‘Legion’ Premiere: It’s all in your head, dear

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

So any geek and nerd out there worth their salt has at least heard of the X-Men by now, right? Long-running comic books, several animated TV shows, plus multiple movies with even more offshoot films that sprung from them; yes, we all know the multiple mutants who wear the X in a circle and fight for their freedoms for our glorious entertainment. This new show, Legion, bears the X in a circle on the O in the title, but after that rather psychotic premiere, I’m betting some of you are still wondering why. So let’s clear up a few things before getting to the main event.

Spoilers mutate everywhere!

David Haller (Dan Stevens) is the son of Charles Xavier, you heard me right, Professor X himself, and yes, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia at a very young age. Of course, any child of the Professor is likely to have all kinds of mental issues, considering it’s entirely possible that he’s inherited not only all of his fathers mutant gifts, but without knowing who David’s mother is, it’s also way possible his powers surpass that of his fathers. For those of you who are longtime fans of the X-Men, knowing how much the Professor suffered in his far-too-long life, the idea that David could be more powerful than Xavier should be very scary indeed.

When we catch up with David as a semi-adult he’s already had plenty of problems with mutant powers as a child, and now he’s gotten himself landed in the nut-nut factory, I mean, psychiatric hospital. His powers are manifesting whether he likes it or not, and while some of the hospital staff are trying to convince him that he’s mentally ill and that’s all, only that and nothing more, the arrival of David’s dream girl Sydney Barrett throws things into further disarray.

“Dream girl” is an interesting way to introduce Syd Barrett (Rachel Keller), for she could just be another of David’s hallucinations, or not, the show is given us in such a hysterical mental light that initially, it’s hard to tell if Syd is even really-real. She posits that perhaps the patients problems aren’t actually in their collective heads, and what if they aren’t even problems at all? Mutant powers manifesting in the 70’s can certainly seem that way. (That’s another thing of note: David seems to age incredibly slowly, but we’ll come back to that potential why in a bit.) Syd doesn’t like to be touched, despite agreeing to be David’s girlfriend in this kind of oddly loving relationship without any physical contact of any kind. And while such a thing is, I think, certainly possible, it raises all sorts of interesting thoughts and questions about how we relate to each-other without any physical contact.

So the timeline, while never really understandable already, now gets very confuddled, as all sorts of strange things begin happening to and around David in the hospital, including visions of what he calls “the demon with yellow eyes”. These other interrogators who are asking David about his time in the hospital are incredibly leery of his entire presence, but they do seem to actually exist and as far as we can tell, the guards that most definitely aren’t cops who mutter about David being potentially the most powerful mutant on the planet, are telling the truth. But that’s all up for debate, because here is where we speculate on who the demon with yellow eyes could possibly be.

Noting reality-changing abilities and yellow eyes, my first thought as to who the demon could be, was Dark Phoenix. But the current best theory I’ve heard ‘round the internet is that the squat, yellow demon creampuff with the topaz eyes is Mojo, an 80’s era X-Men villain dictator who rules his own pocket universe called, obviously, the Mojoverse. Given the ever-changing reality of the show, both in and outside of itself, and the appearance of the yellow-eyed demon towards the end when David is dubiously rescued by an apparently mutant-friendly group, I choose to call him Mojo for now.

So what else? David did seem to get rescued from his interrogators towards the end of the episode, but how trustworthy his rescuers are and what their hidden motivations are, remains to be seen. The entire introductory episode is like a fever dream, like what it would be like to be living in David’s head, where one is never entirely sure what is really-real and what isn’t, along with seriously scary powers and a desire to be left in peace, all at the same damn time. Showrunner Noah Hawley, creator of the hit FX show Fargo and now Legion, has taken great pains to make the show as different and edgy as possible, while always mindful of aiding the actors to bring forth their greatest performances for his vision. Hawley created a 160-track playlist of experimental sounds, strange mental mood music (Pink Floyd and the like) and such to aid Dan Stevens in his portrayal of David for the show. And the name of David’s girlfriend, Syd Barrett, is an acknowledgement of the full of impact of music on the show’s writing, for Roger “Syd” Barrett is a singer of the rock band Pink Floyd and that makes total sense.

In an era of far far too many superhero shows and movies that are all way too formulaic, Legion is like shooting opium straight into your brain – new, entirely different, dreamlike and beautiful but terrifying in equal measures. FX is already known for being edgy and unusual, here’s hoping the entire season of Legion will have us all chasing the mutant dragon in the same visually hallucinogenic state as the first episode.

Expand your mind with Legion on FX, Wednesdays @ 10/9c!

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