RogerBW's Blog

Legion season 1 09 February 2019

2017 superhero-related, 8 episodes. David Haller is schizophrenic, or so everybody tells him; but maybe that's what having world-shaking superpowers does for you.

The comics character is a spin-off from the X-Men, but in the series' favour there are no spandex hijinks here. Also in its favour is Aubrey Plaza, whose character is killed off in the first episode, but that doesn't prevent her appearing later on – one of David's hallucinations? A parasite in his mind? All of the above?

This is a show that's all about everything you know being wrong, so I'm not even going to try to recapitulate the plot; indeed, for me that's the weak point, since while there is some development of understanding there are so many reverses and revelations, particularly of characters shown to have been playing a role, that as a story it ends up being surprisingly weak.

Visually, though, it's superb, with visual effects making seamless transitions between apparent reality and nightmarish dream-worlds, and sound is also used very effectively. The design sensibility is a deliberate blend of the 1960s, when most of this stuff is supposed to have started (which was more plausible when the character was invented as a young man in the 1980s), and the modern day. Rather than the usual pernicious nonsense about "multiple personalities" which seems to have been the approach used in the comics, there's clearly been some research into real schizophrenia and how its sufferers experience the world. And while there are dangerous people here, plenty of the people with mental illnesses are victims more than attackers, much as they tend to be in reality.

It's certainly well-made, and highly popular, but it doesn't quite work for me; there's no sense of tension when at any time, out of nowhere, anything can happen (see for example the closing shot of the final episode, in which David is suddenly kidnapped and whisked away by a device we've never even seen before).

It's been renewed for a second series (and indeed a third; I'm a bit behind on television-watching), and I'll probably give it a try, but more for the spectacle than for the story.

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