Legion Season One Review
Echoing Emperor Paul-patine’s comment about the Gotham video he included in his review, if the trailer above didn’t grab you by the time you get to the Bollywood number then this probably isn’t the show for you. For me, as soon as I saw it last year, it sparked off a dopamine dance party in my brain and I’ve been hanging out for the show to drop ever since.
In a nutshell, it takes a much misused character from the X-Men comics, Charles Xavier’s son David, and views his “mutant abilities” through the lens of mental illness. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia at a young age and the first season asks the question, “Does David have special powers or is he just really, really unwell?” For all of the (deserved) accolades the Marvel Netflix shows have got for their street level, realistic approach to super heroics, Legion takes it to a whole new level. If someone told you they had the ability to read minds or move objects with the power of thought would you start measuring them up for their blue and gold jumpsuit or make a phone call to the nearest psychiatric hospital? The viewer follows the story along with Daniel and as his understanding of what’s going on changes, so does ours.
The genius of the show is on display across a multitude of levels. The 60s-retro look and matching soundtrack creates a slightly off kilter feeling that harkens back to The Prisoner and has you constantly questioning what’s real and how much of this is going on in David’s mind. We get mind-altering performances from Dan Stevens and Aubrey Plaza that guarantee that you’ll never look at Cousin Matthew or April Ludgate in quite the same way again. And the plot moves about like a 4.5 magnitude earthquake – not enough to throw you completely off your feet but never quite allowing you to feel entirely comfortable with where you stand.
It’s always hard to know quite where the credit should go when a piece of art like Legion somehow manages to make it onto the screen but as Noah Hawley wrote and directed the pilot surely the lion’s share of the kudos must sit with him. He proves that the remarkable job he did of somehow out–Coening the Coens with his TV adaptation of Fargo wasn’t a fluke. The two shows seem quite different but they share the same DNA as once you look past the stylised setting the essence of Legion sits with the characters. Everyone from David down are wonderfully drawn. Despite the comic book origins, none of the people you encounter are one-note or pulpy. Each one has a heart and a motivation that makes sense within the bounds of the universe that Hawley has created. And that’s how you know what matters and what’s real.
Take the time to check out Legion - the X-Men by way of David Lynch and Saul Bass.
- A completely new take on the superhero genre
- Uses mental health as a plot device without feeling exploitative
- The characters are unique without being annoyingly quirky
- Plot that keeps you guessing
- Tonal shifts can sometime be jarring as the show moves from shock to laughter
- The second season can’t come soon enough