So the Voices Aren’t Just in My Head? - My Review of FX's "Legion" (Season 1)
A couple weeks ago, I started watching FX’s Legion as the entire first season just arrived on Hulu. I had heard that it was a something-something that was based on an X-Men character and was considered “good”. Anyway, it had something to do with superpowers and it seemed more interesting than watching more episodes of the Flash (please, no).
So, mild spoilers here, it is about a young man named David who has spent the last 6 years in an insane asylum after being diagnosed with schizophrenia (often due to misunderstood waves of telepathy from those around him and less directly, massively uncontrolled bouts of telekinesis). Strangely, his drug-buddy Lenny (played by Aubrey Plaza) is also in the asylum with him as they eat red-vines and talk about the other patients. Then enters Sydney who has an aversion to touching and David starts a long, convoluted, violent path to love and freedom and world-breaking Psionic powers.
I didn’t know anything about the character of David from the comic books, though 45min on YouTube seemed to solve that. As the son of Dr. X, the comic-book David is referred to as Legion as his consciousness can absorb other personalities (some good, some bad) that constantly war to take over the primary David’s self. David in the comic-book is a conflicted, unbalanced character constantly trying to find peace among the many pieces of himself.
The series takes a more straightforward tact, focusing on the idea of David as mentally ill, even if those mental illnesses are really caused by latent superpowers (not necessarily an original concept). However, as the characters are adults, the discussion plays less as a adolescent drama about finding yourself (or coming out of the closet) and more a dialogue on a person’s purpose (or lack there of). A series plot-point revolves around series title of “Legion” but I’ll leave that for viewers.
What really makes the series interesting is the way the filmmaking is handled. David is, for multiple reasons, an unreliable narrator. Therefore, what is real and what is a drug fantasy, hallucination, trip to the astral plane, hijacked personality, or discussion between multiple parts of the same consciousness often grows blurry. The series has a lot of fun with these ideas: continual genre shifts, an Indian dancing number, Jermaine Clement in a giant ice cube performing slam poetry. However, while the story sometimes seems to lose its thread, the acting is fantastic and the fact that it has been produced on FX allows it the flexibility to far more interesting than it would be as a prime-time show.
The series has already started production for the second season. I hope they can keep the dynamic going some more.