For those of you who didn’t know, FX has started a new TV series called Legion. Legion is based on the X-Men character of the same name. Legion, whose real name is David Charles Haller, was a character created by writers Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz in the 1980s. Not sure if this is really spoiling anything in the show, but David is the son of Professor Xavier and in the comics is known as one of the most powerful mutants ever. Last year, FX had announced they were creating a TV series adaptation of the character. After watching the pilot last night, I must say with full confidence, we may have another TV gem to look forward to every week. Minor spoilers will be included in this review by the way, so read at your own discretion.
I went into this show with some high expectations, but mainly due to the team behind it. Legion is created and written by Noah Hawley, who was also the showrunner of FX’s ever amazing Fargo. Just him alone had the bar set high for me because this guy knows how to write great television. As for the main actor, David is played by Dan Stevens, who was extremely versatile in his role in The Guest, a retro throwback to 80s horror movies, which I highly recommend. With other talent such as Jean Smart and Rachel Keller, Legion has quite the ensemble.
For anyone expecting a superhero show in the veins of say Arrow or The Flash, they will be severely disappointed. Quite frankly you could have someone watch almost the whole first episode and they wouldn’t even know its based on a comic book. David is a character who is known by everyone around him to have a mental illness. This is due in part to him unable to control his powers. A good chunk of the pilot takes place in a mental institution, where David was put after years of problems. From what I’ve seen in the show, it doesn’t seem to take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, nor does it take place in Fox’s X-Men movie universe. That’s also not fully confirmed, but Noah Hawley’s universe that he’s created shows a world where mutants seem to be less prominent in society at large, and not going out in blue X-Men suits to save the world everyday. Hawley’s universe grounds the X-Men in reality. Then again, this is the only the first episode, so we have yet to see more of the X-Men universe.
The very first scene is a wonderfully edited, but chilling montage of David growing up, unable to control his mind and hearing voices. The way each scene transitions really enhances the severity of his problems. All this is complimented to the tune of The Who’s “Happy Jack,” making it even more bizarre. The opening scene really prepares the viewer for the rest of the episode. The editing is what sets this show apart from others in the genre. The editing is fast and extremely messy, but that’s also the point. Throughout the entire episode, the viewer isn’t entirely sure whats real and whats not. David’s mind is a powerful one that he can’t control as of yet. The show takes viewers into David’s mind, which jumps from scene to scene, where I wasn’t even sure what the timeline of the show is. This could’ve easily made the episode too confusing for it’s own good, but luckily its handled perfectly and starts to make sense in the end.
David’s mind is all over the place with scenes of a yellow eyed devil that only he can see, as well as a dream sequence where is he dancing with other patients in the institution. It’s something straight out of an ending to a Bollywood movie and it surprisingly didn’t feel out of place, mainly because the viewer will already have been used to quirkiness of the show at that point. Yes, this show is pretty quirky, which viewers will need to prepare themselves for. This is unlike anything you’ve seen in a comic book adaptation, and hats off to FX for creating something truly original for anyone who wants something new in the superhero genre.
I don’t wanna go too much into the plot, but the general gist of the pilot is David being questioned by a mysterious organization as they seem to suspect David is a mutant. Basically an incident happens and they want answers. That’s all I’m gonna say about that, but the episode mainly revolves around David’s infatuation with Syd Barret, a women who enters the mental hospital. Syd at first will seem like just a love interest for our main character, which she is in theory, but there’s more to this mysterious character than meets the eye. David’s vulnerable nature around her really drives the episode and keep the viewer’s attention, as we immediately want to root for them right off the bat.
Dan Stevens is extremely likable as David, adding in lots of well-timed humor, but also giving us some chilling moments into his mind. It’s very clear that Stevens really is putting his all into this character, which is needed for a character like David. Rachel Keller is also wonderful as Syd, adding some very lighthearted moments in an otherwise dark show. That’s not to say its dark as a show like say, Daredevil, but more in it’s subject material. The retro style aesthetic takes the dark nature of the plot and adds more fun to it. One thing that really caught me off guard was the time period of the show. I really couldn’t put my finger on what era this takes place in. One scene shows people working with radiology equipment that looks like something from the 80s, but in the same room a character is holding a highly advanced notebook, one that you’d see someone like Tony Stark using. Legion is also one of the most visually stunning shows I’ve ever seen. From many one-shot takes and some really playful lighting, it seems Legion may be a show that takes each episode and makes it film quality. Hawley did this with Fargo, where every episode felt like a one hour movie. So this wouldn’t surprise me if this trend continues from episode to episode.
Overall, the whole episode is paced perfectly and leads to an extremely mind-blowing ending. This review is spoiler free, but in the coming weeks of each episode, I’ll be doing more of a discussion of each episode, so spoilers galore for each episode. So watch every episode, and then come back to see what we thought about it.