members of the comic book movie/television fandom, Legion is the latest in a line of great superhero(ish) drama. Much akin to the latest X-Men movie Logan, this does not feel like a superhero drama at all, even if it’s main character is from a comic book. FX’s superhero drama has dared to test boundaries that the two-hour movie format dare not. Where the films have to be a certain way to sell cinema tickets, television does not have to abide to those rules, especially since networks have eight hours to tell the story. In relation to the few bits I’ve seen of the source material, it seems this show has embraced some of that madness. And that’s a good start indeed.
After Westworld and Humans, I needed a show to churn my mental cogs. Legion is that show. It sends us head first down the White Rabbit’s hole. We’re in the addled mind of its protagonist, and the story is as much fragmented as the Haller himself. From the get-go, the writers have made sure we know the nature of our hero’s mutation. Through David, we are witness to a frightening world where one cannot always be sure whether what we are seeing is real, perceived to be real or imagined altogether. After all, what is reality? Who are we? When are we? Objects, time and identity are really only constructs, are they not? Constructs to give meaning and plausibility to the implausible.
“Madness is a lot like gravity. All it takes is a little push” says The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, and this quote is evident in Legion. All it took was one bad day to push Haller over the edge, and when he fell he really landed with a cosmic thud. Mental health is always a hard topic to depict. On one hand, if you do it with too much liveliness or mirth, you can be accused of poking fun at it. Yet, portraying it as depressing, , as it often is, will probably lose the audience. Finding the balance is tricky, but Legion finds the middle ground, whilst remaining respectful to any audience members who may suffer from it whether that is: depression, anxiety or bipolar to name a few.
Much akin to Netflix’s Jessica Jones, Legion shows Marvel’s psycho-thriller side and that Marvel isn’t all gimmicky oneliners and superheroes jumping around in butt-hugging spandex. The show has many elements of the psycho-thriller genre, with things that made me think of Fincher, or perhaps even David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. This show is a wild creature, surreal and quite honestly, freaking insane. And akin to the Hell’s Kitchenverse, this is certainly most definitely not for children. It’s something I’d recommend to fans of Jessica Jones, those who don’t demand everything explained in the pilot episode and are fans of the slowburn, with the metal to see it through to the end.
American TV is known for churning out some utter tripe, especially on Alphabet networks with their twenty-three-episode-long seasons. But Legion stands out from the crowd. It has this special ability (excuse the pun) to give you something new every episode. Predictability is nonexistent and it continues to mess with your mind, similar to what Westworld did, if not more so. We’re in this culture of, if you’re not spoon-fed storylines, the show is rubbish. Legion tells a narrative over eight episodes and makes you work for it. I’m an advocate of anything that makes people think, and Legion does that to the point of making audiences question their own sanity.
From the writing to the direction to the score to the effects and cinematography, Legion has it all. It’s more psycho-horror than comic book much alike how Logan was more Sicario/Hell Or High Water-esque western than comic book. And the acting performances from the cast are beautiful, with Dan Stevens (Beauty And The Beast) proving why he’s one of my favourite actors at the moment. I’ve been on his hype train since the days of Matthew Crawley and I can’t wait to see what he does next. Aubrey Plaza (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) takes on the role of a semi-kinky mental parasite which is horrifically interesting to watch. Also, I found myself relating a lot to Syd, a character who I found more interesting than Haller himself.
Legion is a much needed approach to television. It’s television that makes you think and not just bog you down in corny storylines and umpteen effects. It explores the mind of a mutant with the ability to control and rewrite reality. FX is the home to the likes of Sons Of Anarchy, Feud, American Crime Story and Fargo. Legion is the latest in their growing repertoire of epic original programming. It’s gritty, stimulating and intelligent. Like Netflix, the network is delivering some really great shows in a variety of different genres. Slowly but surely, FX is growing and I’m with them until the end of the line. With presence of Netflix, and the ascension of FX, I don’t think I’ll be struggling to find any decent dramas to watch in the coming years.
Legion shows that comic book-inspired stories in the R-Rated format can work, Deadpool aside. So what is real? What is illusion? Is what I’m writing real, or merely another layer to this multi-threaded narrative? There’s some food for thought in every episode of Legion. Regardless of the characters or storyline, the concepts discussed push the question, is Legion fiction or televisual metafiction? Alas, the first season ends on a high note. Though, until 2018 we must wait for more episodes. The struggle is real.
An honest look at the human psyche, and a bloody X-cellent one at that