If you’re after something crazy and completely mind bending Legion will be just what the Doctor ordered.
Netflix may seem to have the monopoly on comic book adaptations for TV, but along comes Fox and Noah Hawley (Fargo) with their unconventional and fresh creativity and blows them out the water with Marvel’s Legion.
After premiering on Fox TV on the 9th of February, Its hour-long episode took us on a helter-skelter journey which kept you guessing as to what was real and what wasn’t. If you’re not already familiar with the Marvel comics by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz then you may find yourself just a bit frustrated with trying to keep up. Legion opens with a sequence of scenes which sees David Haller, played by Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens, in various stages of his early life. For anyone looking in from the outside, David is an unhinged young troubled soul, who at an early age was diagnosed with schizophrenia and had spent most of his life in and out of psychiatric hospitals. Now in his 30’s, David finds himself institutionalised once again.
In a series of fragmented scenes, in which it is never clear if it’s reality or all in David’s head, David’s personality and powers unravel – His powers, Telepathy and the ability to control objects with his mind which are showcased by beautiful slow motion in which objects and people fly across rooms and glass smashes. David’s Best friend lays in the form of the scruffy haired, chatterer who is equally, or even more so, unhinged Lenny, played by Aubrey Plaza. However, it’s his love for the newly admitted patient, Syd Barrett (Rachel Keller) that starts to consume his thoughts, but not all is what it seems where Syd is concerned. Syd is very much like David, but is fully aware of what she is; she too is a mutant with a power that allows her to transfer between bodies on touch with her skin.
Dan Steven’s, who plays David – who in the comics is actually the son of Charles Xavier – fully embraces his character, shaking off any stigma that might be attached from Downton, he plays disturbed reminiscent of a character from Gotham – in fact, Steven’s, Plaza and Keller – like chalk and cheese – would be right at home on the set of Arkham Asylum. Noah Hawley – who was behind the Emmy and Golden Globe winning series Fargo – has created a spectacular vision in Legion, with its disjointed storytelling and visually awe-inspiring visuals right down to the precision of colour to set a scene. Thankfully, whilst giving a taste of what to expect from the series in the first episode, just enough is held back to keep the interest high and making the audience want to come back.
The similarities with the X-Men arise after an incident at the institution when the government are brought in – a government fully aware of the Mutant existence and the need to control them. It’s not until the closing scenes where we experience a full on battle sequence between mutants and the government henchmen with a stunning array of mutant powers blasting their way through like cutting butter with a hot knife, that we experience the full force of fighting mutant power.
What to expect from Episode’s 2 and 3
What to expect from the following two episodes? Well, pretty much the same except the whole tone of the series becomes much darker, sinister even, in its narrative. Without giving away any spoilers, these episodes are very much focused on getting to know David and his past. We have the introduction of Melanie Bird played by Jean Smart as a mother type figure, a therapist who is on a mission to protect the mutants. We are also introduced to Ptonomy Wallace played by Jeremie Harris. Ptonomy has a photographic memory and the ability to read the memories of others. Along with Syd, both these characters play a very big part in the uncovering of David’s mind.
This branch of the X-Men franchise is more than capable as a standalone story; it tackles issues surrounding mental health and its perceptions and its underlying theme of the struggles of the human race in trying to find out and get to grips with who they really are. It speaks to a more sensitive and aware generation in the most eccentric yet relatable way.
LEGION premiered on FOX (Sky 124, Virgin 157, Talk Talk 422, and NOW TV) on Thursday 9th February at 9pm.