There have been some concerns of late that the superhero movie and TV market is getting a tad saturated, as Hollywood has been seriously cashing in on this genre for at least the past decade and that a breaking point is imminent.
with a small wave of my hand
“These are not the concerns you’re looking for.”
Yes, there is most definitely some crap out there but the absolutely terrible or boring superhero offerings are actually strewn very few and far apart and rarely make it to streaming platforms such as Showmax. There is also constant reinvention as far as the superhero phenomenon is concerned – just earlier this week Marvel released a brand-new trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 and I really wish they hadn’t done that because I’m seriously impatient and I can’t wait until June next year!
Apart from brilliant re-invention, you sometimes find the gems in some totally-out-of-the-box concepts and that’s why I’m excited to share some thoughts on Legion for delivering something completely off the beaten track.
This series is based on Marvel’s Uncanny X-men comic book series by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz. It centres around David Haller (Dan Stevens), a troubled young man who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at a very young age and who has been a patient in various psychiatric hospitals, unable to cope with reality.
Legion is a surreal and cerebral sci-fi mutant mind-f**k that tells the story of a virtually unknown superhero who is the son of one of the best-known superheroes: Professor Charles Francis Xavier.
We get to meet David’s character in his early 20s at yet another psychiatric hospital, seemingly free but lost in the safe rhythm of a structured regimen that these institutions tend to offer: brekkies, lunches, dinners, talks to the peeps in the white coats, pills and nighty-night time. Rinse, wash, repeat. He spends the rest of his time with his best friend Lenny (Aubrey Plaza), who ended up at the institution because of her life-long drug and alcohol addiction and abuse. Despite this, she has an infectious, boundless optimism about her, coupled with an almost childlike belief that her luck will soon change forever.
Things get kicked into the next gear with the arrival of the new beautiful but troubled patient, Syd Barrett (Rachel Keller). Fun fact – her character is named after the co-founder of the rock band Pink Floyd. His music was a major influence on the series for creator Noah Hawley. Another fun fact – Barrett had to leave the band in 1968 due to mental illness issues but it probably had more to do with his excessive use of psychedelic drugs.
Let’s get back to Syd from Legion – David is instantly smitten with her and they sort-of start dating. There is just a minor complication: Syd cannot be touched in any way. Because consequences and because we’re in superhero-mutant world. Time passes and at some point she gets the all-clear to leave the mental hospital but David is not quite “healed” yet, so he probably needs to nosh on some pills and go nighty-night for a while. When Syd is about to leave the building, David runs up to her, sneaks a kiss and all hell breaks loose in theatrical slow motion. There is a big, destructive event of near biblical proportions and David has trouble remembering exactly what happened. Let’s just say things got broken quite a bit…
Right at the very beginning, Legion’s intro song pulls you right in. The chosen track, Happy Jack (1966) by The Who, with its completely disjointed and unsettling drums (I’m trying very hard to steer clear from using the word “crazy”), seems to fit the theme of mental health issues. It must have been chosen carefully, as The Who’s drummer, Keith Moon, suffered from mental illness (it was drugs, guys) and his fear of psychiatric hospitals indirectly lead to his death.
The intro and music choice absolutely sets the tone of the rest of the series, once again affirming that Hawley had a solid grip on everything right from the start. And you shouldn’t expect anything less from the guy who brought you an equally exhilarating three seasons of Fargo.
Legion is an amazing show with frantic and vivid storytelling, unbelievable depth and solid performances, supported by intelligent and sophisticated writing. It is a surreal and cerebral sci-fi mutant mind-f**k that tells the story of a virtually unknown superhero who is the son of one of the best-known superheroes: Professor Charles Francis Xavier.
Just when you think you have figured stuff out, you really haven’t. You never know what will happen next and the show keeps messing with your head just enough to make you want even more. Visually, it is an absolute feast! It is beautifully shot and complemented by just the right amount of top-shelf visual effects, possibly tricking you into thinking that the creators spent a Marvel blockbuster’s budget on production.
I can’t recommend Legion highly enough. Just dip your toes into the first episode’s intro – it will pull you in. The show requires undivided attention, so be ready for it. You probably won’t binge-watch it. You’ll find that you’ll do a lot of thinking.
If you’re the type of person that just loves not knowing WTF is happening, and WTF will happen next, you are in for some of the best streaming TV entertainment out there. Even more so, if you’re a sci-fi freak who is up for a challenge, Legion just might do that for you. The series seems to be beyond typical TV.