I love it when I’m surprised by something. I’m not talking about jumping out from behind an object and trying to get me to an early grave. I mean when some piece of entertainment shows up and completely flips all your thoughts and feelings about it in one episode.
Legion wasn’t going to be something I would bother with. Oh, it’s comics related, so I needed to at least check it out, but this was a character who I don’t believe I own one comic book with him in it. It was going to be this show that really didn’t tie into anything else that Fox was doing with the rest of its X-Men or Spider-man related properties. And it didn’t even have the bonus of being a Netflix show where maybe they might be able to get away with a little more (and possibly use that as their calling card for why you could check it out).
Legion defies all of that.
In fact, Legion sort of defies being identified at all… I’m getting ahead of myself. For those who don’t know, here’s the synopsis from Wikipedia:
David Haller was diagnosed with schizophrenia at a young age and has been a patient in various psychiatric hospitals since. After Haller has an encounter with a fellow psychiatric patient, he is confronted with the possibility that there may be more to him than mental illness.
Does that scream: Superhero to you? Because it doesn’t to me. And it is a good thing because it is barely a superhero show. Yes, there are characters with powers, but half the time I’m not entirely sure they are powers anyone would want. David is the worst of them all because he may be one of the most powerful mutants (yes, like the X-Men) in the world… and he’s pretty convinced he’s completely insane.
The show screws with the viewer almost as much as it screws with the characters. Half the time you can’t be sure anything you’re seeing is actually happening or if it is just something David thinks is happening.What year does this show take place in?
It is both linear and non-linear. It is psychedelic and perfectly normal. Everyone is crazy… or perhaps no one is.
What year does this show take place in? From the look of everyone, I might think some late 60s mod-style, but then there is a mention of email or something which derails that thought process. Maybe David is seeing the world as he saw it when he was a child, and so for him, it looks like something from 40 years ago? Or maybe I’m just trying to let my own brain make sense of the show and story.
Within the 8 episode season, it becomes apparent that there is someone else… something else who has its designs on David. The entire show is about putting together the fractured pieces of one character’s mind without having any idea what the final picture is actually supposed to be of. And then when you get to the end, you realize there are a handful of missing pieces… except, maybe there isn’t.
I wanted to write a proper review of this show. I wanted to dig into the nooks and crannies, but the more I think about it, the more I wonder if this show could be deconstructed in a regular way. The surprises announce themselves at various times so that you may figure out a piece here or a piece there, but what the bigger picture looks like becomes something else.
I want to praise the actors’ performances. Especially Aubrey Plaza… but to say too much about any of them would potentially give something away. This may be one of those shows where the less you know about what’s going on, the better off you might be (though, if you are an X-Men Historian, you should be fine also).
John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novellas Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.
He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!
And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!
He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.