In the comics, David Haller, otherwise known as Legion, is the son of Charles Xavier, who we all know as the founder of the X-Men. Legion is one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel universe as he has access to multiple power sets. Unfortunately for David, his mutation also brings with it schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder with each persona having its own unique set of abilities. Although some personalities are good, there are those who have more insidious natures, constantly trying to usurp David’s main consciousness to take control of his body. The premise is as chaotic as it sounds, but show runner Noah Hawley takes control of the chaos and delivers a mind-bending masterpiece that stands out from the superhero genre.
The pilot starts out with a montage of David Haller’s (Dan Stevens) psyche over the years upon his birth. The visually rich sequence sets the tone and style of the series and immediately draws the watcher into the mind of our schizophrenic hero. We then meet David’s current situation in a mental hospital, learning how to live with his tortured mind. The scenes toss back and forth between past and present, and real and fantasy, creating a mind-boggling experience that could easily throw off the watcher. It’s almost as if the show wants you to peek into David’s mind. However, there’s a certain quirkiness and charm that convince you to stay and see how things unfold.
Things get a little more complicated for David as he meets Syd (Rachel Keller), a new patient who doesn’t want to be touched. There’s a whimsical nature to her that immediately allures David and the two begin a very unique relationship. The fairy tale ends when David kisses Syd and suddenly switches bodies with her. Just like that, we’re reminded that this show is a superhero flick with powers and the plot gets even more interesting.
More questions are raised than answered, but at least we now know that there’s something more in David’s situation that we were lead to believe. The body swap with Syd creates more problems with David as he finds himself caught up in a government-led investigation. Now, the situation feels more like X-Men territory – a shady government agency wants to study and exploit mutants in order to control what they do not understand. And in true X-Men fashion, the tension builds up to a climax with superpower eye candy that looks stunningly cinematic.
At this point, you’re probably wondering if Legion is set within the existing X-Men universe. The only X-Men reference in the show is the concept of mutants. The word is used at some point and the action scenes are reminiscent of our favorite superhero group. The show’s producers have been very vague about Legion’s connection to the X-Men universe, but quite frankly, the show’s appeal is that it stands out on its own. Let’s be honest here, the current timeline of the X-Men universe is confusing enough as it is and the show’s separation is a welcome one.
Legion is a successful introduction of David Haller and a welcome change to the otherwise formulaic superhero genre. The show treads metal health issues delicately while allowing the viewers to empathize and experience the struggles of David Haller. The visual elements are stunning as they are effective in depicting a struggling mind. Most times you are left asking whether or not everything that’s transpiring is real, but one thing is for sure: Legion is one of the best superhero tv shows at the moment and that’s as real as it can get.