Within the universe of spandex-clad individuals, bad guy monologues, and supernatural abilities, FX and Marvel’s newest television show “Legion” is a kaleidoscope of compelling characters, hypnotic musical scores, top-notch special effects, and stimulating insanity.
“Legion”, based on the Marvel comic by writer Chris Claremont and artist Bill Sienkiewicz, centers around David Haller (Dan Stevens). Diagnosed as schizophrenic as a child, David has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for years. Institutionalized again in his thirties, David sinks into the numbing regime of Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital… that is until he meets the beautiful and troubled new patient Syd Barrett. After a mindboggling encounter, David begins to question not only his already unhinged state of mind, but also his humanness.
The superhero genre has taken the world by storm in the past decade, flashing fans and haters alike with origin story after story, which will later become alternate universes that every fangirl could only dream of. With an endless amount of superhero fan service out there, what makes “Legion” stand out as one of the most unique?
Shoehorning popular songs into action films and shows is the latest trend, despite the fact that the songs have no conceptual value. “Legion” gives all of these “trend-setters” a lesson in applying musical scores the right way. Music is brilliantly used in the pilot episode, reflecting David’s unbalanced state of mind. Composer Jeff Russo’s blend of electronic and orchestral elements illustrates David’s mind-warping emotions about himself and his romantic feelings towards Syd. Hair-raising classical and fast-paced classical instrumentals are the truth in a reality that makes little sense.
The cinematography’s trippy style of colorful still shots and follow shots complement the music, giving each scene, especially the more emotional ones, a hallucinatory atmosphere. The musical score and camera movements together give off a dream-like allure to those who are watching, trapping them in a hypnotic rhythm of madness and questionable circumstances.
The music and point-of-views alone make “Legion” an irresistible eyeful for those who were curious enough to watch the first episode. Another visually pleasing aspect that shows promise for future episodes is the visual effects.
Watching the first episode of “Legion” is like watching a big-budgeted movie in theaters. The visuals were surprisingly very believable for a supernatural television show. I have seen shows like Luge Cage, Stranger Things, Arrow, The Flash, and Gotham, but the imagery in “Legion” was different in the sense that David’s reality-warping and telekinetic abilities are manifestations of his mentality instability, and when he loses control, it’s more captivating to watch.
Another plus is the slow-motion. Since The Matrix, I cannot remember another piece of work that took slow-motion under its wing as a signature style. In Legion, slow motion, along with unconventional color hues, conceptualizes the show beyond that of a superhero origin tale. Slow-motion is sparsely used, but when it is, it is an intentional illustration of surreal happenings in David’s world seen through his eyes. When his powers manifest, it is done in slow-motion because to David what is happening cannot possibly be happening. Slow-motion is not possible in the real world, so using the effect during David’s meltdowns adds to the questionability of David’s credibility and his mental state.
“Legion’s” not-so-normal characters are the leading cause of its success. Stevens did an outstanding job embodying one of the most complex character in Marvel history. He convinced me that his character is a legitimately crazy person, fleshing out David with the smallest facial tics, empty stares, body twitches, and verbal questionings of reality thanks to an outstanding script. Not only do you hear him struggling with himself; you see his internal torment through his body language. By the end of the pilot, I could not think of anyone else playing David Haller with as much authenticity as Stevens. He makes “Legion”.
A surprising positive in the first episode was Lenny Busker (Aubrey Plaza), David’s “impossible optimist” of a friend in Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital. Plaza is a delight playing an individual that you can conclude is the craziest on the show. David and Lenny complement each other well, and their crazy-together relationship is genuinely entertaining and refreshing to watch.
One critical thing that I would say about this episode is that something goes wrong, and suddenly that problem is solved without any explanation. I understand that “Legion” is a fragmented piece of work, but the solution to the problem is not mentioned and the story goes on like it expects you to go along with it. I will go along with the entertaining madness, but a large, gaping plot hole does not sit well with me.
I will say that “Legion” is not for everyone. If you do not like not knowing everything by the end of every episode, I will say that “Legion” is not the right show for you. “Legion’s” head-tilting “what did you put in my tea” twist and turns are its strengths and what makes it stand out in a crowd of superhero films.
Despite the obvious plot hole, “Legion” is something to easily fancy. The visuals are great. The blend of techno-classical music and mind-bending cinematography are hypnotic and will keep any interested in the complexity that is David Haller. The characters are intriguing and likeable, and their insanity will keep you in your seats minutes after the episode is over.
In just one episode, “Legion” has made a name for itself as one of the most stunningly put-together superhero origin tales told on television. This newly inventive television show will find fans in both superhero fans and those who are not.