Legion s1 ep 1

Sitting down to watch the first episode of Noah Hawley and FX’s version of Legion, I wasn’t sure how big the overlap between fans of the X-Men movies (me), the Fargo tv series (Jed) and dubious 70s haircuts (um…?) would be but, despite being more than a little put off by the trailers, I thought I’d give the show a chance. After enduring 60-odd minutes of this supremely confident, over-stylised and incredibly mannered bash at a superhero origin story, however, I can exclusively reveal that my initial instinct was right, and the intersection in that particular Venn diagram definitely doesn’t include me.

In fairness, this is not because Hawley or the show are short on ideas. Legion is ALL ideas, from the basic premise that the institutionalised hero might actually have superpowers as opposed (or in addition) to mental health problems and that locking him up is a way for the authorities to control him and keep him from realising that, to the non-linear, hyper-real, and very confusing narrative mixing dream sequences, dance sequences, violence and shouting, and the trippy, self-consciously, lovingly artificial look and feel of the whole thing. I’ve never read the Legion comics, but this tv series is clearly meant to look like one; the scene where the contents of David’s kitchen swirl around him in a sort of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Colander fashion, for instance, or the stop-start escape sequence towards the end with the heroes (?) avoiding a barrage of bullets as they run, pause, run, pause along a clifftop, love interest Syd’s red ribbon and ponytail bobbing as they go – all this could have, and might have, for all I know, come straight out of the pages of whatever Marvel publication you like.

The trouble with all this determined focus on artificiality and style, however, is the whole thing feels incredibly arch. Most of the cast is “acting” like they’re either in a spoof or in one of those Red Room scenes from Twin Peaks – I wouldn’t have been remotely surprised if they all suddenly started talking backwards. I presume the deliberately unreal, almost parodic performances are meant to illustrate the effect of a constant regimen of prescribed psychiatric medication on drugs David and co’s perception of everything and everyone around them, but whatever the reason, I found them really, really irritating. Instead of caring what happened to David or Sydney or the exceptionally annoying Lenny, I just wanted everyone to bloody get on with it and stop being so pleased with themselves and their artiness, which means Legion, despite the undoubted imagination and originality on show, really isn’t for me. I wouldn’t say I hated it, exactly (I mean, it’s no MacGyver) but watching it is definitely not an experience I’m keen to repeat.

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6 thoughts on “Legion s1 ep 1

  1. Snoskred February 15, 2017 / 10:35 pm

    The ads for it were pretty bad here too, but I was most put off by the hairstyle they gave Dan Stevens. He has such lovely, floppy hair. Almost Hugh Grant levels of floppiness. Remember when he was driving along in that car in Downton? I can understand their wanting to get away from that memory given his hair colour has gone almost back to blonde, but his face looks completely different than it did in Downton, so to me that hair cut is a tragedy.

    I am trying to remember an instance before of the haircut they gave the main character making me determined not to even give the show a chance and I honestly cannot remember one. So that is quite interesting. 😉

    • CJ Cregg February 15, 2017 / 11:09 pm

      I didn’t even watch Downton, Snoskred, but yeah the haircut was v bad in the Legion trailers. I don’t remember it being quite as bad in the show, but that might be be because there were so many other crazy and jarring things in it that I stopped noticing the hair, if you know what I mean.

  2. Jed Bartlet February 15, 2017 / 11:44 pm

    I’m honestly not sure what to say about this show. So I’m going to start, and see if I get to a conclusion… It looked amazing, sometimes reminiscent of Wes Anderson, but in an off-kilter way. Some of the set pieces were fantastic – the opening sequence showing David growing to young adulthood, the scene where the interrogator left the room and wandered through the heavily-armed building, that being (I think) the first time we definitely saw the world as it is, rather than how David is imagining it to be. Rachel Keller (Sydney) was wonderful in Fargo and in this and, if she plays her career cards right, might well become a star-with-acting-cred like J-Lo. I liked Lenny as well.

    On the other hand, I didn’t really follow what was going on first time round, and I’m not sure whether that was deliberate. I ended up watching it twice – admittedly at 2x speed the second time – and it definitely made more sense after that. But I’m not a fan of shows I need to watch more than once to make sense of. In short, I suspect that Legion might simultaneously be wonderful and not for me…?

  3. e February 22, 2017 / 9:07 pm

    I love shows that bear rewatching and scrutiny. I have it recorded, haven’t watched, now I think I may.

    • e February 23, 2017 / 4:51 am

      And…I watched 1 and part of 2. 3 is set to record in an hour or two. But I think I’m probably out. It’s a love letter to 1970’s psychotherapy, not fun.

  4. CJ Cregg February 26, 2017 / 12:23 am

    I can’t imagine too many people will stick with it. I know a lot of critics love it but it’s very, very niche.

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