TV Review: Legion A Surreal, Abstract Take of Super Heroes, Michelle’s Take

LEGION — “Chapter 1” (Airs Wednesday, February 8, 10:00 pm/ep) — Pictured: Dan Stevens as David Haller. CR: Chris Large/FX

FX Network finally brings honest to god Marvel mutants to television in their latest project – Legion, which premieres February 8th. I generally love FX programming. They aren’t afraid to push the envelope and go off kilter. The problem with FX shows is they all start very slow and usually take 3 or 4 episodes before they manage to suck you in. They require a lot of patience before things start paying off. Its intellectual television disguised as popcorn entertainment. I know this is a weird statement but work with me.

They revel in the weird and wacky and with shows like American Horror Story, Archer and Fargo, they’ve proved time and again that they can are experts at this type of programming and ultimately the destination is always worth more than the strange journey. I don’t know why I expected FX’s first foray into the superhero genre to be any different. This time they go on a trip that I don’t think I can follow. No matter how much I want to watch a real show about mutants.

Legion is a gloriously beautiful but confused mess. If you want a super hero show that tries to outdo Terrence Malick and Stanley Kubrick – two directors, I HATE. I know it’s blasphemous and heresy to be a critic who doesn’t like Malik and Kubrick but I’m sorry, I hate their movies. I find them to be too abstract, existentialist, and surreal.

I don’t want a visually arresting but ultimately slow and meandering Superhero television show. I’m a very basic meat and potatoes kind of gal. Give me sweet potato fries, not a sweet potatoes casserole with mushrooms, marshmallows, raisons, nuts, etc. I want a show that’s going to have drama, action and hit upon the themes of racism and alienation that, you know, is what the X-Men is all about.

From the official synopsis and what got me excited in the first place.

Legion, based on the Marvel Comics by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz, is the story of David Haller (Dan Stevens), a troubled young man who may be more than human. Diagnosed as schizophrenic as a child, David has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for years. Now in his early 30s and institutionalized once again, David loses himself in the rhythm of the structured regimen of life in the hospital: breakfast, lunch, dinner, therapy, medications, sleep. David spends the rest of his time in companionable silence alongside his chatterbox friend Lenny (Aubrey Plaza), a fellow patient whose life-long drug and alcohol addiction has done nothing to quell her boundless optimism that her luck is about to change. The pleasant numbness of David’s routine is completely upended with the arrival of a beautiful and troubled new patient named Syd (Rachel Keller). Inexplicably drawn to one another, David and Syd share a startling encounter, after which David must confront the shocking possibility that the voices he hears and the visions he sees may actually be real.

A haunted man, David escapes from the hospital and seeks shelter with his sister Amy (Katie Aselton).  But Amy’s concern for her brother is trumped by her desire to protect the picture perfect suburban life she’s built for herself. Eventually, Syd guides David to Melanie Bird (Jean Smart), a nurturing but demanding therapist with a sharp mind and unconventional methods. She and her team of specialists – Ptonomy (Jeremie Harris), Kerry (Amber Midthunder) and Cary (Bill Irwin) – open David’s eyes to an extraordinary new world of possibilities.”

Legion is X-Men in name and powers only. I really thought I was watching a combination of A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Logan’s Run, Inception and Tree of Life and super hero stuff all mixed into a blender for this weird amalgamation. I know I probably just sold the show to a LOT of people, since, apparently, I’m the only one in the world who hates these movies (well I do like Logan’s Run and The Shining).

The problem with the first 2 episodes of Legion is that it is all internalized to a painful degree. Its bad enough the David isn’t a compelling character at all, but we also have to see all the “people” who occupy his head as well. A great deal of time is spent making the viewer questioning what’s real or not. I stopped caring 30 minutes into the first hour.

Why invest time watching something where you never know what’s really going on? I find mind benders exceedingly frustrating. Tell me that wall is real and I can pretty much roll with anything. The first two episodes were painful to watch and honestly I bailed halfway through the 2nd episode.

Will I revisit in mid-season probably, as it stands it was deeply disappointing, but I’m hopeful that once all the set up work is taken care of I’ll be able to easily skip ahead and see if they get rid of the “we’re inside his mind. Look at all the weird people,” gimmick and we actually start to see mutants interacting with the real world and facing real world problems.

Final Grade C-


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