Thursday, April 27, 2017

Peps' TV Series Wrap-up: Legion Season 1

I may not always agree with the choices that 20th Century Fox makes with the X-Men franchise, but I found myself looking forward to what they have in store for their TV offerings. Especially since Marvel TV head honcho Jeph Loeb is on board. And also because they let Noah Hawley (who is responsible for the excellent TV adaptation of Fargo... which I've yet to finish) loose on the canon material, and let him choose the character and how he wanted that character's story to play out. With FX as its home network, it was definitely interesting to see how Legion would play out.
David Haller (Dan Stevens) has always struggled with mental illness. A failed suicide attempt lands him in the Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital, where he is being treated for his schizophrenia. While fellow patient and friend Lenny Busker (Aubrey Plaza) makes his stay somewhat bearable, David finds a semblance of happiness when he meets Sydney Barrett (Rachel Keller). Despite Syd's rule that she shouldn't be touched, the two start a relationship. But when Syd is scheduled to be released from the hospital, David acts out on his feelings, unleashing a chain of events that catches the attention of groups that have a vested interest in mutants. The events also reveal that there might be more to David's illness than he thought.

My husband is the one who is more familiar with the X-men comic book canon, so he's probably more prepared than I was coming into our viewing of Legion. The first episode took some getting used to, since it's obviously designed to mirror David's mental state, with his account of the events at Clockworks and his subsequent release interspersed with scenes of strange events of his past. It was trippy, I didn't know what was happening half the time, but, boy, was it fun to watch. And the thing is... it only gets better from there.
You can't really expect a TV series (especially one that's headed by Noah Hawley) about mutants to be simple. There's always plenty of trouble to deal with and a measure of heartache for one or many of its characters. And David Haller is probably one of the most unfortunate characters I've encountered in the entire canon so far (or at least in the TV and movie parts of it). Born during a time when mutants are unheard of by the general population, and constantly haunted by disturbing visions and voices in his head, it's no wonder everyone, including David himself, believed himself mentally ill. And the revelation that he has powers come with its own set of burdens.... including being hunted by government agency Division 3, and finding out that his mind and power are not completely his own. With all that David has to deal with, it's funny when you realize that having a girlfriend he can't touch is the least of his problems.
Beyond all the trippy imagery that reflects David's state of mind, however, is a story that is greatly crafted. As David learns more about his powers and come to know the different people trying to help him harness his powers or attempting to capture him, he learns about himself and the shadowed part of both his past and his own consciousness. He meets the mutants of Summerland, headed by Dr. Melanie Bird (Jean Smart), who attempt to help him reconcile himself with his powers in the hopes that he can help her save her husband, Oliver Bird (Jemaine Clement). Tied in with his story is fleshing out the other characters in the series, particularly those of his fellow mutant ilk, both ally and really creepy nemesis alike, building up to what would be a particularly strong ensemble for viewers to follow.

Legion isn't really a show that you should have described to you... primarily because it's so hard to get into specifics when the story covers both physical events and mental battles. But also because the twists and turns in the story are those that you should uncover yourself. It's portrayed as a story set in a specific time period, punctuated by an excellent soundtrack that just adds to the viewing experience, but it doesn't feel dated. It's fun to watch, but will scare you more than a few times, alternating between disturbing imagery and building dread as events unfold for some characters. There are plenty of easter eggs to enjoy, especially if you have followed the X-Men canon, either in its comic book or theatrical form. And when you have a cast as talented as the one Noah Hawley assembled (some of whom he worked with in Fargo), you know that watching just for the superhero spectacle would be doing the show a disservice.
So... should you watch Legion? Yes. Yes. And yes. Sure, it's not a show that you can watch while you are distracted, because every event, however mundane, eventually adds up to a larger picture that gloriously makes sense in its last episodes. Neither can you expect straightforwardness, especially with the story and with the motivations of its characters. But the best shows are the ones that challenge you and end up rewarding you with a great storytelling payoff. Never mind that there are cliffhangers and even more questions just as you have answers given to you.

Because that's what second seasons are for, right?

Happy trippy and sometimes disturbing but overall awesome viewing!!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...