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
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 Shyamalanâ€™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 Marvelâ€™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. Itâ€™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 Hallerâ€™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 â€œDevil with the Yellow Eyes,â€ and levitates when he sleeps. The opening ten minutes is a hypnotic whirlwind of craziness, like watching One Flew Over the Cuckooâ€™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 â€œmoxy.â€ David is intrigued by her, and in group therapy this exchange takes place:
David – â€œDo you want to be my girlfriend?â€
Syd – â€œOkay. Just donâ€™t touch me.â€
The montage of their adorable courtship is just fantastic. With great music playing throughout, Kellerâ€™s eyes are piercingly beautiful and you almost forget youâ€™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 Lennyâ€™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 getsâ€¦ well formulaic and boring. Legion was the antithesis to all things formula. Up until the last scene, you werenâ€™t even sure this was a show in the superhero genre.
In all honesty, this one episode wouldâ€™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 numberâ€¦ no, Iâ€™m not kidding. And if you have no clue of Legionâ€™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 Wingardâ€™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 immediatelyâ€¦ or next Wednesday night at 10:00 when Legion returns on FX.