Legion: Season 1 Episode 1 spoiler-free review – Chapter 1
FX’s Legion, based on the Marvel Comics by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz, has been highly anticipated since the first trailer was released at Comic Con last summer. It is the first FOX owned Marvel character to be adapted for the small screen, and also the first collaboration between the network and Marvel Television. With the success of Marvel Television’s previous efforts, such as Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage for Netflix, as well as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for ABC, expectations are extremely high. Furthermore, Legion is the latest project from Noah Hawley and John Cameron, two of the executive producers of the Emmy and Golden Globe winning FX anthology series Fargo, so fans and critics alike will undoubtedly be looking to see how Legion compares.
Given the complexity of the character, Legion is a rather monumental undertaking and a bold move on FOX’s behalf. The story follows David Haller, who was diagnosed as schizophrenic as a child, and has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for years. Now in his early 30’s he finds himself institutionalized once again. The series could have opted to gloss over the mental illness aspects of the character, but instead opted to delve posthaste into them by approaching David from that angle, and does so very effectively. Below we provide our spoiler-free thoughts and impressions on the premiere. For the sake of transparency I feel I should mention that my knowledge of the comic character was rather limited prior to viewing the episode (admittedly only what I could manage to read on wiki pages) and therefore my opinions and expectations are likely different from die hard fans.
That being said, I feel this is an exceptionally strong pilot and one that will generate favorable reviews. Think mind-bending psychological drama set in the X-Men universe. Or multiverse, specifically, as is the case here. Legion’s setting is very dreamlike, and may not be for the casual viewer (though it’s not without lighthearted moments). A valid approach to the narrative nevertheless, given that Haller suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder. However, this makes him an extremely unreliable narrator, and right along with him, viewers will be forced to question whether what’s happening is real or not. Likewise, some of the other characters he interacts with may in fact be other identities existing within his mindscape. Needless to say this series, although undeniably thought provoking, may not be the easiest to follow (in similar vain to Mr. Robot, Westworld, and LOST, among others). Which is ultimately what sets it apart from the other Marvel Television series in a profound way.
Viewers are introduced to David by way of brief flashbacks from his youth, followed by him functioning via the rhythm of a structured routine within the confines of an institution. Much of what we learn about him is through conversation with a therapist and other patients, as well as an interview with an unidentified man following an incident involving the death of a young woman. His other identities are explored to some degree, though to say how would give too much away.
His powers are only briefly touched upon, and we’ll presumably learn precisely what he’s capable of along with him in future episodes. The special effects in this regard were on point and enthralling to behold (I was reminded of Syfy’s The Magicians here). The cast are all talented, extremely convincing, and the characters instantly compelling. Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey, The Guest, Beauty and the Beast) seems the perfect choice as David Haller, immediately pulling viewers in by conveying a wide range of emotions. Additionally each of the other characters are unique and intriguing in their own ways. Rachel Keller, Jean Smart, Katie Aselton, Jeremie Harris, Amber Midthunder, Bill Irwin and Aubrey Plaza are among the gifted cast. Cinematically the series is very stylish and appealing. Much more flashy than Marvel’s Netflix series, which are far more grittier and grounded in reality in comparison. This works in Legion’s favor as it suits the surreal atmosphere of the series in addition to being a fitting world for a human mutant.
Speaking of which, I’m sure comic fans have burning questions that they would like answered. However I can’t really touch on this due to my limited knowledge and having to remain spoiler free. However, I can say that it’s been confirmed by the producers that the series exists within a different continuity than the main X-Men films, nor does it take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, making it somewhat of introduction to the multiverse. While this may be a disappointment to some fans, it frees the series up from connections to previous stories making it a wholly original and unique show.
Legion is ultimately about a schizophrenic mutant trying to discern for himself what’s real and not real. Exploring his mindscape throughout that discovery will likely be an incredible journey for viewers and one not to be missed. I implore even those with a fleeting interest to give this series as a chance, but especially anyone interested in a thought provoking viewing experience that will inspire endless discussions and theories.
Legion will consist of 8 episodes and premieres February 8th on FX in the US, with a UK air date of February 9th on FOX.
Image credits: FX, FOX