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TV Review: Legion 1.1 “Chapter 1”
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Legion Dan Stevens FX Network

Legion
Episode 1.1. “Chapter 1”
Written by Noah Hawley
Directed by Noah Hawley
Starring Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Aubrey Plaza, Bill Irwin, Jeremie Harris, Amber Midthunder, Katie Aselton, Jean Smart
FX Network
Air date: February 8, 2017

With comic book heroes in constant demand on television and mental illness a hit at that box office with M. Night Shyamalan’s Split, the time seems perfect for FX to roll out Legion. Legion, based on the Marvel Comics character created by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz, is one of the most powerful mutants in Marvel’s X-Men universe. Real name David Charles Haller, Legion is the son of Professor X himself. He suffers from a variety of mental health issues, among them split personalities, with each personality having its own power. These include telepathy, telekinesis, pyrokinesis, and time travel.

FX is the destination for antiheroes. From Jax Teller on Sons of Anarchy to James Delaney on Taboo, Legion, which is a Marvel Television production, will fit right in.

Spoilers below for Episode 1.1.

Before I even get started with plot and characters let me say that this show is like watching a Nicolas Winding Refn film. It’s one of the most visually stunning episodes of any show I can remember. The direction is masterful, with frenetic pacing and editing, a lively color palette and a phenomenal score.

Played by Dan Stevens (The Guest), David Haller’s past includes multiple medications, arrests, and suicide attempts. He currently resides at Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital. He is highly medicated now, has group therapy sessions, dreams of the “Devil with the Yellow Eyes,” and levitates when he sleeps. The opening ten minutes is a hypnotic whirlwind of craziness, like watching One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest on an acid trip. He spends his days watching patients drool with Lenny (Aubrey Plaza) until he meets Syd (Rachel Keller), who Lenny describes as having “moxy.” David is intrigued by her, and in group therapy this exchange takes place:

David – “Do you want to be my girlfriend?”
Syd – “Okay. Just don’t touch me.”

The montage of their adorable courtship is just fantastic. With great music playing throughout, Keller’s eyes are piercingly beautiful and you almost forget you’re watching a show from Marvel about a mutant. Of course there is more than meets the eye and soon David is alone in a room being interrogated by two men, one talkative (Hamish Linklater), the other silent (Mackenzie Grey). The interrogation room is part of larger facility bent of figuring out who and what David exactly is, and whether they need to execute him immediately. We find out in a scene pulsing with vibrant color that when David kissed Syd goodbye it triggered some massive force that switched his body with her, sealed inmates behind walls and in Lenny’s case, trapped her IN a wall killing her.

David is trapped both inside the facility and inside his own mind. I felt like I was watching The Matrix meets X-Men. David is held hostage while seeing visions of Syd and being chased by two mysterious pursuers, Ptonomy (Jeremie Harris) and Kerry (Amber Midthunder). It all comes together in a jaw dropping final scene that with some amazing special effects that will have you on the edge of your seat wanting more.

This was an absolutely intense and mind-boggling 90 minutes of television. Forget everything you think you know about superhero shows. I find it particularly amusing that I watched Arrow on CW right before Legion. Not dissing on Arrow, but the DCEU shows on the CW have it down to a formula, and sometimes, rarely, that formula gets… well formulaic and boring. Legion was the antithesis to all things formula. Up until the last scene, you weren’t even sure this was a show in the superhero genre.

In all honesty, this one episode would’ve worked as a 70-minute TV movie and I would be totally content. It was a cool psychedelic headtrip, unpredictable and daring. One minute a room is exploding, the next everyone in the cast is doing an impromptu Bollywood dance number… no, I’m not kidding. And if you have no clue of Legion’s comic book background it did not matter. Anyone would be completely enthralled in the storytelling and acting. Dan Stevens, who was amazing in Adam Wingard’s The Guest, and will be The Beast in the upcoming live-action Beauty and the Beast is absolutely perfect here. And in just small doses, Aubrey Plaza steals the show.

Give me more of this show immediately… or next Wednesday night at 10:00 when Legion returns on FX.

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