TV Review: Legion S1E1 Chapter 1

legionLegion, based on the Marvel character created by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz, is the story of David Haller (Dan Stevens), a troubled young man who may be more than human. Diagnosed as schizophrenic as a child, David has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for years.

Now in his early 30s and institutionalized once again, David loses himself in the rhythm of the structured regimen of life in the hospital: breakfast, lunch, dinner, therapy, medications, sleep. David spends the rest of his time in companionable silence alongside his chatterbox friend Lenny (Aubrey Plaza), a fellow patient whose life-long drug and alcohol addiction has done nothing to quell her boundless optimism that her luck is about to change.

In the first episode, the pleasant numbness of David’s routine is completely upended with the arrival of a beautiful and troubled new patient named Syd (Rachel Keller). Inexplicably drawn to one another, David and Syd share a startling encounter, after which David must confront the shocking possibility that the voices he hears and the visions he sees may actually be real.

Dan Stevens stars as David Haller in Legion

With an extended first episode with a minimal amount of ads, the debut episode of this new series feels more like a mini-movie with stunning visuals and a mind trip spin worth of Christopher Nolan. For almost an hour and a half viewers are treated to a what’s real and what’s not visual feast keeping viewers on their toes as to what exactly is going on.

And beyond the visuals, that’s the greatest strength of the series. The madness extends through the screen as we’re dragged into the world of David Haller. His schizophrenia is the center of the show and we’re taught to question everything. Is that character real? Are they in David’s head? Is what he’s seeing real? Is what we’re seeing real? This is a show that begs to be dissected and viewed multiple times for visual clues as to what is real and what is not.

The story itself jumps between two situations. The first being David in a hospital where an incident took place and the second is another hospital that wants to figure out what David did… or is it a hospital? The series dives into a bigger conspiracy far into the debut episode where it’s revealed David is not just a mutant, but possibly the most powerful one out there. He’s a threat because of what he can do and how unstable he is. But, is he unstable? Did what we witness occur in his head? Things are left open to interpretation and nothing is definitively answered.

And what’s left open is a visual treat challenging big screen adaptations of Marvel’s “X” universe. Objects fly around, colors pop off the screen. Scenes are set not just by their locations, but clothing, and colors, each evoking a mood and giving hints as to what’s real and what’s not. The visuals, the story, the style, it’s all mixed in a Big Lebowski sort of way.

The story itself becomes clearer as the episode moves along, but much of the first hour is jumbled, eventually becoming more orderly and focused, much like David is experience it himself. And that’s what’s impressive for the series. This debut isn’t a story being told to us, it’s something we’re supposed to experience ourselves right along its hero.

Overall Rating: 9.35