Well, maybe they might. But don’t expect it. This is a whole different corner of the world of mutants. It’s the part people don’t like to talk about. It’s uneasy, it’s creepy. It’s strange. It’s sad. See, if you are a fan of the X-Men movies, cartoons, video games or comics, you might WANT to be a mutant afterwards. You get to wear cool costumes, live in a swanky mansion, do good things with good looking people with unimaginable powers. You get to be a hero...maybe not to the world...but at the end of the day, you know you are a superhero. You’re living the life.
For David Haller, things aren’t as easy. In this story, you GET why mutants are feared and hated. You GET why being a mutant isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. David’s powers make him doubt reality. He literally thinks he’s lost his mind. And why not? That’s what people at the Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital tell him. Who would think anything different? If something is happening that normally couldn’t or shouldn’t and it defies all the laws of physics, then something must be very wrong. It’s not a gift, it's a curse.
The episode opens up with a young David starting out his life as a normal kid, but you can see from a very young age that he’s not a normal kid, and by the time he hits puberty, all hell breaks loose....literally. It’s hard at this point to pinpoint the nature of David’s mutant abilities in the show, but I’m pretty sure they are telekinetic. And that makes sense, if you know of David’s true parentage. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Most of the pilot episode sets up David’s situation, or at least tries to. He’s in an institution and is being “treated”. He meets another patient named Lenny “Cornflakes” Busker (played by Parks And Rec’s Aubrey Plaza...and she outdoes herself here), she seems also certifiably insane and she seems to be his only friend in this place. Eventually he also gets a look at Syd Barrett (played by Rachel Keller) who is strikingly gorgeous and you can see David is nuts for her immediately. So much so, that he asks her to be his girlfriend (even though she refuses to be touched by anyone). Surprisingly, she agrees. I wish it was always that easy.
Throughout the premiere episode, David is being interviewed/interrogated by a mysterious man played by Hamish Linklater. As you would imagine, we aren’t supposed to like this guy, and we never even learn his name. We eventually learn that this man is some sort of government agent, sent to investigate Haller’s mutancy. Talking to his superior while reviewing a tape of the interrogation is the only time the word “mutant” is used in the episode. Not really sure where they are from, but it can only be that not is all that it seems at Clockworks. It could very well be a mutant holding facility in disguise.
The reason I believe that is because when Syd tells David that she is leaving with a clean bill of health, he sort of loses it and decides to do the unthinkable and kisses her. This is when things get pretty weird (and the show was SO weird leading up to this). Somehow the two SWITCH places! David finds himself in the body (or so he thinks) of Syd! So when she is lead out, it is actually David “escaping” the facility. Syd in David’s body however...not able to control his abilities, kills Lenny (by “splatting” her against a wall like a bug, it seems. I know...pretty grotesque) and trapping all the other patients in the rooms by removing all the doors.
Eventually the bodies switch back but David is still free (I’m not quite sure how that worked), and he goes to stay with his sister. While put up in her basement he begins to “see” Lenny, who explains the nature of his abilities, to some degree. He somehow absorbed her into his mind when she was killed and her consciousness is inside his. While searching for whatever happened to Syd, David notices that he is being followed by a man and a woman.
Keep in mind that all of this is being told to the interrogator (and a weird guy in the corner...I’m not sure what he’s all about). After being pushed too far, David eventually lets his powers loose again, first by putting the interrogators pen into his cheek and then exploding the table they are sitting at. It’s quite a cool scene as when David uses his powers they do this cool slow motion effect, it feels very much like an updated version of “bullet time” used in the Matrix movies.
Anyway, because of that event, they continue their interrogation with David in a pool that is wired to electrocute him if he tries anything crazy. Also there are armed guards surrounding the pool. They aren’t messing around anymore. This time though, when David continues his story, Syd appears in his story...but she was not originally there...Syd appears in his memory (honestly, I’m not even sure I understand this part) and tells him to slide out of his chair into the water. He does so and while he is submerged, something happens that kills everyone in the room. The two people that were following him (in his memory?) are there with Syd?! To rescue him!? She introduces them as Kerry and Ptonomy.
This is where things get a bit more X-Men-ish. They meet another guy outside who seems to have very powerful mutant abilities. He picks up trucks and can hurl people. The SFX are top-notch in this scene. I honestly have to say even The CW DC shows like Flash and Legends of Tomorrow don’t compare to what Legion pulls off just in the series premiere Special FX-wise. Maybe only Game of Thrones tops it.
David’s rescuers fend off all the guards and poor David has no idea what is happening...even if Syd’s presence is legit or in his mind. She says she is real...and she loves him (awwww). They then meet an older woman that seems to be the leader. Hmmm. Who is she? It seems David has been recruited into some sort of team.
Maybe this will turn into a superhero show after all! But in a weird way, I hope not. I prefer it telling a different type of mutant story. Because not all X-Men stories have to be LIKE X-Men. And even though this was a trippy, out-of-this-world tale...it was indeed different. And that’s okay. Legion’s journey in the comics was anything but a superhero story, right?
Now I may spoil what’s to come by talking about the comic book character named David Haller, so be warned. Then again, I am not gonna pretend I know what’s going to happen in the TV show, because clearly they don’t plan on playing by any sort of rules, or abiding by any of the “X-Men legacy” (pardon the pun). But it will help understand what is happening in the show for some. In case you aren’t aware, David was Charles Xavier’s biological son with multiple personality disorder, brought on by his ability to literally absorb the minds of people. This was just one of his powers, he also had telepathy, telekinesis, reality warping, pyrokinesis, and even time travel. All of the voices in his head drove him insane and he remained in the care of Moira McTaggert on Muir Island. That’s just the beginning of his story, however...you can read more about David/Legion throughout various old New Mutants, X-Factor, Uncanny X-Men and X-Men Legacy runs (the latter being an entire comic series devoted to him). As an avid X- fan myself, I never payed too much attention to the character. He was always one of the more sad characters in the lore, much like the Morlocks. Too powerful and dangerous to be an X-Man or even a main villain. And yeah, he had a pretty funky Kid N’ Play high top for no apparent reason. There was that.
I never thought in a million years we would see Legion in a movie, nonetheless his own TV series. But here we are.
The show however, I must say I enjoyed. I know it will put off many people. Especially those who X-Men movie fans looking for “more of the same”. This is not the show for you. If you are a fan of David Lynch movies or Fight Club or even something more along the lines of a Vertigo comic book...I think this is definitely your cup of tea. I’m not even sure what decade it is set in....the clothing often looks like it is from the late 60’s/early 70’s (early X-Men era), and then you’ll see things that look quite modern like the interrogator’s tablet. That’s not even the weirdest thing about the show.
It may give us more of an X-Men flavour down the road, but for now I think it is best to take it for what it is. Dan Stevens does a great job as David and you definitely identify with his valid fear of his own mind, and others’ fear OF him at the same time. I am literally scared for the character and what he is capable of, which is an interesting touch. I never was scared of Professor X or Wolverine or Beast or any of the X-Men...maybe because they are always in the skin of a comic book superhero, but David is not that. He’s a normal guy with normal feelings and fears and you don’t feel safe with him. And again, I hope Aubrey Plaza remains on board because she has the perfect brand of strange allure for the show.
So, I think signs are good for Legion from where I sit. I don’t know how everyone will respond to it, it’s not exactly a normal show whatsoever, and definitely not typical “Marvel superhero” fare, but I will continue to watch and review it. Different is good. Weird is good.
Stay tuned for more Legion reviews in the coming weeks and my Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. reviews. Bleed out!