It is a weird combination when you find a show that is so weird and trippy that you have no idea what is going on, but still end up loving it. Legion is one of those shows. From creator Noah Hawley (Fargo) comes this show about a man named David Haller. Haller had been diagnosed as a schizophrenic as a child and has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for years. Now in his 30’s Haller is institutionalized once again, lost in the rhythm of everyday life. When he encounters a mysterious woman named Syd at the hospital he is in, his life changes forever. He realizes he may be more than human and that voices he hears in his head may actually be real.
From that description alone you could never guess that this show is based off of a comic book and not just any comic book, but an X-men comic. In the comics by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz, Haller is the son of Professor X and is a powerful mutant. He has telekinetic powers as well as disassociative identity disorder which stems from his ability to absorb a person’s psyche into his own. It is unclear how much of the comics will make it into the show, but it is an interesting premise to start out from.
As I mentioned above this show is fascinating from the get go. There is a lot going on in this premiere episode as Hawley tries to make you the viewer feel just like David does. There crazy visuals, quick cut scenes and quick changes in scenery that make you question reality. Like David, you do not know what is real and what is not. This leads me to my next point which is that the technical aspects of this show are gorgeous and spectacular. The framing of each shot is mesmerizing with plenty of color, perfect lighting and awesome camera work. The sound design is impeccable always keeping you on your toes and wondering what is happening next. The score and soundtrack also perfectly set the mood for each scene. The special effects are also cinematic and mind blowing. There is one scene where David has a telekinetic episode in his kitchen and everything just explodes from where it is and floats in the air. Its mesmerizing and really well done. Also the camera work is fantastic in this. There are a lot of long takes that are better than a lot of things you see in movies. The biggest one is this huge action sequence at the end of the episode when David and Syd are escaping where David was being held. This one shot is amazing and I cannot say enough about it. I keep mentioning the visuals, but its because they are that good. I have not seen such trippy visuals since I saw Doctor Strange last year and that is really the only comparison.
This show would not work without its actors though. Dan Stevens who plays David is perfect in the role. He nails every nervous tic and twitch while also imbuing him with sense of longing and loneliness. Haller is a guy who just wants to be cured of his affliction, but cannot help what happens. Stevens shows this bearing of a cross perfectly. You also have an amazing cast of side characters. Aubrey Plaza shows up as David’s friend from the mental hospital, Lenny. Plaza’s slow drawl and slightly crazy persona lend perfectly to the wonderfully weird character that is Lenny. Rachel Keller plays the mysterious woman I mentioned in the synopsis, Syd Barrett. Keller plays her as this mysterious figure who has a lot of answers, but will only dole them out carefully. She is revealed to be another mutant and I am really interested to see where her character goes especially as it pertains to her relationship with David. Two other standouts from this episode were Katie Aselton and Hamish Linklater. Aselton plays David’s sister Amy and its interesting for me to see her play such a prim proper housewife role as I am used to seeing her kick butt in fantasy football in The League. Linklater plays a man known as The Investigator who questions David about what has happened in his past. Linklater plays the perfect straight man with a hint of mystery to him. I am interested to learn more about the organization he works for.
The other thing this premiere did well was set you up for the rest of the season. I have so many questions and really none of them were answered in this episode. I am most interested by what happened at the end of the episode. Is there a group of mutants out there? Is that who rescued David? Will he get his powers under control? So many questions that I hope they can answer in their 8 episode run.
To me the greatest thing about this show is that its a superhero show without really being a super hero show. The powers and saving the day are not the focus. The focus is on the human characters who just happen to be dealing with super hero problems. The other interesting thing is that yes David has powers, but does he also have a mental illness? Are they actually one and the same? This is a human show first and I love that about it. Legion definitely has me coming back for more and I cannot wait to continue this journey next week.
Legion airs every Wednesday at 10 p.m. on FX