Howdy my little Beardlings and welcome back to WildeBeard Reviews! We’re stepping away from the big screen today and checking out what the small screen has to offer and boy did the TV bring it’s A-game.
I am of course talking about “Fargo” show runner Noah Hawley’s newest project, “Legion”, a very different, very odd show about a man trying to sort through his personal demons as he wrestles with schizophrenia and past drug addiction only to be pulled into a war between mutants and the government agencies bent on wiping mutants out.
Mutants? Is this show set in the X-Men universe? The best answer I can give is “sort of, kind of, maybe-ish yes”. Informative I know….. The main character David Haller, played by the amazing Dan Stevens, is an X-Men character from the mid 90s, however the show’s version of David is very different from the comic book version. The TV version is much more grounded and real while the comic book version is very over the top and very 90s X-Men (the late 90s were not exactly kind to the X-Men…. Google Maggott and that should tell you everything….). Now when I say grounded and real I mean like “Logan” and “The Dark Knight” grounded and real. Both of those movies took a very comic book-y premise and comic book characters and through story, tone, acting, and direction, elevate the material beyond it’s comic book roots and make it so much more. While I love the way the CW’s Arrow-verse feels like a comic book come to life, I also adore “Legion” for eschewing that comic book feel and reaching for so much more.
Now I mentioned that Dan Stevens is amazing in this, and he absolutely is, but this would be a failure of a review if I did not mention the rest of the outstanding cast. Jean Smart and Rachel Keller are both fantastic and the types of female roles that television needs (also both were in Season 2 of Fargo which is also fantastic). Jemaine Clement has a particularly interesting character to play and he owns every minute of it. Amber Midthunder, Bill Irwin, and Jeremie Harris round out the cast of heroes and all deliver spot on performances. For me though, the stand out has to be Aubrey Plaza. “Parks and Recreation” is my absolute favorite TV comedy of all time and Aubrey Plaza’s April Ludgate is a big reason why. Seeing her in “Legion”, playing the character that she plays, was honestly rather difficult for me. Because I love “Parks and Rec” so much, it is often hard for me to separate the actors from their P&R characters (partly because the real life people are so much like their fictional personas) and that was especially true for Plaza here. But the more and more we learn about her character, the more screen time she has, the more distance Plaza puts between herself and April Ludgate and that just makes the show as a whole so much better. It can be insanely hard, if not impossible, for an actor to break away from their breakout role and become something more but Plaza has done it here.
With all of the accolades and superlatives that I have written here about this show, this next bit may come off as odd. As much as I love this show now, “Legion” was one of the single most frustrating and challenging shows I have ever watched, to the point that I almost gave up on it. I am an unabashed comic book fan, I’ve read and own thousands upon thousands of comics, I worked in a comic book store for a number of years, I go see every comic book related movie, and I watch damn near every comic book related show on TV so when “Legion” was announced I was incredibly excited. A comic book show on FX and done by the “Fargo” guy? Sign me right up! But as I kept watching this show week after week I grew more and more frustrated with the plot and story telling as I struggled to figure out just what the hell I was watching. Then finally, something clicked. Near the end of Episode 5, there is a pivotal scene that turned the entire show around for me and completely changed my outlook on it. Looking back at those earlier episodes, I can see that my frustration and confusion was on purpose because I needed to see the world through the eyes of the main character and really feel his frustration and confusion.
So if you’re feeling the same way I was, wait it out. This show absolutely pays off the struggle at the end of its first season and the journey is just as important as the destination. Also, if you’re streaming this show after the fact, please don’t binge watch it. “Legion” is a show that requires you to take some time between the episodes and mull over what you’ve seen. Ponder it, let it sink it. I truly believe that if you watch all eight episodes in one or two sittings you won’t get the full emotional impact that the creators want you get.
As you can tell, “Legion” was a bit of an roller coaster for me but I am really glad I stuck with it and I can’t wait for Season 2.
Have you seen “Legion” yet? Tell me what you thought in the comments below!
Until next time, Thank You for reading and…..