How do you shake something off your head which affects you both visually and aurally? How’d you block your psyche when something persistently tries to enter in? How do you unsee a visual your eyes witness? Cinema is one of the greatest forms of deception. Recall any classic and you will realize that it had some sort of very powerful visual or aural appeal that struck you and stayed in your subconscious.
Think Christopher Nolan. Imagine if Hans Zimmer’s score were to be removed from Inception or Interstellar, would the experience still be the same? Will it still affect you the same way as it did before? The perfect amalgamation of sound and visuals is what primarily, makes a film great.
Noah Hawley, as we know him, has a flair for doing something wicked. Not only has he redefined TV shows with Fargo but has now stepped out to do something similar with the over-saturating superhero genre.
Legion is one hell of a show that completely wipes out all the memories of the hundreds of comic book films and TV series you may have seen. It’s unlike anything seen before on TV.
The first two or three minutes are enough to astound you and make you binge watch the entire season (which unfortunately isn’t an option).
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We have the uber cool Dan Stevens playing the titular character as David Haller. A guy with immense superpowers or mutation as we call it in the X-Men universe, he’s considered a freak by the Homo sapiens. We watch him evolve from a toddler to a tormented person within a fraction of seconds, with visuals that are utterly hard to forget. Since our hero isn’t born with a mind like Charles Xavier, he often causes direful situations for those surrounding him. In particular, he freaks out his sister the most, Amy (Katie Aselton), whom he loves a lot and has sweet memories attached with.
Sent to Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital, he pretends he is recovering through the meds, only to get out of there. On the two-hundred sixtieth day at the place, he tells her sister that “Something new needs to happen soon.”
While it is a metaphor for the director’s ideology, something different does happen. Soon our guy notices a new soul at the hospital. Sydney Barrett (Rachel Keller), who seems as weird as him, piques his attention. Embodying a strange magnetism, Sydney triggers David’s fragile mind as he begins to lose control and comprehend what is real and what isn’t.
Hawley’s vision and skills are very inviting as he keeps the unusualness and intrigue throughout the runtime. Not for a single second can you predict what’s about to happen next as you are pulled right into the mind of David, feeling equally lost and confused as him. The highbrow humor adds more to the fun, thanks to Stevens’ natural wit. He perfectly balances the tension and quirkiness.
All the previous (and embarrassing) avatars of the comic character be forgiven, he is the ultimate guy to play the role. His tiniest bit of expression represents the psychological status of the character in astute form. After establishing himself in shows like Downtown Abbey and The Guest, he further extends his acting palate. Bringing great amount of vulnerability to his character, he makes you care for him.
Rachel Keller, on the other hand, plays a very peculiar mutant. No intentions on spoiling the character but her powers are exquisitely trippy. While it’s Stevens you see in every frame throughout the episode, Keller’s character Sydney drives the bigger plot of the story. An old collaborator of Hawley (Fargo), she has done fabulous work here. Her presence and absence are alluring. Not only does her character provides a sense of comfort to David but also helps him control his powers. The slight vagueness also gets diluted by the end of the episode as Keller’s performance gets weightier. It will be interesting to see how her character advances from here on.
Jeremie Harris as the therapist cum memory artist does a fine job too. He satisfies in a performance that needed to be hypnotic enough for us to believe he could channelize David’s mind into extracting memories out of his mind. There are a few more characters, including Lenny Busker (played by the crackling Aubrey Plaza). But the focus stays on the aforementioned three.
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One of Hawley’s major accomplishments with Legion is that he succeeded in sidelining the extremely repetitive concept of comicbook shows. Cliché elements like superheroes taking on super villains, unnecessary build up for some nonsensical, climactic action isn’t found here. He gives a new direction to the genre. And his ideas are stupefying. The major action set-piece of the episode involving a telekinetic blast in the kitchen is jaw-dropping. Hawley doesn’t just want the viewer to understand the character but inclusively live it. From capturing the protagonist’s scattered state of mind to the musical dreams (reminiscent of Bollywood dance numbers), the narrative is fully immersive.
Also, as an offshoot to the ongoing X-men live-action series, Hawley permeates some X-Men elements too, which the fans will appreciate. For instance, we have a William Stryker-like foundation which likes to experiment on mutants. Or, a group of super-powered individuals offering help to other mutants in need (Team Xavier?). But the resemblance ends there. Although it can be said that, amidst the confusing status of the X-Men franchise, Legion holds a lot of promise.
Not only does it have the potential to bring the brand back to glory but Legion sets a new benchmark for the genre as a whole.
There are a lot of unanswered questions, which we’ll leave to the next week’s episode. Until then, sit back and enjoy the show.
By Mayank Nailwal
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