Legion: 2.01 Chapter 9
Legion was easily one of my favourite shows of 2017. Even though I had previewed the first episode at New York Comic Con in late 2016, I could never have known exactly how affecting the show would be on me. I'd say it came out of nowhere but that sells its surrealism short; it's more accurate to say it came strutting into the room like it owned the place and didn't care who knew. It took hold of me in a way that kept me coming back for more of it’s delightful, surrealist mystery each week. Hell, the pilot also had one of the best comic book TV show action sequences I'd ever seen just for good measure.
So it was weird then that in the months after the season finale, I couldn’t quite express exactly why I liked it or indeed, even acknowledge it as being one of my favourite shows. Legion, perhaps quite appropriately, had just wormed its way inside my mind and nested there. I eventually got season one on Blu-ray but truth be told, I never re-watched it before season two started. That didn’t matter though as within minutes of season two's first episode, (Chapter 9 being as it is the 9th episode overall), I fell right back in love with Legion's weird little world, skirting as it does, the edges of the superhero genre that I love so much.
Season two picked up where season one ended, albeit a year later, with the Shadow King on the run in the body of Melanie's recently revived husband Oliver and everyone looking for him. This time however, using the well worn trope of heroes teaming up with the shady organisations that had once been their foe, the mutants of Summerland now work for Division 3 in a joint effort to stop the man formally known as Amahl Farouk from reuniting with his original body, thus gaining unimaginable power. In his wake they have found numerous victims infected with a psychic virus known as The Catalyst, leaving them in a teeth chattering catatonic state. They also found David, missing since he was abducted by that weird orb at the end of season one, with no memory of where he's been for the last year despite evidence he may have been with the the Shadow King the whole time.
As David adjusted to the jarring news that he'd lost a year of his life (another trope particularly popular in spy shows) he was also forced to face what had happened to his friends whilst he had been gone. Syd, who somewhat begrudgingly never gave up hope of finding David, had been practicing to control her powers, even being seen casually transferring her conscious with a cat. Cary seemed to be in charge of Division 3's research department with Kerry heading up its security force. Ptonomy was part of the investigation team whilst Melanie had completely gone off the deep end over losing her husband for a second time, all under the command of Divison 3's leader, the mysterious basket-headed (literally) Admiral Fukayama. I can't wait to find out what this guy's story is.
Familiar elements from the comics were introduced in their own TV budget way, with David using a sort of mini Cerebro that came in the form of a sensory deprivation tank to try and psychically track the Shadow King. This lead to one of the most peculiar yet brilliant - a phrase I feel I'm going to use a lot to describe Legion - segments of the episode. An interpretive dance-off psychic battle with the Shadow King in the guise of his two most recent faces, Lenny and Oliver, played by Aubrey Plaza and Germaine Clement respectively.
Having all the cast from season one back has been a delight because they all work so well together but I'd just like to take a moment to praise the crazy double act that is Lenny and Oliver. Plaza was without doubt the MVP of season one, with Clement making an huge impact the second his character was properly introduced. That both of these characters are trapped inside the mind of the Shadow King whilst he wears Oliver like the latest fashion is a brilliant choice and I cannot wait to see what surreal situations we end up seeing them in again.
Legion at its heart is show runner Noah Hawley's exploration of the human mind; his lead character David deals with mental health issues and never being sure if it's his condition or literally his world changing powers being how the show uses the lens of the superhero genre to cover such a topic. As such, season one often used narrative devices to take us aside and explain certain mental and philosophical concepts. And I'm glad to say this has returned with gusto. Before the season two opener was even able to drop its biggest bombshell on us, the twist that should carry the show forward, Legion worked to undercut it in its own batshit way.
Knowing full well fans looked for visual clues and symbolism in season one, this time round Legion explicitly explained the concepts of delusions with very specific imagery. Then before the final twist is revealed, that imagery was revisited upon us letting all those with the eyes to see know that nothing was necessarily what it seemed.
That final revelation? That David was visited by an version of Syd from the future, minus an arm no less, who told David that she should help the Shadow King reunite with his body, save something worse than anyone could have predicted befall the world. In any other show, (Heroes springs to mind) this would be the main thrust of the show going forward. The thing they put on t-shirts at conventions. Legion's own "Save the cheerleader, save the world." Except we know it's bull shit. At least we think we do. Legion is like a really good magician, one that draws you in by explaining exactly how it's going to do a specific trick and then pulling off another one right before your very eyes. Right now it's loaded the deck and asked us to pick a card. Was the message real or not? Was it planted there by the Shadow King or just a delusion in David's mind?
With the US and UK broadcast schedules being as they are a few weeks apart and the internet being what it is, it's going to be hard not to spoil this show for myself. I do however love delving into each episode after it's aired, pondering the imagery, the characters and even the simple question of what was real and what wasn't. Perhaps that's why I didn't re-watch season one on Blu-ray. My feelings about binge watching shows aside, I really feel Legion is one for a good old fashioned weekly watch and I can't wait for more of my favourite Fox branded X-Men property outside of Logan.