Despite sometimes not entirely knowing what was going on, Legion is a show worth following.
Superhero shows are nowadays a typical team crime-solving affair, as per Agents of Shield, or dark, moody character studies, as per recent Netflix shows à la Jessica Jones or Daredevil. However, Legion is a show that veers completely off this spectrum, to offer a psychedelic look at the distorted reality through the eyes of a mutant.
Visually, the show is the lovechild of Doctor Strange and The Lobster; it’s both trance-like and downright bizarre. It excels at both these aspects. Creator Noah Hawley’s drug induced trip follows the titular character David Haller (Dan Stevens), a mutant who is diagnosed with schizophrenia. Kitchens explode through sheer mental force, a mysterious devil with yellow eyes follows David, and there’s a downright absurd dance number, all cementing the distorted reality that Haller is experiencing. Accompany this with the equally experimental soundtrack, and you have Legion, a new and unique take on the ‘superhero’ genre.
Known only to the most hardcore comic books fans, David Haller, the son of Charles Xavier, has several untapped psychic abilities including telepathy and telekinesis, briefly shown in that crazy kitchen scene. When Stevens was cast in the role way back in January 2016, I had my reservations on his ability to front a big budget television show (not that Downton Abbey wasn’t), but rewatching this premiere episode, I’m left eating humble pie. Stevens has great ability to portray both a man who is not in full control of his own body, coupled with an unerring sense of mental instability.
We meet Haller in the Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital, where he resides with the equally kooky Lenny (Parks & Rec‘s Aubrey Plaza). He soon finds himself emitted with street smart new resident Syd Barrett (Rachel Keller), whose less than ideal powers result in some temporal switching chaos, to both their dismay. From this point on several realities become blurred into one, leaving viewers wondering if what’s being shown is present day, the past, an alternate reality, or a memory; to name a few possibilities.
Showrunner Noah Hawley deserves high praise, with high-profile Stevens only boarding the project due to his involvement. His previous work on the FX series Fargo show his strong credentials in the television industry. Hawley is a master of using practical effects to his advantage, as displayed by the kitchen scene, which was created without the influence of CGI.
Thankfully, there is no sign of a giant portal in the sky or an army of faceless aliens; instead Legion offers a strange but thoroughly enjoyable trip into the lesser known areas of the X-men universe. More questions are raised than answered, which only adds to the hallucinatory experience while watching the show. Not just for comic book fans, Legion is a show which is confident in its style and direction (check out those crazy 60s costumes), and is definitely an adventure worth following.
Legion airs on FOX UK, Thursday nights at 9pm.