Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Legion: An X-Men Show Without X-Men

By Beth

But don't let that title lead you to believe that I think (or you should think) that it's a bad thing. Legion is only two episodes in, and despite the lack of the usual X-Men team it's been intriguing and enjoyable so far. Legion himself has such an interesting story, and set of powers that I can see why he was the choice for a stand-alone show. It's a unique concept, and a challenging show. Again, that's a good thing because so much television is too easy to forget these days. If you're in to this sort of thing you won't forget Legion quickly.

But if you're not a comic reader you might not know who Legion is so let's start there. David Haller is the son of Charles Xavier, and has a huge set of powers which include telepathy, telekinesis, pyrokinesis, time travel, and reality warping. Unfortunately he also has multiple personalities with each one of them controlling a different power. He hasn't shown all of those powers yet, but we're only two episodes in so there may be more to come. Since this isn't an X-Men show don't expect to see Professor X anytime soon because as I understand it this is a parallel to the movies, and not a direct tie-in. In the show David doesn't have the Muir Island mutant care facility run by Moira MacTaggert to help him which leaves him in the hands of mental hospitals who are convinced he's merely insane. Insane he may be (it's not entirely clear yet), but as he's also a super powerful mutant there are other parties looking to get their hands on him. And if I can just side-bar here for a second: did you notice that I got to use the word mutant? Since FOX still owns the rights to the X-Men, and this show is on FX they can actually be mutants rather than "enhanced" or whatever stupid name they have to use for them in the Disney Marvel media. But back on topic.

David has spent his whole life in therapy or mental institutions. Luckily for him another mutant ends up in an institution with him. They quickly develop a relationship (or as much of a relationship as you can have with someone who doesn't want to be touched). Turns out that the reason for her quirk is that if she touches someone she mentally changes places with them for a time. So when they kiss they switch places she gets control of his powers, and really fucks some shit up because if he can't control his powers how the hell could she? The good guys come for him (accidentally getting her), and the bad guys manage to grab the real him once they change back. The bad guys are some sort of men in black suits group called Division 3 that is collecting mutants presumably to use as weapons or something equally evil. The good guys are a group at a facility called Summerland that want to save the mutants (perhaps the television equivalent of Muir Island?). At least they seem to be the good guys, but you never know what someones true motives are. They may not be putting together a spandex clad group of heroes, but they're trying to win a fight of some kind with David as the key.

It's a complex show which can make it tough to describe in real detail. Poor David has spent so long being told he's crazy that he obviously kind of is despite the fact that most of his issues stem from his powers. He spends a lot of his time trying to figure out what's real and what isn't. That leaves the audience doing pretty much the same thing. Although if this turns out to be an "it was all in his head" thing I'm going to be pissed. I don't get the feeling that they're heading in that direction though. It's well made, clearly well thought out, and obviously designed to keep us as off balance as David himself is. The set design pulls from the 60's, modern times, and even a very futuristic looking mental hospital. Even his sister's hairstyle and clothes are very 60's inspired. The music goes from The Rolling Stones to new covers of 80's songs to some very creepy ambient music. All of this ambiguity definitely adds to the feeling of a distorted reality. The acting is great as well. Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) has just the right amount of crazy, strength, and vulnerability. Aubrey Plaza is better here than in anything I've ever seen her in before. It's not her usual expressionless smart-ass. She's great as a crazy person, and even better as a (probable) figment of someone else's imagination (or whatever all of these personality fragments are really supposed to be). The rest of the cast is strong, but with those two stand outs it's not really important to go in to every single one of them.

Like I said, we're only two episodes in so there's no telling where the show is going. I'm really interested to see what comes next. It's only been given eight episodes to start with so I hope enough of you give it a chance so that it gets picked up for more. A word of warning though: there's a lot going on at all times. With all of the flashbacks, visions, and just general strangeness gong on you have to give this show your full attention. This is not a show to have on in the background while you're doing something else. I had to go back and watch the first episode again because I missed some pretty important plot points while I was cooking dinner. Just give it a chance. If you're into the X-Men, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, or the MCU at all you may find yourself surprised by some very thought provoking television.

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