Noah Hawley of Fargo fame has done it again! He’s taken a unique property and made it cool and delightfully quirky. In a world that’s over-saturated with comic book TV shows–most of which are cut from the tried and true formula; origins, superhero in-fighting, villain of the week, etc.–Legion makes you question if what you’re seeing is real or all in in the head of David (Dan Stevens).
We begin where any real story starts, at the beginning, as we follow David throughout his childhood into early adulthood and witness how his mutant powers begin to manifest and how they take a toll on his psyche, all in a montage set to The Who’s “Happy Jack”. It all leads up to him being placed in the Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital where he’s medicated up to his eyeballs. Then we’re introduced to Syd Barrett (Rachel Keller) and David falls head over heels for her, but she has a quirk–which is strictly no touching. No holding hands, kissing, any brush of human contact; it’s evident as Syd makes her way around the hospital repeating to herself, “too close”. Given the stipulation David asks Syd to be his girlfriend and she agrees.
There’s another whimsical montage, to the tune of The Rolling Stones’ “She’s a Rainbow”, that shows us how their relationship blossoms and then we cut to another time (or reality) where David is being held and grilled by an interrogator (Hamish Linklater) on the whereabouts of Syd since no trace of her can be found at Clockworks. But there’s more going on as evidenced when the interrogator leaves the room and we follow him out to an empty facility full of heavily armed men.
We jump back to the past as David recalls his last meeting with Syd at the hospital as he plants a kiss on her with catastrophic consequences, and a bombastic sequence, as we find out that Syd has the ability to switch bodies with whoever she comes in contact with. So David in Syd’s body leaves Clockworks as Syd in David’s body unexpectedly sets off a bloodbath.
In the last 10-minutes, we are reminded that we’re watching a superhero show and there’s an exhilarating breakout sequence where Syd and her team of mutants attack the complex and rescue David. The battle is breathtaking as it is one continuous shot and can rival any big budget movie. In the closing moments David turns to Syd and asks her if this is all real, to which she says yes. But as the viewer we are left questioning reality as much as David is.
If you’re a fan of Mr. Robot you’ll feel right at home with Legion, along with the excruciatingly frustrating/rewarding moments that’ll keep you guessing.. as long as the protagonist wants you to see his reality. The colors are vibrant; the music matches a style that lends itself to 70s, although we are never fully told what year the story takes place. But they still use payphones so before the 90s?
Noah Hawley took a Marvel Comics property and completely made it his own. He’s not worried about crossovers or cameos; his aim is to let the product stand on its own as opposed to throwing everything and the kitchen sink in its first season. Be forewarned this is one of those shows that will need your full attention not to be considered as background noise or while you’re playing Candy Crush on your phone. They call it the Golden Age of television for a reason; I do believe Legion was tailor made for this age.