“We are Legion.”
Perhaps that is what the multitude of live-action television shows based on Marvel comics should be saying at this point. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and now Legion are really making fans work to keep up with all of the content. And the wave of comic book shows apparently hasn’t even begun to crest. Iron Fist, The Punisher, The Inhumans and more are all in the making and it doesn’t look like these three will be the last. That aside, Legion’s first episode is a promising glimpse at the rest of the series.
Appropriately titled “Chapter 1,” Legion’s first episode aired on FX on Feb. 8, the first of eight in its inaugural season. The show focuses on David Haller (Dan Stevens), a man diagnosed with schizophrenia. Legion opens with a series of slow-motion shots of David in different stages of his childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. David is screaming as things fly through the air in the background behind him. He is then seen moving up to a crude noose to hang himself. He is apparently unsuccessful in his suicide attempt, as he is then seen being visited on his birthday by his sister in a mental hospital where he gradually becomes accustomed to his mundane life. He takes his meds and keeps company with Lenny Busker (Aubrey Plaza), a talkative girl who is also a patient in the hospital. He even appears to be making progress with the doctors, as he has not had an “episode” for quite a while and the medicine works to suppress these incidents.
That is until Syd Barrett (Rachel Keller) arrives in the hospital. She and David begin a relationship, although one that is certainly not physical, as she refuses to be touched. On the day of her release, David kisses her and they seem to switch bodies, allowing for David’s escape. When he turns back into himself, he is taken in by some sort of organization and is interrogated by an unnamed agent (Hamish Linklater). But David is more than just a man with a mental illness. Through a series of flashbacks, alongside the discussion of mutants by the members of this organization, it becomes clear that David has real powers that are not just the consequence of his delusions.
“Chapter 1” is not a very clear indicator of the quality of the rest of Legion. The pilot episode is burdened by its need to introduce the characters and the world of the series. It’s even harder to pin down because the viewer is subject to David’s delusions along with him. There are frequent cuts to children walking through a garden, as well as flashes backward or across time. David also sees people who are not there, leaving the viewer with doubts as to the veracity of some of the odder characters. By the end of the episode, much of these initial mysteries are cleared up, but other questions are raised and not resolved.
Fans of Marvel comics will surely recognize the title of the show as David Haller’s alter-ego. According to the graphic novels, Legion is the son of Charles Xavier a.k.a. Professor X, founder of the X-Men. He has telekinesis and telepathy, among other powers. But apparently, this iteration of Legion is free from the backstory and commitments of his comic book character, as the television show takes place in a universe parallel to the X-Men movies. Considering the quality of the latest film X-Men Apocalypse, that might be a good thing. It leaves the show free to explore its own world, without regard to the actions of characters that may appear in the movies. For example, because David is the son of Professor X, it is likely that the professor will make an appearance in the show. But Legion’s Professor X can be cast as someone other than Patrick Stewart or James McAvoy. In addition, whatever may happen to Charles Xavier in the upcoming film Logan will have no bearing on the characters in Legion. The problem with this is that it opens another universe with another set of characters that fans must keep straight. Consider the issue of two Quicksilvers, one with Disney’s Marvel movies and one with 20th Century Fox’s X-Men movies.
Regardless of its tie-ins and distinctions, Legion isn’t much like other shows on television right now. The inclusion of an unreliable narrator is fairly novel and, while it can be slightly disorienting, it is a welcome experience. The episode leaves the viewer interested to explore the rest of this world and hopefully to get the answers to at least a few of their legion of questions.
Featured Image By 26 Keys Productions