Legion: 1.01 Chapter 1
Legion’s trailer, released mid last year, set the bar high for what to expect from the show. Not just for its impressive effects the trailer showcased but the idea of special effect and comic powerhouses coming together, FX and Marvel Comics; this is the first time a X-Men character has got its own show. All that is a lot to live up to and if we are to judge from the show’s first episode, expectations were met, if not surpassed.
The first episode starts off mysteriously; little makes sense as it unfolds through a quagmire of flashes to the past and present. We are unaware if situations are imagined or real, as one scene skips to the next, back and forth, intentionally confusing the viewer. Even David Haller, the lead played by Dan Steven (Downton Abbey, Beauty and The Beast), at a certain point himself exclaims "is this real or are we in my thoughts?". However the flashbacks do help set up the plot; detailing David’s years of supposed psychological instability, suppressing something deeply troubling.
We meet David in a psychiatric facility; numbed by all the drugs he is given. A new patient arrives; the rather attractive Syd Barret (Rachel Keller) who has a phobia of being touched. David takes an instant liking to her and the two develop an intimate friendship. As Syd is about to be discharged, unable to help himself, David kisses her on the lips and in that moment, like an electric shock, the whole ward starts to vibrate and everything and everyone is violently shaken and pushed against the wall. When David comes to; he realizes he is in Syd’s body. We are not given insight to how David gets back to his own body as we are immediately transported to another time, maybe the present? where we find him in a cell being questioned by FBI-like officials for the whereabouts of Syd.
It is revealed that David has certain abilities and the FBI or the government (we are not clear who they are) wants these abilities suppressed. Whilst being interrogated, Syd manages to visit him in his thoughts and instructs him how to break out. As the episode concludes, David manages to escape with the help of Syd but also with Ptonomy Wallace and Amber Midthunder, all three just like David also have special powers. They take him to meet their leader Melanie Bird, played by Jean Smart (Fargo, Garden State) and they are then hastily ushered away.
Dan Stevens is on point with his portrayal of David Haller; convincingly playing up his paranoia, anxiety and his helplessness at the hands of doctors and officials, but there is also a boyish charm to him, which comes to the surface especially at the appearance of Syd.
The brains behind the show is Noah Hawley whose previous work includes the equally brilliant TV show Fargo. He has managed to create a show that is incredibly stylish with great intrigue which encompasses many genres, but doesn’t neatly fit into one. He manages to create a world also that doesn't seem specific to a particular time-period; clothes, furniture, cars etc seem to be a bold mixture of futuristic, present day as well as retro elements of the 60s and 70s.
The effects used are refreshingly subtle, appearing only when needed. This lack of showiness, gives the show an element of cool but also a certain darkness, despite the whole episode being painted with brightness and colour. The scenes where we do see effects, the director lets it rip and goes all way out. Scenes where David, loses it and mayhem descends is impressive to watch. Keeping the effects far and few between, Hawley creates a certain anticipation for those scenes, which adds to the show’s excitement.
Igive Legion’s first episode a big thumbs up and it’s a real shame we must wait a whole week for the next one!