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A few thoughts on the ‘Legion’ season premiere

Noah Hawley’s new show Legion premiered on FX last night. Based on the X-Men character created by Chris Claremont and Bill SienkiewiczLegion tells the story of David Haller, one of the most powerful mutants ever, with formidable telekinetic powers. In the show, he also struggles from paranoid schizophrenia.

Overall, I thought this was a really bold debut, and am interested to see how they’ll develop this character and story further. A few observations:

  • The look of this show is incredible. The production design, the set pieces, the camera movements — it has all the trappings of a prestige drama, even though it’s a TV show about a lesser known X-Men character.
  • That being said, some of the visual effects are hit or miss, like the final escape sequence, which had some moments that honestly looked unfinished.
  • Like The Usual Suspects, this episode had two tropes that don’t usually go well together: The Unreliable Narrator and The Non-Linear Story. I think they barely pulled it off (which is impressive, given the immense level of difficulty)
  • Dan Stevens is almost completely unrecognizable in the titular role. From his physique all the way to his nervous tics, he’s made an amazing transformation.
  • I really loved the way they deal with the concept of a mutant who wasn’t aware of how powerful he was. The idea of his captors racing against the clock to kill/threaten him before he could use his powers against him was well explained and executed.
  • The concept of a mutant being able to get projected into someone’s memory is pretty interesting. Very Eternal Sunshines of the Spotless Mind-esque.
  • Using pools and electricity to stop powerful beings never works well (see also: It Follows)

I also recorded a few thoughts on Periscope if you want to see/hear me discuss it.

  • I’m on board for more episodes, but outside being intrigued by the interesting tone, I and my viewing group (all comic book and X-Men fans/readers from as far back as when this character was first created), all of us were ultimately frustrated by the lack of an actual story, or any real indication of what the series was going to be about in the long run. Even the preview for future episodes didn’t really tell me anything, and while that can be refreshing, I’m left not knowing what was real, what was imagined, what was important. Lots of stuff happened in visually interesting ways. But it was a shrug so far.

    One thing I didn’t like, and hope we don’t see as much of going forward, is “actors acting cRazY”. The darting eyes, the stuttering, the recitation of grandiose-sounding nonsense, the mannered laughing. This is definitely a Your Mileage May Vary sort of thing, but except for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, I can’t think of too many TV shows or movies where the crazy acting didn’t come across as an actor trying their hardest to chew the crazy scenery. And no, I thought Brad Pitt’s crazy 12 Monkeys character was perhaps the worst offender of this high-profile cray-cray acting.

    • I’ll say this about the whole “acting like one is mentally ill” thing — it definitely makes me uncomfortable.

      • Uncomfortable as in “this makes for an interesting viewing experience”, or uncomfortable where you question yourself as a human for contributing to the the furthering of the idea that mental illness is easily trope-able and reducible to tics and wild eyes?