How does cartoon Bojack Horseman use a talking horse to give a voice to mental health and LGBTQ+ issues? TV critic Max Marks investigatesWritten by Max on 15th October 2017
TV review Fox UK's latest premiere, Marvel's 'Legion'
We all loved the X-Men franchise, the silver screen Marvel adventure centring around humans who’ve evolved to develop superpowers. We’ve loved and hated the various adaptations, all the while been dazzled by the various mutants and their powers. Now after their many big screen outings, the X-Men are finally moving to the small screen, for a fresh adaptation at the hands of Fargo producer, Noah Hawley. Gone are the days of Xavier’s School for Gifted Children. Legion returns us to the era of mutant disarray and unchecked powers, and the result is brilliant.
Airing at 10pm on Fox UK, Legion is everything we wanted, but nothing we expected. And it's these expectations of an X-Men centric show that have critics worried for its future, because while the first episode was amazing, it was if anything, bizarre; confusing any audience expecting a mutant infestation. This show is a far cry from all of the usual comic book caped crusaders currently controlling our screens (Arrow, Flash and Supergirl), and it’s nothing like Marvel’s other currently broadcasting show, Agents of Shield, which usually follow a problem of the week model. If anything, it resembles the serial style of Netflix’s Marvel shows, where each episode is a mere part of a 13 hour film.
“This show is a far cry from all of the usual comic book caped crusaders currently controlling our screens
Launched into the story through a childhood montage of protagonist David Haller (Dan Stevens, Downton Abbey), set to The Who’s Happy Jack, we see how Haller’s powers violently manifest only to be misdiagnosed as a mental illness, which leads to him being institutionalised as a schizophrenic. While we eagerly saw signs of telepathy and telekinesis, Haller spends the rest of the episode medicated and confused, leading him to be quite an unreliable narrator. Hawley expertly crafts the world around Haller to add to our confusion, as characters and settings seem to indicate the 60s, but Haller’s high-tech interrogator (Hamish Linklater, Fargo) suggests otherwise.
While Hawley keeps trying to throw us for a loop, we’re drawn in closer, trying to piece together what’s real and what’s not. Through the structure of an interrogation, we jump back into Haller’s recent past, in an attempt to catch up with the story so far. Aided by a quirky cast of characters, some of whom often feel like figments of Haller’s imagination, we begin to see the landscape of what the people around him believe. From his innocent sister Amy (Katie Aselton, Our Idiot Brother), who thinks her poor brother is sick and that the various patronising psychiatrists are helping, to recovering junkie and spunky Lenny (Aubrey Plaza, Parks and Recreation), who thinks he’s just as crazy as her. And then there’s Sydney Barrett (Rachel Keller, Fargo). A perfectly adorable girlfriend, whose existence outside of Haller’s head is something we’re never too sure about.
“With only 8 episodes to impress us with, it’ll be interesting to see whether the jumbled pieces will begin to fall into place
Chapter one, was all in all, a good start for Hawley and the team, with Legion clearly standing apart from the rest and breaking from the common monotony that comic book shows can fall into, as they attempt to appease all. While the end felt almost too happy, it did feel like a natural beginning into the next chapter of what we hope will be a great series. With only 8 episodes to impress us with, it’ll be interesting to see whether the jumbled pieces will begin to fall into place in anticipation of a potential cancellation, or whether Legion will conclude as confusingly as it begun, leaving us screaming for more to fill the void.