The Legion series premiere has finally aired on FX after much anticipation. But did it hold up to the hype? Here’s our review.
Legion is the brain child of Noah Hawley, creator of Fargo, and follows the life of David Haller (Dan Stevens) as he discovers he might not be a paranoid schizophrenic like everyone has been telling him. Perhaps he’s a powerful mutant instead.
It’s everyone’s dream, right? You’re not ordinary, and you’re certainly not crazy. Instead, you’re a superhero! Except David’s life is more of a nightmare. He hears voices, has hallucinations, and can’t control his powers. He has strange memories and he doesn’t always know what’s real and what’s not. It’s hard to put stock in anything when what’s tangible may not be there after all.
To put it crudely, Legion is a mindfuck. It’s set up to disorient you. It pushes you off balance right from the start and never lets you regain your footing. This is helped along, in part, by the continual flashbacks. We see David’s descension into madness as his powers continue to grow, which leads to his suicide attempt and eventual hospitalization.
The jump cuts don’t stop there, however. We get snippets of memory here and there. We get moments out of context. Is everything a memory, or is some of it just David’s imagination running wild? We know David is a mutant, but we don’t know if he’s sane. His abilities, while very real, could have driven him over the edge. If he can’t differentiate between reality and hallucination, how are we meant to do the same?
And this is what we must always keep in mind. Just because the people around him are saying this is all real doesn’t mean it is. After Lenny (Aubrey Plaza) is killed, she visits him in his sister’s basement. Is this his insanity talking, or is it part of his power? The yellow-eyed demon shows up whenever he uses his abilities, but is it an actual demon hunting him, or merely a metaphor? Is David’s mind protecting itself from the truth by replacing a familiar face with an ugly one?
Despite the fact that David is unstable, he also happens to be an extraordinarily powerful mutant. In the comics, David, whose X-Men name is Legion, is the son of Professor Charles Xavier and Gabrielle Haller, a human. He does indeed have dissociative identity disorder, with each personality controlling an aspect of his powers.
Sydney Barrett, on the other hand, does not appear in the comics. It is interesting that she’s named after the founding member of Pink Floyd, considering there has been speculation that the musician had suffered from schizophrenia himself.
In Legion, Syd has the ability to switch bodies temporarily with anyone who comes into contact with her skin. She does this with David, which means once their bodies switch back, she has been taken in by Melanie Bird and he has been captured by Division Three, a branch of the government tasked with the job of controlling or killing mutants, depending on their level of cooperation.
Having spent time in the mental hospital together, David and Sydney form a connection. When they escape and subsequently end up in the opposite places where they began, she goes looking for him. Division Three attempts to see what David can do, but as his memories come back, he realizes he’s in trouble. It’s at this time that Sydney comes to his rescue, having been projected into his memories in order to get a message to him. They escape the facility and David is delivered into Melanie’s hands. This is also where we meet Ptonomy and Kerry, who have been working for Melanie in an attempt to track down David.
All in all, Legion’s premiere episode aims to throw you into the deep end. There’s a lot to sort through here, and I’m honestly not sure which parts are significant and which are merely meant to distract. There are certainly more questions than answers, but more than that, there are questions I don’t even know how to formulate. My mind is reeling, much like David, though I’m sure this was the whole point of the episode.
Legion is a beautiful show to watch. Stylistically, it’s a mishmash of time periods and colors and themes. It works, but I can’t even begin to explain why. This is going to be one of those shows that you’ll need to sit back and take in the first time around, as most of the rewards will probably be presented upon rewatch. It is brilliant, don’t get me wrong, and it definitely makes you think, but if you were looking for another superhero show that’s more about the punches and the explosions than an exploration of the human psyche, maybe stick to Daredevil or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Regardless of how much the Legion premiere made sense, I’ll continue watching just to see what Hawley and his team are trying to say with this show. Plus, this is the first television series to be connected to the greater X-Men cinematic universe, and it also marks a collaboration between Marvel and Fox, which will certainly mean it’s bringing the best of the best to the table.