We love that the show gives us a more realistic, relatable portrayal of heroes.
As with all the other Marvel products, the special and visual effects are always amazing.
The costume and set designs are visually stunning and clearly purposeful for each episode.
Dan Stevens shows us he's capable of doing more than period drama and playing princes.
It's hard to get past "Chapter 1" because it feels like we're trying to put together a puzzle with no reference picture and too many pieces.
The show can overwhelm us with too much information at times, leaving us confused and frustrated.
Legion’s puzzling timelines, frantic storytelling, and mind-bending visual effects make it Marvel’s black sheep, but we still love it
The Show: Legion
The Network: FX
The Genre: Science Fiction
The Challenge: Give a show four episodes with which to draw you in, impress you, challenge you, make you feel something deeply. Four episodes for the chance to find out if you care what happens to the characters you’re watching enough to become invested in the story. If after all that, it does none of those things for you? Then no biggie. You gave it a good shot and you can move on. But if you love it, you’ll be glad you stuck around.
The Premise: Legion is based on a Marvel comic of the same name by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz, existing within the X-Men universe. It focuses on the life of David Haller, a young man who was diagnosed at an early age to be schizophrenic because of the voices and people he would claim to exist. His only remaining family appears to be his sister Amy, who keeps her distance but remains dutifully attentive. While institutionalized at Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital, David meets a new patient named Syd Barrett, who not only opens his eyes to the possibility of love but power he never knew he had. Now, David is living at Summerland and being helped by a group of mutants like himself, but he still needs to rid himself of his demons before harnessing his full potential. No journey is without its hurdles, however, and the people at Division 3 are out to make his path a bumpy one indeed…
In Season 1, David discovers after years of being treated as a schizophrenic that the voices inside his head might be very real. With the aid of a new love and her mysterious friends, he narrowly escapes the grasp of a secret government arm called Division 3. As he attempts to understand his past and clear out the skeletons in his closet, David discovers his sister Amy is now in enemy hands. He is now in a race against time to discover who he truly is and embrace his destiny. Legion stars Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Bill Irwin, Jean Smart, Aubrey Plaza, Amber Midthunder, and Jeremie Harris, with recurring guest stars Ellie Ariaza, Jermaine Clement, Katie Aselton, Mackenzie Gray, and Scott Lawrence.
We were promised an unreliable narrator, but we got so much more
Over the years, we’ve gotten used to the Marvel formula. A ragtag group of heroes with a charismatic leader faces off with a super villain (sometimes corporation or government) determined to take over the world. There’s cheeky humor, gorgeous people, and more action and effects than you can shake a stick at. So when we caught news that another Marvel product was coming to the small screen, we assumed it would fit the mold. Turns out, we couldn’t be more wrong. Legion’s creator Noah Hawley wanted us to see things from his hero’s perspective, to understand David’s journey from lost young man to fully actualized mutant. Of course, we now know that our hero is more than just lost – he might be crazy. His mind seems intent on staying broken, and that leaves us in a perpetual state of confusion and chaos.
Oliver: “A great philosopher once wrote, “In times of peace, the warlike man attacks himself. ‘This is the root of all our problems.’ And by ‘this,’ I mean ‘we.’ We are the root of all our problems our confusion, our anger, our fear of things we don’t understand. Violence, in other words, is ignorance.”
Yes, Legion is a story about someone who might be the most powerful mutant alive, but it’s so much more than that. It is about the human condition, about how each of us secretly worries we’re not like everyone else. What if we’re unworthy, inadequate, or insane? David’s experiences are not so unlike our own. We might not have superpowers, but we desperately seek the same things that David wants: love and acceptance. This is why Legion resonates even with its unruly timelines and fragmented stories. It was definitely a struggle to get through the first couple of episodes, but those of us who committed to giving it a chance have come to realize how much potential this show has. David both fascinates and frustrates us, and everyone around him has their stories of their own to tell. We can all find at least one character that we connect with, which makes us tune in every week to find out more.
The mutant universe is a familiar melody that seems a little out of tune
Anyone who has been following the interviews and news pieces on Legion knows that it exists alongside the X-Men. That’s right, we’re talking gifted people, a secret sanctuary, advanced technology, and a dangerous governmental division. Still, despite the obvious similarities, the world of Legion feels more like an alternate universe rather than the same. While Summerland is a protected property where mutants are recruited and taught, we have yet to see any children or young adults. There is a decidedly unstructured curriculum, and it is led by Melanie Bird, a woman who is sympathetic but with (as far as we know) no discernable mutant power. Unlike Charles Xavier, Melanie has no qualms about admitting that her objectives are somewhat self-serving, and she is more than happy to engage Division 3 in a war that she intends to win. The world our heroes live in seems blissfully unaware of mutantkind, but nonetheless has a government determined to kill them off.
Syd: “We moved through a city of normals, soldiers in a secret war. We were the ghosts in a haunted house, the golem of myth. To the normal, we were just superstition, make-believe. Sometimes it felt like that to us too.”
When we compare Legion to the X-Men, we can imagine that the former is the adult version of the latter, not unlike The Magicians versus Harry Potter. In David’s world, everyone comes with a dark past, with imperfect childhoods and psychological damage. There is some technology, but not the incredibly advanced (and well funded) type we’re used to seeing. Our heroes must rely on themselves and each other more than anything, and it feel as though happy endings are not in store for many of them. Legion is a grittier, darker perspective on mutants, and it forces us to search for deeper meaning and evaluate our views. Don’t get us wrong – it’s still one hell of an entertaining show, but what sets it apart is its willingness to reveal the uglier side of power.
It’s a show with so many moving parts, but they come together (mostly) perfectly
From the beginning, we knew that the concept show creator Noah Hawley had in mind would be, at the very least, ambitious. Not only does the writing and direction have to be tight, but so does cinematography, special and visual effects, makeup and costumes, and set design. The world that David resides in must be simultaneously believable and mind blowing, and if any of those pieces fall out of place, everything comes tumbling down. We saw how this could happen in “Chapter 1,” which had all of cast and crew trying too hard to impress us straight out of the gate. What we ended up with was a frantically paced, overly stimulating episode that was jarring and uncomfortable. Luckily, things settled down with every passing week, giving us a chance to sort through what we witnessed and make sense of it all.
Like a circus needs a ringmaster, each episode had to be helmed by a director who could pull every department together to give us a show worth watching. We had a chance to see the different styles of Noah Hawley, Michael Uppendahl, and Larysa Kondracki so far, and they smoothly maintained the slightly unhinged and mysterious quality of the show between them. One that that really stuck out from the beginning was the set design, headed up by Ide Foyle, which added to the surreal quality of the show by mixing indoor and outdoor elements to both Clockworks and Summerland. Carol Case’s costumes are detailed and purposeful, with use of color and fit to tell the story of each character every week. While all the writers have given us engaging material, Nathaniel Halpern of “Chapter 4” really stepped up the game. His lines will have us watching and rewatching the episode just to catch them all.
Final Verdict: Despite a lackluster series premiere, Legion is successful at what it set out to do…challenge our perceptions of heroes and the lives they lead
Noah Hawley’s Legion focuses on a man most of us would never consider a hero – a rebellious young man with a troubled past, substance abuse, and mental illness. In introducing David to us through his own eyes, we are forced to live as he does, faced with demons of his own creation and the very real possibility of insanity. Only through painfully slow progress and constant setbacks do we see him grow into something more, a mutant with the potential to harness more power than anyone else so far in history.
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To say that the role of David Haller is challenging is an understatement, but Dan Stevens manages to convey his tortured mind and fragile heart exceptionally well. Even in the quiet moments, we sense the chaos within David and sympathize with his insecurity. While he might be the namesake of the show, the supporting cast draws us in even deeper into the lives of the mutants they portray. We get to see how damaged our heroes are, and that they are not immune to the realities of life. Their determination to overcome their past experiences and help others is what makes them heroic.
Legion is a show that doesn’t shy away from pushing boundaries. While at first it floundered, we now have something that presents a fresh and unique take on superhero mythology. With the action, mystery, and romance growing every week, we find ourselves looking up at the end of an episode and wondering where all the time went. This is the hallmark of a great show, and Legion is one we should keep an eye on.
Legion walks a tight line over a chasm of insanity, but if you make it across you'll find it was worth every terrifying moment.Legion may be more turtle than hare compared to other Marvel products in winning audiences over, but it makes up for that with solid writing, dark humor, and well-placed special effects. It explores the darker side of superhero lore and shows us the pain that comes before the glory, humanizing the characters and allowing us to empathize with their struggles. Give it a chance and push through the beginning – you won’t regret it.
Legion returns next Wednesday March 8th, 2017 at 10/9C on FX.
Legion Final Verdict, Season One: 4 Episode Challenge