A swift and angled review of FX’s new LEGION: a truly off-beat (in a good way) Marvel mutant X-Men spin-off that one reporter aptly named a “terrifying funhouse.” It’s not for the squeamish or those who want a simple storyline. Often a single episode may ask the viewer to entertain not two, but 3 or 4 realities all at once. I often find myself thinking “Oh wha-tha heck!!? Aw..I’ll figure that out on a re-watch.”
So what’s it about? We start with tortured-soulish mental patient David Baller (Downton Abbey fans will barely recognize a resurrected Matthew Crawley, who oddly, looks younger five years later). David is a schizophrenic who can also apparently move matter with his mind. In fact, as time rolls on, it would seem David is not so crazy after all and that line between deeper perception and reality begins to move closer and closer together — a theme the series will often blatantly explore.
Like all X-men related series, we have the Government in the backdrop seeking to either control or eradicate the mutants with typical inefficiency (in on episode, an encounter with David leaves them all dead, most in various states of partial “oneness” with the pavement, the walls, the ceilings…you get the idea). But that motif (so far, and only seven episodes have aired) is about as far as the similarities with the classic X-Men story-line goes. This is a far more personal, relational, psychological and even spiritual story.
The true enemy (so far), resides within David himself. It is discovered that a mutant parasite has invaded him – a true Monster who wishes to take over and use his incredible powers over matter for evil. In this matter the very fabrics (plural) or the Universe and Reality will be challenged (as one might expect if things like E²=(mc²)²+(pc)² are so.)
One supposes this is why the name is “Legion” – hailing back to the story in Mark 5 (1-17) of the Geresene Demoniac who Jesus confronted – sending them all into a herd of nearby pigs who immediately committed mass swine-a-side.
Here, there is a lot of jumping around and chess-playing with realities between David, and the Monster (alternately portrayed by his boyhood best friend Lenny (played by Aubrey Plaza) and a huge glowing-eyed freak who looks like the T-Shirt sales-table guy on the ZZ Top Tour who has been pounding McDonalds quarter-pounders for 40 years and last saw the sun in 1984 (played by utter super-newcomer Quinton Boisclair in his first screen role). Truly grotesque and scary appearances.
Which brings us to David’s unique relationship with his girlfriend Syd (played by relative newcomer Rachael Keller). Keller, acting like a seasoned pro, has amazing presence in this unique role as a young woman with powers something akin to Rogue’s (if she touches someone they change bodies for a time…so she simply avoids this unless needed).
Syd and David fall in love even though they cannot touch. I watched in amazement as the writers actually made this utterly believable. Their love was built strong in all other areas (of the “four loves, they get to “phelio (friendship); “storge” (family love); and “agape” (selfless) love first) – yet retain a definite eroticism and desire – just not consummated. Later in the series, with the other loves established, David is able to create a place with his mind where they are able to touch with abandon as they have wished. When they return to the actual reality they are “sated,” having been intimate.
That is worth a discussion all on its own, no?
I got the feeling early that either would take a bullet for the other — and this bears itself out fully in the series in a way that defies both film and most television. For just this alone I recommend Legion as somewhat subversive, or at least, refreshingly novel…while it is going all wonky and batshit crazy around you.
Syd is truly the anchor for really everyone in the series. She is the calmest under fire, the smartest and quickest to see through the deceptions, and she is the bravest. Syd utterly rocks.
How does it relate us us —none mutants? Well deep down we all have questions about ultimate reality, sanity and how we perceive the world — most especially anyone who is asking any spiritual questions or making any spiritual assumptions— wich means everyone. Eve the person who flatly denies all spirituality exists is functioning on spiritual assumptions which require a kind of faith.
It’s interesting —what anchors our core sense of reality, most especially in a Postmodern context where realities are supposedly legion.
This series, which airs weekly on Wednesdays at 10 on FX, is dope. I really think it’s prolly best to watch it with others and then discussed because it is so multi-layered. It is a bit like Fringe on acid (not that I speak from experience, but I have a vivid imagination).
Best of all? In these days where I pretty much always know where a show is headed next (tired old formulas) or worse – they are just badly written and performed – Legion is truly surprising. I have NO IDEA what is coming next week (they are surrounded by Government agents and the head guy has ordered everyone killed but David).
Well I know that isn’t gonna fly…but nothing beyond that. Meanwhile…the Monster chained in a “mind coffin” has kicked part of it open…All good fun.
Please leave comments at this review. More to come (episodes 1-7 seem to form a natural sort of “Part 1”). I am planning a free local showing/discussion group event of all 7 episodes here at The Vulcan in Oakland in late March/early April.