This review originally appeared on www.Film-Book.com
FX‘s Legion: Season 1, Episode 1: Chapter 1 is the best kind of weird. It is a lot like a student art film with a hefty production budget. And that is a good thing.
Legion uses the mental state of our lead character David Haller (Dan Stevens) as a key visual element. It makes the viewers’ experience equally as unstable.
Legion is also vastly different from any Marvel product we’ve seen cinematic or television related. Our hero, who isn’t much of a hero at this point, is teetering on the edge of sanity. The many years of dealing with his “condition” have left him isolated and alone.
At the very beginning, we are pulled into David’s perspective. Everything from minute one is filtered through his point of view, as though we too are living in his head. We are mushed between memories and possible hallucinations. It is unnerving and tantalizing all at the same time.
The quick cuts, abrupt imagery and the sprinkle of intense 80’s techno music put us directly at the forefront of David’s unstable state.
A lot of the time it is hard to determine what David is or isn’t seeing. For example, the government personnel in pink knits hats. Real or fake? And how does David switch back from physically being a woman to a man again? Did the Freaky Friday body swap even happen?
The show does a very good job at making viewers question David’s reality. There is no rest bit to compare and contrast what we think is happening and what actually is.
David is very different from the other Marvel characters we’ve met on the small screen. For as long as he has been alive he has been frustrated with his helplessness state. He has little to no control over his unrealized mutant abilities. David is starting to believe he is just a crazy guy with voices in his head.
In many ways, David is quite a refreshing taste of the Marvel universe. A lot of the time Marvel’s characters are flushed out. The characters are fully aware of their purpose. David, on the other hand, is beginning the first phase of a journey. A journey that will ultimately bring him into the middle of a war he never knew existed. He is about to become a part of a group he has probably only heard rumors about. Naturally, that alone will prove for some interesting conversations for Chapter Two.
The issue of mutants is played close to the vest. But the show is clever is making the mental hospital an example for how society deals with those who are “different”. This is beautifully done in the group therapy session with David, Lenny Busker (Aubrey Plaza) and Sydney “Syd” Barret (Rachel Keller) David’s love interest.
Syd quips that those in the mental hospital are only there because someone thought they weren’t normal. She says that the problems in our head maybe aren’t really problems at all. It is hard not to insert a throwback to Mystique’s “Mutant and Proud” quote from X-Men: First Class.
Legion is a bold step for the Marvel franchise. The creative choice to put David’s psyche in the driver’s seat of the show gives the audience a disturbing intimate introduction to a character we barely know.