The mind-bending show starring Dan Stevens and Aubrey Plaza, which was first aired on FX, has found a new home and is available to stream now on Disney+
The Marvel Universe is a behemoth, to say the least. With each release of new films, TV series, spin-offs and games, it seems like the stream of Marvel content may never end. The films have historically always been the main talking point of the Extended Universe. The TV end, however, not so much—or at least, not until recently. The most well-known Marvel TV shows have come in the forms of the Netflix incarnations such as Daredevil and Jessica Jones, while the latest Wandavision and Loki series’ have certainly attracted audiences to Disney+. For those that are looking for a show that goes further than these offerings, I urge you to try Legion—watching it will take you on a wild, dark, psychedelic journey.
The show is the brainchild of Noah Hawley, who you may know from the TV version of Fargo. The series focuses on David Haller (Dan Stevens), a young man diagnosed with schizophrenia and institutionalised at a young age, who lives with his only friend Lenny Busker (Aubrey Plaza, on top form). Things change, however, when Haller notices his illness might be something else, and in fact, he can read people’s minds. This is further proved when he meets Sydney, a girl David has affection for who doesn’t like to be touched. All of this leads them to be hunted by a government agency called Division 3, while David faces up to his inner demon called The Shadow King.
This very brief plotline doesn’t really do Legion justice. Legion is a show of incredible complexity, which forms a hugely fun aspect of the show. The visual style is one of the show’s strongest aspects, with the gorgeous presentation taking you to worlds in different dimensions, inside people’s minds, and in different timelines. The trippy visual style that creator Noah Hawley involves makes the show stand out from the rest of the superhero ilk, including scenes involving dance battles—yes, you heard that right—whilst also including horror elements via the disturbing character of the Shadow King (a parasite living in David’s mind). The show’s budget clearly comes across on-screen through all the fantastical places it visits—a highlight in the first episode shows Sydney trying to reach out to David through his subconscious, which ends up becoming a dance number scored to French crooner Serge Gainsbourg.
Dan Stevens gives a charismatic yet broken performance as David and perfectly conveys the fractured narrative that the show is trying to convey. Aubrey Plaza is a stand-out as well, with her multi-layered performance as Lenny showing off her diverse acting talents. Rachel Keller as Sydney Prescott also delivers an excellent performance as equally as brilliant as Stevens, particularly as she is responsible for shouldering most of the emotive burden of Legion’s journey. Finally, the inclusion of Jermaine Clement is genius. I won’t spoil his role, but it’s a doozy.
The first season storyline in Legion is a major departure for Marvel in terms of plot and cinematography. Season two takes the mind-bending nature of the show and ramps it up to eleven with even trippier sequences, dark humour, complicated storytelling, philosophy lessons in the form of a Jon Hamm voiceover, and increased stakes. You will be riveted in your seat before the season then ends on a twist so big that it makes you question everything you’ve seen so far. By season three, time travel becomes a major theme, and it takes the series to new places and allows for even bolder storytelling until its fantastic conclusion.
It’s hard to compare Legion to the other Marvel shows, mainly because it sticks out like a sore thumb (in the best possible way). The only show similar in tone would be Wandavision, however even this fails as a close comparison as Wandavision had to stick to to a more family-friendly tone for Marvel. Legion pushed the boundaries of what to expect from a Marvel product, mainly as it was on the FX network at the time—a channel which skewed older in its demographic thanks to prior FX shows like American Horror Story.
A key aspect of what makes Legion creatively so exciting is that Noah Hawley had free rein over the material. Legion is based on a Marvel comic, although very, very loosely. Hawley took the framework for the show and took it to unexpected places. He was inspired by David Lynch in terms of how he wanted to approach the storytelling of the show. This leans into the fractured nature of storytelling based on David being schizophrenic. This allowed for even more Lynchian aspects such as the dreamlike nature of the storytelling, surreal ideas, and concepts.
If you do anything this week then give Legion a try. You might not understand entirely what is happening at first, but that’s sometimes part of the fun.
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