Legion is the latest superhero show to be taken up by a major studio, in a craze that is starting to put out more and more quality programming in a genre that I’m sure most nerds had given up for dead. Legion, like most of its generation, doesn’t disappoint.
Legion, AKA David Haller, is the son of Gabrielle Haller and Charles Xavier. At least, this is who he is in the comics. It’s unclear how loyal the big studio show will be to the source material, and it is too early to make any kind of educated guess. In the comics, Haller has always occupied more of an anti-hero role and is rarely ever seen as a protagonist, for good reason. His powers allow him the to move things and people with his mind, as well as absorb their souls after they die. Sometimes these remnants of people even take over, putting Haller in the unusual position of “puppet”. These powers of “soul-sucking” hardly lend him to being seen as a traditional member of the X-Men, and it’s unclear if the X-Men even exist in FX’s universe.
But this allows for a lot of creative freedom to be used by creators Stan Lee and Noah Hawley (Fargo), and they put that creative freedom to good use. The viewer’s first five minutes with Haller (played by the pretty and talented Dan Stevens) are spent watching him grow up from a relatively normal boy into a juvenile delinquent into a schizophrenic adult man in a mental institution. Those five minutes allow the newly minted viewer to understand one thing clearly: David Haller has 99 problems, and a boring life ain’t one.
Right now it’s “Certified Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes and the first episode “Chapter 1” has a 9.8 on IMDb. Critics like it, MCU junkies seem to like it, though some might take issue with the distinct lack of fireballs. It is a super-hero show for adults. Though the subject matter might be old, the way it’s approached is refreshing and feels way more fun than the usual Marvel formula.
Every frame is a picture. The directing lets the viewer become a seamless part of David Haller’s quickly changing life. For as many places as the viewer travels in the episode with Haller, from mental institutions to poolside, they are never lost, or if any confusion or ambiguity occurs it’s an intentional twist. The episode takes liberties, but it never leaves the viewer feeling cheated or out of the loop. I believe that if someone knew next to nothing about Legion or the X-Men, they’d be able to sit and enjoy without feeling lost.
However, the episode wasn’t without its faults. Sometimes the viewer can tell where the dialogue is going, and can pick out what elements are going to be set up before they happen. That’s not to say the show is outright predictable, but in the future this little quirk might take away from an episode. This flaw is made perhaps even more irritating because of how well done everything else is. The cinematography, the directing, even the costume design all flows so well together that to have something like predictability enter into the mix feels downright ornery on the writers’ part.
While we certainly can’t judge an entire show by the premiere, I’d have to say this one looks promising. Legion may be from a big budget studio, but it’s quirky and creative enough to stand on its own and apart from the other super-shows. This is for big kids who need something more out of their heroes than explosions or spandex. The biggest drawback is that you need cable to watch it.