FX’s Legion is Magical, and Implaceable


Photo Courtesy of New York Times.

FX’s popularity has been on the rise in the last couple of years, as they are now offering some of the best television out there: The Americans, Fargo, Atlanta, American Crime Story, You’re the Worst, Better Things, Baskets, Man Seeking Woman, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Louie––if it ever comes back. They have a new winner with Legion; a background story for X-Men character David Haller. Legion is the first TV series to be connected to the X-Men Franchise; however, don’t dive into the show with the expectation of typical Marvel fare.

Legion is an anomaly. It is the work of an auteur. Noah Hawley, who has already made a name for himself among the greats of television with the truly fantastic Fargo, has brought his magic to the superhero genre. It is the perfect solution for those of us who find the Marvelverse overrated and bland (though,often afraid to say so publicly).

It starts with David in a mental institution, after years of destructive, and involuntary, behavior. The show soon follows with his budding romance with Sydney Barrett, a fellow patient who is adamant about not being touched. There may be more to Sydney’s demand than just a personal compulsive issue. Is David insane? Possibly, but he’s not completely wrong about his abilities and powers, though there are attempts to convince him that they’re just delusions.

To support such a bizarre premise, Hawley has created an outrageous world in which the characters live. Wes Anderson’s influence is clear, with symmetrical shots, specific color schemes, wry humor, and whimsical song selections filling the scenes. The show opens with “Happy Jack” by the Who and The Rolling Stones’, “She’s a Rainbow” accompanies a romantic montage between Sydney and David. Hawley even tactfully includes a Bollywood-inspired dance sequence. The time period of this show isn’t clear, as it features a style reminiscent of the Swingin’ 60’s, yet also features technology which appears to be from the 80’s at times. Hawley has publicly mentioned David Lynch, whose convoluted noirs have influenced Hawley’s writing. Yet, the influence Hawley stressed most is Pink Floyd.

Pink Floyd’s influence becomes clear right from a leading protagonist––Syd Barrett is the name of the Floyd’s founding member. This gives the impression that it was the early years of Pink Floyd that provided the most inspiration. Syd Barrett led the band through its trippy, space-rock beginning. Barrett soon got lost in his mental health issues, thus this era was short lived for the band. Pink Floyd is said to have inspired the score, and some of the style resembles that of the Floyd during that time. But, Barrett’s whimsically twisted lyrics and own struggles with mental illness seem to be where Hawley gets his main ideas.

Hawley has got a great cast, anchored by Dan Stevens (David) and Rachel Keller (Syd). Katie Aselton, Aubrey Plaza, Jean Smart, Bill Irwin, and Amber Midthunder round out the cast. They all seem up for Hawley’s out-there approach. It’s fantastic that television has reached a point in which a show as odd as Legion is given a shot.

4 out of 4 Dolphins