I feel like I’ve had a massive falling out with Super Hero television shows recently. Why? Because of how connected exhaustingly connected some are to each other. I do really like the concept of a television super hero verse where every story line from one TV show affects another. The Netflix Marvel Verse and the CW Verse are great examples of that happening. The problem is that there is larger chance of super hero burn out from those then there is from something like the Marvel Cinematic Universe where the movies come out three times a year. Three times that a viewer only has to sit down and watch a film between 2-3 hours in length. One can sit in the theater, watch the films, then be done. No one can say the same for multiple, weekly television series airing roughly a day from each other. Once you fall off the wagon train for television super hero verses, it’s impossible to get on them again. That’s why I’ve only been two super hero series recently: Marvel’s Agents of Shield and, what this post is about, Legion.
Then again, maybe I wouldn’t call Legion a super hero television series. Legion is something that takes the normal X-Men and Super Hero premise it takes it as far as it can in a non conventional and art house direction as it can. It starts off as X-Men off shoot in it’s first season. You know, a group of mutants trying to escape from a government agency hunting them down? From that point on, the formula changes so much that it’s completely unrecognizable from anything we’ve ever seen before. The set down rules change completely multiple times. The villains within, the villains outside, and so on are explored here. There is a lot of detail to cover.
That sounds complex, right? Well, the truth is that it isn’t. The plot of every season is actually rather simple. Season one: mutants try to escape from Division 3. Season Two: they didn’t escape from Division 3, but work with them to fight the enemy inside our main protagonist, instead it’s the protagonist who is at fault. They are the cause of the end of the world. Season three so far: mutants and Division 3 hunting down protagonist to save the world before he can destroy it. At least, that’s running reading of Legion so far. It’s just the directional style, weird way things are explained, strange sense of timing, and psychedelic imagery that cause viewers to be confused. There is a reason for that though. To be explained in a later paragraph.
I mentioned this was based on the X-Men, right? The show is called Legion for a reason. For those comic book lovers that know it already, Legion is the mutant(?) name of Professor Xavier’s son, David Haller. A kid that also has mind bending powers, but was adopted to keep a stronger, psychic force/enemy/entity away from him. Unfortunately, that didn’t work. That evil force named Farouk saw the potential in David and partially took over his mind and made David completely schizophrenic over the course of his childhood. Out of all the backstories that I’ve ever seen in history, I think David might have the worst one. Imagine not even being sure when you are yourself. Imagine that all the friends you gathered during one season turn against you and choose the villain that was in your mind over you when you want revenge. It’s got to suck. Poor David needs all the hugs. No one else wants to, so it’s up to me.
Oh, there are other characters that can be talked. For example, Syd. She his girl friend that only has powers to change bodies, but they are all very simple characters that have unique powers but are easy to figure out in a short amount of time. The character introductions in Legion are incredibly solid, but then the cast stays in the background more to focus on our main character’s issues. Their presence is there, but it’s not as complete of a presence as one would hope for. Then again, David is the main character of Legion and from a visual perspective the show sticks with him.
Then leads to talking about the visuals once again. I think it’s obvious that Legion’s visuals are not only the most strange experimental TV cinematography and visuals possibly ever, they are very character motivated. They bring us into David’s strange and screwed up world. Each location is far from the norm. Alice in Wonderland obviously imagery also happens. Why? To keep you unsettled. Even in normal seeming locations, there is a feeling of something odd about it. It could be the endless food containers on boats in the background of a cafeteria or just how the camera is shot and angled. The color design is well used and can tell you when something is leaking into David’s consciousness. That only happens in specific scenes, which is wonderful.
Do I have to mention that the world is mixed between 60’s and 70’s technology and modern technology that tells you that David doesn’t even know what time period he is in. I admire all the dedication and hard work to put the viewer in an environment they don’t completely understand either. From the weird and interesting exposition to the scenery, everything is so thought out and wonderfully constructed. The androids that Section 3 uses as soldiers have that same sort of ambiguous feel to them. I don’t just mean from a technological perspective, but in gender as well. While their heads have moustaches and bowl headed hair cuts, their bodies are very hour glass and feminine. Just when you thought that things couldn’t be weirder, here it is.
That leads to visual effects which are mediocre to ok. The people behind the production of Legion know that they are on a tv budget and production schedule, so they went more for style instead of awesome graphics. Even if the production cost $4million dollars an episode, which it apparently does, it’s still cheaper then a two hour movie. I know it’s possible to have great production with visuals because the Flash did such an amazing job with CG on a TV budget, but I highly respective the people behind Legion’s production for sticking to their visual strangeness instead of great monster visual greatness. It can’t be cheap to have all these strange settings. David’s powers are usually quick cuts to people disappearing. There are also other powers, like time travel, that involve characters opening up a gateway through lights then walking down a dark hall way to a room that has the time line they are looking for. Something that I find a cool effect that shows you how this person’s time travel ability works.
So why am I talking about Legion now when it’s third season and finale episode isn’t over yet? First of all, it’s my birthday and I am going to write about whatever I want to write about. Second, to let people know that this television show exists and hopefully get more people interested in it. I have a feeling that not many people watch this show and are looking for something different and interesting from Western media instead of the same stuff over and over again. The only thing that gets close, apparently, is Mr. Robot, which I need to catch up on. If you want to check it out, the first two seasons are on Hulu and it airs on FX every Monday. I usually record it and watch it in the mornings when I’m still waking up to get maximum confusion. No really, I’m that strange of a person.