This review will NOT contain spoilers for the Legion TV series.
Of the new shows debuting in this first half of 2017, I did not expect Legion to be one of the most compelling out of the bunch. This is due, in large part, to the way I feel about the way Fox has been treating the X-men franchise. X-men Apocalypse left a nasty aftertaste in my mouth that I’m still struggling to wash out several months later. Without going into a full rant about my disgust with how some of my favorite comic book characters have been treated, I can attribute the crux of the issue to being a brash lack of consideration for characterization.
Legion is different. David Haller, the bastard child of Charles Xavier (according to the comics) is Legion, a mutant with multiple personality disorder. He has a great deal of power, but different parts or types of his powers can only be accessed via different personalities, and he has no idea how to control this. As you may have guessed, he has dealt with these mental issues for his entire life. This creates a complex character dynamic. The recently aired show dives into this dynamic and explores it in a hauntingly fascinating way.
Legion is a psychological thriller, but not in the traditional sense. It is such, in that the horror and thriller aspects are derived direction from David’s mental state. This isn’t a show that you can watch while doing something else. You have to tune in. You are given puzzle pieces that may or may not fit together, but the show leaves it to you to decide what to do with them. Episode one leaves watchers wondering what is actually real and what is a product of David’s imagination. I’m still not a hundred percent myself. When we finally do reach something that feels like stable reality in episode two, we then dive into his memory and try to discover his past.
The way this is accomplished is quite intriguing. Flashbacks are certainly a part of it, but the way they are portrayed has a finesse that calls for watchers to focus in on the details. Camera cuts aren’t just employed as fancy cinematography for the show, they are actual fissures in his memory- repressed thoughts or what have you. His imagination is full of projections. Or maybe it isn’t. The details are so plentiful that it’s up to us to decide.
Dan Stevens, Legion’s actor, is astonishingly convincing of his role. The quirks, the unfinished sentences, the segments of partial thoughts, and distraction by the mundane. He plays the part disturbingly well. You feel for him. You want him to conquer his mind, but at the same time he presents this constantly listing scale of fragile instability that makes you want to hold your hands out, step back and give him room to breathe. We are constantly on edge- constantly on guard. How well he invokes this sense of vulnerable volatility is genius.
So yes, Legion was a pleasant surprise. It’s an inventive psychological mind warp that will keep you watching so long as you do yourself the favor of immersing yourself in the mind of David Haller. Don’t watch this while cooking or put it to fall asleep to. Which it, digest it, and if you can, watch it again. If you want a Marvel show that makes you think, this is for you. I’m looking forward to episode three already.