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Legion (season 01)

Josh Reviews Legion Season One

In much the same way that I never imagined a TV show based on the Coen Brothers’ magnificent film Fargo could possibly be any good, when I first read about Legion, a new TV show based on a minor character from the X-Men comics, I was not at all interested.  I’ve been burned by many previous super-hero shows, and with the X-Men movie franchise floundering without much direction, this looked like a cheap way to cash in on the X-Men name.  Well, Noah Hawley has proven me wrong twice now.  I will never doubt him again.  Just as Mr. Hawley’s reimagining of Fargo was an incredible success, so too has he created a rich, thrilling, wonderfully bizarre version of a super-hero show with Legion.  I loved pretty much every minute of it.

Based on story-lines written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz in the X-Men spin-off comic book The New Mutants from the 1980s (as well as some key issues written by Mr. Claremont in the main Uncanny X-Men book), Legion tells the story of David Haller, a young mutant with incredible psychic powers whose apparent schizophrenia makes him an enormous danger to the people around him and perhaps the entire world.  As the series begins, we see that David has been institutionalized, but he soon falls into the hands of a mysterious agency called Division Three.  They suspect what David will soon learn, that what he has always thought were his deep psychological problems might be a manifestation of his incredible mutant abilities.  David is rescued from Division Three by a group of fellow mutants, though neither they nor David realize that he had been hiding, deep within him, a powerful evil.

That brief plot description doesn’t begin to capture the head-spinning complex narrative that Mr. Hawley and his team have crafted, a joyously madcap journey through David’s past and present in which one can never be quite sure what is real and what is imaginary.  The entire structure of Legion has been designed to put the audience right into the middle of David’s madness and his broken mind.  Its fiendishly clever.  Watching the show becomes an incredibly fun exercise in attempting to unravel the tangled of mystery of David’s past.

Every inch of Legion has been crafted with great care.  The overall narrative, as I have just described, is an impressively clever piece of work.  Beyond that, time and again the show delights in zigging when you would expect it to zag.  We spend several episodes wondering about the mystery of Melanie (Jean Smart)’s frozen husband Oliver.  When we finally meet him, or at least his astral projection, its in the instantly iconic, and very … [continued]