Marvel‘s latest television series debuts this week – and it’s unlike any of their other shows to date. Will audiences flock to the mutantmania that is ‘Legion‘?
David Haller (Dan Stevens) was always a special child though his entire life has seen moments where he couldn’t quite fit in or play well with others. It meant a youth living in and out of institutions, a cocktail of drugs controlling his moods and his flights of fancy that his emotions could cause devastatingly real consequences to himself and others. As the years go by, David learns to live away from society, coming to terms with his delusions and accepting the twilight, routine existence of a friendly but un-challenging asylum.
But one day he meets a new inmate, Sydney ‘Syd’ Barrett (Rachel Keller) who has a fear of being touched and they strike up a friendship. But on the day Syd is due to check-out of the facility, the couple touch and David’s world… literally explodes. How much of his past is as he remembers it and how much of his future depends on finding out the truth about Syd?
As David relates his tale to two apparently disbelieving detectives, it becomes clear that the truth of who David is and what he can do are just two multi-layered, interlinked problems… and the others… are legion.
Well, what to say about the whirlwind that spins its way across screens with the pilot of FX‘s Legion, the latest addition to Marvel‘s universe of characters and stories? It’s probably not what you or any critic really expected and it’s hard to define all its pros and cons from one viewing.
Marvel’s landscape is a successful but somewhat uneven one – on mainstream television you’ve had the likes of Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter, Netflix has given us Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and the upcoming Iron Fist and there are more projects such as Cloak and Dagger and Runaways planned elsewhere. Arguably they all sit in the same universe as each other and their cinematic cousins, but in areas that are divided off both in tone and look. Given that this is essentially an X-Men-inspired property, based on the 1980s comic by writer Chris Claremont and artist Bill Sienkiewicz, Legion may or may not be a piece in the existing jigsaw and may or may not fit more comfortably into the (so-far) entirely separate/right-issue mutant movies (ones that have continuity and connective issues of their own). Wondering about all that might be getting a little ahead of ourselves though – because Legion immediately strikes a very unique identity that doesn’t rely on knowing anything about Marvel or mutants to date. In fact, by the end of the pilot, you may be none the wiser.
What you will have experienced is gravity-defying exploits, manic visuals, death, destruction, guns, grins and dance-numbers.
Echoing the old Morecambe and Wise motto of ‘All the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order…‘ the pilot for Legion is enough to give you motion-sickess as it speeds along giving you essential bits of information in almost random, erratic bursts, echoing the state of David Haller’s mind. If Twin Peaks‘ soundtrack was a slow, gothic durge then Legion‘s is fast, pulsing electro-funk It isn’t until its first ninety-minutes are done that either he or the viewer will be quite sure what events just happened, which events are memories and which were only in David’s mind all along.
For some, the FX show will just be a loud, vivid, sprawling mess and it’s not hard to see where that viewpoint will come from. Director/Writer Noah Hawley toys with the viewer, enjoying the non-linear story and the sheer lunacy of its leap-frogging scenes as it hops from pillar to post-production. For others it will be a breath of fresh air, even if it may feel like someone’s spiked that air with laughing gas. There’s enough fun and imagination in the pilot to have most viewers coming back for more, if only to make some sense of it – though one hopes that it will settle down just a little with David and his new ‘friends’ in the outside world and more answers will be forthcoming.
We’ll see. It’s certainly one to watch… or maybe just ‘experience’…
Legion is showing on FX in the US on Wednesday nights from 8th February and in the UK on FOX every Thursday from 9th February.