Legion (Season 1) – Review

Noah Hawley’s visually stunning, mind-boggling take on the superhero genre is a classic-in-the-making.

Showrunner: Noah Hawley
Starring: Dan Stevens, Aubrey Plaza, Rachel Keller, Jean Smart
Air Dates: 8th February, 2017 – 29th March, 2017
Network: FX

“Who teaches us to be normal when we’re one of a kind?”

Where to begin with this series? When FX first ordered the pilot, I wasn’t remotely interested. With so much comic book TV on offer, why should I waste my time on a show about a D-List X-Man with little-to-no connective tissue to Fox’s cinematic mutant franchise? As it turns out, that’s exactly the kind of show I should be watching. Shows that take full advantage of the benefits and freedom associated with the television format, shine a spotlight on fascinating fringe characters and all their quirks, and approach this increasingly flatulent superhero genre with fresh ideas and unbounded creativity.

Spawned from the mind of Fargo creator, Noah Hawley, Legion is a vivid head trip into the delightfully bizarre corner of the Marvel mythos. There are no restrictions here. No universes to adhere to, or impatient blockbuster audiences to placate. FX have offered a unique platform for Hawley to just do his thing – and viewers are reaping the rewards. It’s as visually ambitious as television can get – and not just in terms of VFX. DoP Dana Gonzalez never allows the show to settle into a groove. There’s a surreal silent film homage, a surprisingly riveting piece of animated exposition, and enough Inception-esque optical bait-and-switches to make your head hurt. It’s dynamic, in every sense of the word.

That’s what makes Legion so effective – there’s never a dull moment. The narrative weaves in and out of relevancy, spinning off into dreamlike tangents and ensnaring the viewer, in the vein of its parasitic antagonist. These writers are constantly stalling, building suspense and adding new layers to the mystery at hand – but it never feels like filler. It’s an exercise in misdirection, with enough visual flair & panache to keep you distracted until the answers begin to reveal themselves. You’re just along for the ride.

Dan Stevens is as charming as you might expect, but there’s also a lot of depth to his portrayal of a man grappling with his identity and questioning his sanity. He shares excellent chemistry with Rachel Keller, and together they form the beating heart of the show, grounding this trippy tale with real emotion. In the words of Hawley himself, it’s “a deconstruction of a villain … and a love story.” There are some wonderful supporting turns from the likes of Hamish Linklater, Bill Irwin, Amber Midthunder and the irresistible Jermaine Clement – but Aubrey Plaza is the indisputable highlight of the piece, running riot with her deliciously diabolical screen presence and the odd perfectly choreographed dance routine.

Fifteen months after totally dismissing Legion‘s legitmacy as a series, and I no longer find myself watching any of the regularly-scheduled comic book TV I once did. Even the Marvel/Netflix shows have begun to lose my interest – I couldn’t even make it past the second episode of their last ‘offering’. Yet I found myself totally captivated by this offbeat approach to the genre – with all its batshit insane visual tangents and multi-layered mystery. Hawley and his writing staff have opened up an entire world of small scale/high stakes superhero storytelling – and it’s an avenue I’d love to see other creators experiment with over the next few years. Now if you don’t mind, I’m off to binge both seasons of Fargo.

4.5 Stars

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