Starring: Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller Aubrey Plaza
Review Author: Tony
Rating: 5/5 pints of Guinness
Minor Spoilers for episode 1 ahead!!
Marvel’s recent foray into TV series has been a mixed bag so far which started with the divisive Agents of Shield on ABC followed by the critically praised Daredevil on Netflix which was the catalyst for a number of scheduled shows on different channels. The most popular and successful have been The Defenders prequels with each show focusing on a member of the upcoming Defenders show (Marvel’s TV Avengers). Each season since Daredevil has seen ratings steadily drop as Luke Cage started strong but ended with a whimper and Iron Fist being critically panned (I couldn’t make it past five episodes, however, Shaun was brave enough to review it). I hate to use the term superhero fatigue but as a fan of the genre, I’ve been wanting something a bit more adventurous and out there.
You can imagine my excitement when the first trailer for Legion dropped and it looked, unlike anything we’ve seen from Marvel and not only that it’s spearheaded by the same show runner as Fargo, Noah Hawley, and is in The X-men universe. Then to cement that they had my full attention, the studio cast’s my favourite up and coming actor Dan Stevens in the lead role and also the fantastic Aubrey Plaza.
The first episode opens with David Haller (Dan Stevens) a patient in a psychiatric hospital suffering from schizophrenia which has plagued him since a young age. David has been in Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital for six years where his close friend Lenny (Aubrey Plaza) has also been committed. During his time there David meets Syd (Rachel Keller) who refuses to be touched but agrees to be his girlfriend. We soon find out that David is actually being interrogated by government officials and is recounting his time in Clockworks. This shady Division 3 believes there is more to Davids condition than just mental illness but rather a mutation and soon discover their beliefs about David are confirmed the more they push him. Fortunately, Syd, with the help of other mutants breaks David free and flee the facility.
Besides being one of the best series premieres I’ve ever seen I was amazed that every clip I had seen in the first trailer was contained just to this episode, I had no idea where the show was going next and I couldn’t have been happier. This is the most mind bending show I’ve ever seen as the narrative is completely unreliable as we can never really trust exactly what we are seeing is a reality which reflects Davids mind. Hawley keeps us guessing even what decade it’s set in as it has a 60’s look to it and at other times looks set in modern-day. The visuals are unlike anything on TV, there are moments in the show that make Doctor Strange look tame. Every frame looks like a piece of art with bold colours and angular set designs.
While the majority of the show is shrouded in mystery as it tries to unlock Davids past and the catalyst for his mental illness it never becomes exhausting. The show gives you just the right amount of information each episode to slowly help you connect the dots but keeps you second guessing what you’re seeing is actually true. Now in all honesty by the 4th episode, I had a theory of where the show was going alternatively speaking and I can confirm that I’m really fucking smart because I was right but it’s still a fascinating story.
Legion is also a pretty dark show as we delve into the effects of mental illness and the drain it can have on someone. David is a tragic figure as his condition drove him to drug addiction, crime and attempted suicide. Even as others explain to David that he doesn’t have an illness but rather a gift. He is uncertain if it’s true or all in his head. It also doesn’t help that he’s haunted by a grotesque creature called “The Yellow-eyed Devil”. Many scenes in Legion scared the hell out of me and left me unsettled as the show can switch at the drop of a hat.
Legion is not really a superhero show in the traditional sense, it may be set in the X-Men universe but don’t expect to see any of the staples of the series such as the team or Sentinels Don’t expect crazy mutants who fart fire or change TV station by blinking. This isn’t an action show either although there are a few scenes here and there that are mind-blowing awesome. Instead, the show focuses on David and unlocking his potential, sure there’s a conflict between the government and Mutants but it’s background noise here. The show is all style and tons of substance with a stellar cast. The show has the potential to go down the human-mutant conflict but I feel that it’ll never be the true focus of the show which is fine by me.
This is a show made by talented people who have a vision and I must commend FX for allowing them to pursue it and give a genre, that is slowly becoming stagnant, a fresh take in a different direction. Legion is the best superhero show hands down and not only that one of the best debut seasons I’ve ever seen. I’m already bummed out that I have to wait a whole year for its return but I’ll be counting down the day.