FX, Fargo’s creator Noah Hawley, and Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey and the Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast) team up for Legion, one of the trippiest comic book-inspired adaptations to date. Hawley’s found a twisted, albeit often confusing, way of showing what’s going on inside lead character David Haller’s mind that’s visually stunning. And if you hang in there past the pilot, the payoff is huge.
Legion is based on the Marvel Comics and is set in the X-Men world, however you don’t need to be a comic book fan or even that into the X-Men films to grasp what’s going on. Simply understanding that it all has to do with a world in which mutants exist is enough to provide entry into this wild, psychedelic series.
The mutant at the center of the story is incredibly powerful yet not necessarily a character anyone who hasn’t read the comics would have knowledge of. David’s the son of Professor Charles Xavier, although that’s not even hinted at in the first three episodes of the series. Legion’s origins are in the X-Men comics but Hawley takes a completely different approach to the mutant world, introducing David (Stevens) as a troubled man diagnosed with schizophrenia whose visions and abilities are not the result of an unstable mind but instead are signs of his incredible powers.
Because Hawley has found a unique method of introducing the audience to David’s mutant paranormal abilities, the pilot episode comes across a bit topsy-turvy. Down is up and up is sideways, and there’s even a dance routine thrown in to screw with your mind. However, even if some of what’s going on in the first episode is a little jarring, it’s so riveting and weird that you’re compelled to continue watching.
Without giving away any spoilers, episode one tracks David’s life in and out of trouble and hospitals in a non-linear fashion. Hawley introduces viewers to David’s world by filling out his environment with colorful characters including Lenny (Aubrey Plaza), Syd (Rachel Keller), and Amy (Katie Aselton). If you’re occasionally disoriented and not sure what’s real or just inside David’s head, then Hawley’s accomplished what he set out to do with the brain-teaser of a pilot.
David’s story becomes less confusing and easier to piece together in episodes two and three. It becomes clearer what’s taking place in reality and what’s going on in David’s imagination. As Melanie Bird, Fargo alum Jean Smart plays a pivotal role in explaining to David, and thus the audience, the reality of his situation and why he’s considered one of the most powerful mutants on the planet.
Legion makes the audience pay attention and think. (If you miss anything, back up and rewatch the scene because it’ll likely be referenced or tie into something later in the series.) Noah Hawley has taken the genre, given it a swift kick in the butt, and created something bold, mind-bending, and extraordinary. Hawley also made the perfect choice in casting Stevens in the lead as he’s charming, sympathetic, yet strangely unnerving as David, leaving you feeling a little off-kilter as he takes you into his character’s odd mind. There’s nothing like Legion on TV and after watching the first three episodes, I can’t wait to further explore this bizarre and incredibly entertaining world.