Get Caught up on FX’s Mind-Blowing Legion Before Tonight’s Season 2 Premiere
Noah Hawley’s Legion (FX Network) was one of the most ambitious and deeply weird takes on the superhero genre on TV. Fully investing in its central character’s mental instability, Legion‘s season one was a boldly visualized and brilliantly performed head trip. Starring Dan Stevens as David Haller, a troubled you man who was misdiagnosed as a schizophrenic (more on what he really is in a second), Legion‘s first season was as much Kubrick as it was comic book. David spent most of his young life in and out of psychiatric hospitals, but a very odd encounter with a fellow patient resulted in the possibility that the voices he hears and the things he sees might be real—and that he’s not a schizophrenic, but something far, far more dangerous. In fact, he might even be an X-Men—the estranged son of X-Men’s patriarch and super powerful leader, Charles Xavier, also known as Professor X (although this isn’t hammered home during the season). The very first trailer for the show proved its trippy bonafides:
With a sensational cast including Rachel Keller as David’s girlfriend, Syd, Aubrey Plaza as fellow patient Lenny, and the great Jean Smart as Dr. Melanie Bird, who operates a mutant sanctuary out on a horse farm where David ends up in season one, Legion benefited from a strong ensemble cast. Smart and Hawley have worked together before, of course, on his excellent Fargo series. Dr. Bird masterminds David’s prison break from the nefarious Clockworks psychiatric facility, and once he ends up at her sanctuary, she encourages him to directly engage with his potent, volatile memories. Smart told The Guardian, “I think she feels very protective of David, but I think she is concerned that he is something of a loose cannon, or even a loose atom bomb.” Dr. Bird has a Memory Cube on the premises, which allows her and her team to drill directly into David’s splintered consciousness, corkscrewing through some of his most traumatic memories. Legion is certainly David’s story, but there are so many good actors who get to excel as the narrative fractures out into the all the strange lives that orbit around his own. Legion hops around in time and space, with Hawley’s show feeling as if the production itself were powered by David’s barely contained mind.
Since their creation by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in 1963, the X-Men, superheroes who were both saviors and outcasts, have managed to mirror the times they lived in. The X-Men’s constant struggle to protect people who viewed them as less than human spoke to the struggles that African-Americans, women, immigrants and the LGBT community have faced. Legion looks at the stigma of mental illness, investing its central character with unimaginable power, and nesting that power inside the traumatized mind of a person who just wants to stop feeling so bad all the time. It’s potent stuff.
Legion season two is already receiving rave reviews.. The season begins with a voice-over saying: “You’re inside the maze now. You can’t escape.” The New York Times Mike Hale calls it, “a description of insanity. It’s also, of course, a reference to the experience of watching Legion.” Danette Chavez at The AV Club writes, “Legion’s second season proves its jaw-dropping first was no illusion.” IndieWire‘s Ben Travers writes,” Hawley and his team of writers hone their storytelling methods, making for a trip that offers more guidance along the way without losing its gloriously bonkers spirit.”
If you haven’t decided to give Marvel’s biggest head trip on the small screen a shot yet, we suggest you do so. Season two premieres tonight on FX at 10pm EST.
For those of you who saw season one but need a refresher, this aught to do it:
Featured image: LEGION — “Chapter 6” – Season 1, Episode 6 (Airs Wednesday, March 15, 10:00 pm/ep) — Pictured: (l-r) Dan Stevens as David Haller, Aubrey Plaza as Lenny “Cornflakes” Busker. CR: Michelle Faye/FX