If you want interesting superheroes, it is somewhat advisable to shun the big screen interpretations. The characters who appear on screen have to cram both plot and emotional development into a relatively scant two hours, as well as set up any future movies within the franchise. It’s a tough act to balance, and recently, some of the big name supers seem to have lost their way somewhat. Fortunately, that is not the case with the majority of superheroes on TV, Arrow, Daredevil and many other series have shown that the one of best ways to build a fanbase is to keep the dramatic and cinematic sequences, but also to ensure your characters have more personality than a crude, two dimensional drawing. This analogy brings us to Legion, Fox’s latest attempt at bringing the X-Men back to the small screen.
Legion was introduced to the X-Men universe in 1985 by Chris Claremont, he is considered to be one of the most powerful mutants ever, but (as his name suggests) he also suffers from dissociative identity disorder (DID) preventing him from accessing his powers on a conscious level.
The pilot episode of the series sees the titular character (also known as David Haller, and played by Dan Stevens) residing within a mental institution in an attempt to treat his DID, before an encounter with another patient, Sydney Barrett (played by Rachel Keller) leads to him escaping the hospital and eventually winding up in the hands of a shady organisation with designs on finding out more about mutants before wiping them out.
The story itself jumps between flashbacks and the present day, so much so your head is likely to be left reeling as you try to make make sense of the situation. Fortunately, once you work out which setting is where and when in the timeline, things become a lot easier to follow and you find yourself getting well and truly drawn into the protagonist’s mindset, questioning the motives of all the people around him as well as the reliability of Haller’s recollections.
While the story predominantly focuses on Haller, he has a fantastic supporting cast to back him up. First and foremost is Keller’s Syd Barrett, (apologies if Pink Floyd is playing in your head now) playing Haller’s love interest who can’t touch people due to her mutation of swapping bodies with anyone she makes skin contact with. Also joining the group is Aubrey Plaza as Lenny Busker, Haller’s motormouthed friend within the institution. She acts as something of a spiritual guide and grounding device for Haller whenever he starts to lose control. There are plenty of other characters who look like they will be holding larger parts as the series continues, but their appearance within the pilot leaves them as blank slates waiting for bigger and better things in future episodes.
Whilst the plot is gripping, the special effects are a bit of a letdown. There are some fantastic moments within the episode, such as the exploding kitchen, but at the very end, the large set piece battle (which is done in one glorious, single shot take) the CGI looks a little unfinished. But it’s a relatively minor quibble when you compare it to the rest of this show.
Legion is a great addition to the X-Men universe. How it will tie in with the movies is anybody’s guess (though parallel universes are rumoured to be a strong contender,) but it’s worth giving the show a try. After all, it can’t be worse than The Last Stand or Origins: Wolverine… Right?
Thursday 9th February at 9pm on FOX