Oh Marvel, you did it again. You made me love a superhero I previously knew very little about. The Marvel Cinematic Universe did it with, well, pretty much all of their heroes. Netflix did it with Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage (not so much with Iron Fist, but more about him in another piece later). And now Fox has done it with Legion, aka David Haller. Legion Season 1 is different, it’s crazy, it’s stunning and sadly, it’s too short. Be aware: minor spoilers ahead!
Ever since it was clear there would be a new Marvel show, it has been on my radar. And since I don’t read a lot of comic books, I read a lot of stuff about Legion on the internet (yes, including Wikipedia, sue me) to get some background information. I put Legion on my list for shows to watch in 2017. Sometimes high anticipation can kill a show or film (for that reason, I sincerely dread the upcoming American Gods, since that is based on one of my favorite books ever), but Legion season 1 delivers. Mainly because it’s almost experimental superhero television.
Who is this Legion guy?
In comic book world, Legion is the most powerful mutant around. He is the son of Mr. X-Men himself, Charles Xavier. Legion has several personalities, thanks to a form of dissociative identity disorder. Each of his personalities controls one of his powers, such as telepathy, telekinesis, time manipulation and teleportation. The tv-adaptation is slighty different. While the term mutant is spoken several times, there is no mention of Charles Xavier or the name Legion. At the start of the show, David Haller thinks he is crazy; he even lives in a mental hospital. He doesn’t know he has wicked powers, let alone that he is the most powerful of all.
That all changes when Melanie Bird and her team rescue him. They want to help David manifest his powers and show him who he truly is. That way, he can help them fight Division 3, a government division focused on capturing and studying mutants. It stays pretty unclear troughout Legion season 1 what exactly Division 3 does and what Melanie’s team does. But that’s okay, since that isn’t the focus of this show. The focus is David and his mental struggles. It becomes clear quite soon that while David shouldn’t be in the mental institution, he does really have some problems in his head.
Dan Stevens & Aubrey Plaza
The lead of this series is for Dan Stevens. This role, together with his role as the Beast in the live action version of Beauty and the Beast, wil propel mr. Stevens into stardom, mark my words. David Haller is such a complex character, with so many layers, but Stevens portrays him without any trouble. His eyes alone are reason enough to watch Legion, as they can show on their own if David is currently a bit crazy or if he is all powerful. And while his American accent is good, it’s so much fun to see him in one scene with his own British accent. His British persona is his rational mind, hence the British accent. That scene, in a classroom setting, is also an amazing showcase to how creative this show is. The chalkboard narrative/backstory exposition is just gorgeous, and it also has a kinda Professor X cameo.
But, real star of Legion season 1 is Aubrey Plaza as Lenny/Amahl Farouk/The Shadow King. She starts as a goofy best friend to David but turns out to be an evil parasite living in his brain and feeding of his powers. As the show progresses, ‘Lenny’ gets crazier, but also more powerful. She/He/It even gets control of David and in that episode, Plaza gets to go all out. She is such a delight to watch and I was so happy to see another incarnation of Lenny appear at the end of the final episode, leeched onto Oliver. Fun fact: the role was originally written for a middle aged man until creator Noah Hawley met with Plaza. Big YES to another strong female role. One of the craziest Lenny scenes has to be her Chapter 6 dance sequence, which also demonstrates quite well how visually stunning and different Legion is:
Legion Season 1: too many adjectives
Stunning. Visual. Crazy. Weird. Amazing. Short. Different. Amazeballs. The creators, directors and writers took a huge chance by creating something in the superhero genre that’s completely different than all superhero stories so far. There are flashbacks in flashbacks in dreams in visions. It’s not the typical ‘this is the story about David and how he got his powers’ as many other superhero films/shows are. Legion just plunges in, takes no time to slow down and makes you question everything, as nothing is what it seems at first. It has a great poule of characters, all of which are written so delicate and well and portrayed by great actors. And don’t get me started on the amazing soundtrack. The last song of the show, Children of the Revolution by T.Rex is now stuck in my head and will be for a long time.
It’s the visual style that deserves the most credit though. The flashbacks, the dream sequences, the memories: they all have their own style. Legion isn’t afraid to experiment and that’s just what we needed to have on television right now. It’s almost a shame there are only eight episodes, but that just keeps the pace really high. Luckily, Legion season 2 was announced, so there will be more David and Lenny next year. And in true Marvel spirit: stay tuned after the end credits for a setup for the next season. I can’t wait!