Legion: Season 1 Episode 2 Review – Chapter 2
The age of superheroes is well and truly upon us. Ever since Iron Man kicked off the Marvel cinematic universe in 2008, twelve more superhero films have followed suit, most off which were commercially succesful as well. At the same time, according to many, this is also the Golden Age of Television, so it comes as no suprise that Marvel has expanded its focus from the big screen to the small one. On the surface, Marvel’s latest forray into television can be described as just another typical superhero show to add to their catalog, but nothing could be further from the truth. Like its protagonist, Legion is special.
In our spoiler free review of episode 1, we discussed what sets Legion apart from its counterparts. David Haller is no ordinary superhero, in fact he can hardly be called a superhero at all. We first meet him as a patient in a psychiatric hospital, to which he is admitted because of his presumed schizophrenia. While his powers are great, his mind is unstable; a dangerous combination that is the catalyst for the events in episode 1. Chapter 2 changes the environment from the suppressive walls of a mental institution to the openness of a facility in the forest, where David is encouraged to explore his powers instead of repressing them. In order to do so, Legion takes a stroll down memory lane, but the path is all but straightforward.
Below is our spoiler-heavy review.
Following the events in Chapter 1, David is escorted to a facility in the woods called Summerland, a place created to unite mutants and teach them how to control their powers. They believe he is a powerful telepath, and right off the bat Jean Smart succesfully guides him through the process of blocking out the voices in his head to find the one that belongs to her. It serves as a nice introduction to her character, but more importantly it shows that David is not merely a loose cannon of metaphysical power; a first glimpse that he might actually be able to control his powers, if only to a certain extent.
Not everything goes that smoothly, however. In order to understand David’s abilities, they need to revisit his past memories where the ability manifested itself, through a procedure they call ‘Memory Work’. Ptonomy, the man who appeared to be chasing David in the pilot, turns out to be a memory artist, someone who is able to take people back into their own memories. This is where the show gets tricky. The memories they visit are from different moments in David’s life, presented nonchronologically, and the show moves in and out of them without missing a beat. It is the Memory Work that sets the tone for Chapter 2, and it doubles down on the style of the show coming out of Chapter 1.
Legion is not an easy show by any means. The story is told through David’s eyes, and the state of his psyche has a very clear effect on the show as a whole. The show fully commits to a frenetic style that mirrors David’s mental state, blending from one scene into the next and leaving every piece of unnecessary explanation behind. It is a ballsy approach based on the trust that the audience is able to keep up. This is Legion‘s greatest selling point, because it makes it stand out from the other superhero shows that are out there, but it can also be its greatest obstacle as far as reaching mainstream success is concerned. Legion demands full concentration from its viewers, and even then Chapter 2 is confusing to the point that it works better on multiple viewings.
It is clear that creator Noah Hawley realizes that a lot of excitement can be found in exploring the depths of David’s mind and the extent of his powers, which is especially important in these early episodes. Luckily though, the show still finds time to take its foot of the gas once in a while. The scenes between Syd and David especially stand out in a good way. Rachel Keller portrays Syd with a calmness that brings a very welcome sense of serenity to their scenes. Amidst all the craziness going on, the moments where it is just the two of them getting to know each other feel all the more special.
While Chapter 2 can be considered as too confusing for its own good, especially on a first viewing, the episode does a lot more right than wrong. It lays a lot of the narrative groundwork for future episodes by introducing key elements such as the ‘Memory Work’, which could conceivably make up half the show for the foreseeable future by filling in more of David’s backstory, and the creepy book called ‘The World’s Angriest Boy (in the World)’ which appears to have made quite an impact on him. Subsequently, the episode is confusing but not frustrating in such a way that it actually encourages repeat viewings. That, combined with the very capable acting performances and unique visual style, make Legion stand out from the superhero pack.
X-Men Legacy - Volume 1: Prodigal
Legion, the most powerful and unstable mutant in the world, and son to Professor Charles Xavier, has killed gods and reshaped the face of the universe.
In the aftermath of Avengers vs. X-Men, Legion will finally attempt to conquer his demons…and embrace his father’s legacy! Collecting: X-Men Legacy (2012) 1-6
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Image credits: FX Networks