Numerous stories have tackled the thin line between what is real and what is imaginary, how our minds can trick us into believing in a version of reality that is far from the truth. Legion follows in the mold of those tales but it doesn’t take long at all for the show to break out and solidify itself as a wholly original venture, something especially rare in the superhero genre. Like many of these stories, Legion is a mindfuck but it’s less focused on the twists and turns of the plot and more concerned with how it’s character’s react to them, specifically the lead, David Haller.
In a brilliant opening montage, we see David’s fall from hopeful youth to mentally ill degenerate, the scene is visually arresting, like much of what we see in this episode but it also eases us into David and his perspective. The greatest trick the show pulls is rarely leaving David’s point of view. Almost everything we see is from David’s mind and much like our own minds it’s hazy, scattered and hard to piece together completely. That might sounds like a knock against this show but the fact that it’s story is able to be told so well while also putting us in the “broken” mind of David is a masterstroke.
Our story really takes off, however, when Sydney Barrett enters the fray, a fellow patient of the Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital, Syd immediately catches David’s eye and the two begin a love affair or at least as close to one as they can get as Syd does not like to be touched. David soon learns, as Syd is preparing to leave the hospital, that there is a very good reason for this.
The show puts a lot of stake into David and Syd’s relationship and it helps anchor us as we go back and forth between the fateful day Syd left and to David, who is now contained in a government facility and being questioned about what happened. David isn’t “insane,” at least not completely, he has powerful telekinetic abilities and may very well be the most powerful mutant the government has encountered. As for Syd, well she has powers too and those powers are the direct cause for David’s run in with the law.
From there the story gets even crazier and we’re constantly forced to question if what we’re seeing is the truth or merely David’s mind playing with us. That’s where the show’s visuals work best, people wear clothes from different time periods, buildings are improbably designed and people break out into a Bollywoood-esque dance. The show keeps things as weird and seemingly random as the human mind.
Of course, all of this would fall apart quickly if we didn’t have reason to care about David or his journey. Dan Stevens does a fantastic job of making us root for David playing him as funny, sad and just as unsure about all of this as we are. David may take the role of the unreliable narrator but he certainly isn’t doing it willingly.
The rest of the cast also does tremendous work from Aubrey Plaza as the doomed but magnetic and witty, Lenny, to Rachael Keller never letting Syd’s aloofness stop her from being endearing. The cast all make the most of what their given, particularly Plaza who steals a ton of scenes with just her presence.
In it’s first outing, Legion manages to be a mind-bending and engrossing hour of television and I have no doubt that things will only get weirder and wilder from here. David may have been saved from his surefire execution but that doesn’t mean where he’s going will be better.
Bits ‘n Pieces
- You’ll excuse me for not mentioning the X-Men at all in the review but really if you didn’t know beforehand you’d probably never be able to tell this show is in that universe.
- Lenny’s death was certainly surprising but it looks like we’ll still be seeing Plaza in David’s head.
- The musical cues in this show are tremendous especially The Rolling Stones “She’s a Rainbow”
- And, of course, Syd Barrett, which is a direct musical reference as well as a mental health one.
Jesse Swanson is a would-be writer, podcaster and funny guy who covers TV shows of all shapes and sizes. You can find him on Twitter @JesseSwanson