this post contains series spoilers continue at you own peril
Most people who know me know that I spent many of my teenage years as an X-Men fanboy. If Marvel put an X in the title, I would make sure I bought it. I may go further into the topic of the X-Men in a future post. Fast forward several decades, and I am still consuming X-Men content, even the things that I don’t like. When it was announced that the FX network was turning Legion into a show, I set my DVR. The show ran for three seasons (2017, 2018, and 2019). I only watched the first season when the show was on tv and binge-watched the last two seasons on HULU. I decided to write this post after I finished watching to process my thoughts on the subject.
Who is Legion in the comics?
Legion (David Haller) in the comics was an omega level mutant and the son of Professor Xavier. David had multiple personalities, and each of those personalities had a unique mutant power. Even though Legion had been created in the mid-’80s, I first became familiar with him because he was the catalyst for my second favorite X-Men even, The Age of Apocalypse. That storyline began when David decided to go back in time and kill magneto (before he became a problem for Professor X). David royally screwed up and killed his father before he was conceived, leaving no one around t stop Apocalypse from taking over the world.
Who is Legion in the tv show?
The tv show’s first season makes you question the lead character’s, David Haller (Dan Stevens), sanity. It is not until several episodes in that mutants begin to be discussed. The X-Men are never mentioned, nor are any of the more prominent Marvel names. Haller does not have the same number of powers as he does in the comic, probably because he does not have the same number of personalities. David falls in love with another psych-ward patient Syd Barrett (Rachel Keller), who, like Rogue, cannot touch people because of her powers. The mental hospital is also where we meet David’s friend Lenny (Aubrey Plaza) who goes underutilized in the later seasons of the show.
David and Syd receive help escaping the hospital by a group of mutants trying to save mutant-kind from Division 3, the big bad of most of season one. As the show progresses, we find out that David may not be crazy and that he is possessed by Amahl Farouk, AKA, the Shadow King. Farouk was an excellent choice for a nemesis. The amount of hate and manipulation between these two during the run of the show is fantastic. David blames Farouk for every bad thing that has happened to him during his lifetime.
By the end of the second season, David and Farouk have both done horrible things, and the line of good guy / bad guy becomes blurred.
I loved the dynamic between David and the Shadow King. The way that the writers wrote this relationship one goes through the show, also hating Farouk. Side note Navid Negahban was great casting. I struggle when it comes to the Syd and David relationship. I rooted for this couple, but it was not meant to be. Betrayal is met with a far worse betrayal. The betrayal by David was unforgivable to the point where it almost broke the show.
The show is a nearly perfect dramatization of what a world would be like from the eyes of a mutant with mental illness. Some drawbacks come from having too many recurring characters throughout the shows run. Some characters did not move the story forward, and they were a real distraction to the experience. After the first season, Division 3 was not needed anymore. If they spent less time on the musical numbers and just kept the story about David and his hatred for Farouk, the show could have been more condensed. It seemed like they had plans for Lenny but ran out of time to see them through.
Visually the show is a work of art. The set design, wardrobe, fx, and lighting are better than 90% of the movies and shows that I have seen this year. And while I just complained about the amount of musical numbers in the show, some of the songs fit the story perfectly. Could the show be better? Yes. But it is still light years ahead of anything I have written. I find myself very inspired by this show.