Legion was pitched to me as an “X-Men prequel story…sort of…” which, to be honest, was not a strong sell. I’ve spent years loving the X-Men universe and all things Marvel, but recently it’s easy to experience comic-book-fatigue. The last few years there’s been an outpouring of comic book material with less and less that really captures me. Legion is so different.
Dan Stevens plays David Haller, a man who has lived his life believing he was schizophrenic, only to discover he is actually a mutant. (Of the X-Men variety.) However, what makes Legion so cool is that they never stray too far from the feeling that David might be an actual schizophrenic. Transitioning back and forth between mental hospitals, dreams, memories, and other various locations you never feel 100% confident that what — or who — you’re looking at is really there or purely in David’s mind.
Legion is perfect for binge-viewing – in fact I think it might even be better watched all at once. I watched the first seven episodes in three days, and last night the eighth episode served as the season finale for the show’s first season. Because David is unsure of what is real and what isn’t — the viewer starts to feel the same disorientation almost immediately. I found myself saying, more than once, “This is so trippy.”
Set up with a cast of previously unused mutants: a girl who body-swaps when you touch her skin, two “people” that inhabit the same body, a memory drifter who is able to enter and view a person’s memories and David who is the most powerful mutant in recent history. Both telepathic (reading minds) and telekinetic (moving things with your mind) David’s powers are fun to watch. None of them are flashy or recognizable but easy to identify as someone who might have been a student at Professor X’s school.
To be fair, the first two episodes threw me for a bit of a loop. When I say it’s different, know that it’s really, really different than anything else I’ve seen on TV. The visuals, the music, the sets, the filming — they all use a very specific style and movement all its own. But that’s what I loved — for the first time in a while a comic book-esque story felt original and fresh.
There are a lot of things I loved about this show, but the best by far is Aubrey Plaza. I was a fan of Aubrey Plaza in Parks and Recreation, but that was before I saw her in Legion. If any role was tailor made for an actor, it’s this one. She's addicting to watch on screen. I can’t remember another performance where the actor was just exuding confidence and was completely enveloped in her character.
Dan Stevens, of Downton Abbey fame, is mesmerizing in this performance. His discomfort and paranoia leak into every scene he’s in and somehow makes the viewer feel the same uneasiness. He, being the central character, also does a great job of endearing the audience to him. You root for him, worry about him and are a little scared of him in equal measure.
This show is worth a try — if nothing else than to cleanse the comic book palate. A colorful, loud and at times slightly scary dip into the untold X-Men universe that will have you tuning back in when season two rolls around.