FX’s mind-bending superhero series Legion is in the hands of Fargo showrunner Noah Hawley, and this is a very good thing.
Hawley and company along with lead actor Dan Stevens have molded a trippy upside-down world where timelines are moshed together and are neither linear in delivery nor reliable enough to allow viewers to fully sort hallucination from reality.
Did we need any more superheroes? Yes, we did!
Legion is the story for these parallel times where the truth is labeled fake news and naked power grabs from empowered madmen are calling the shots.
Visually hypnotic, musically boisterous and vividly painted in artistically enhanced and deliberate color schemes, we entered a world where time bends and memory and present day action fuse together.
All of it accompanied by music that propels us along with protagonist David Haller, as we anxiously watch to see what happens next to our mysterious mental patient who is more than meets the eye.
The ending of the premiere had dramatic flourish as David and his saviors safely got away from Division 3. Now in Season 1 Episode 2, titled Chapter 2, he is whisked to Summerland with Syd (Rachel Keller), Ptonomy (Jeremie Harris), Kerry (Amber Midthunder) and Cary (Bill Irwin) who help with Dr. Bird’s oversight to open David’s eyes to a new train of thought while mining his past.
Except David’s recollections have a hard time staying in their time frame.
Is it a dream, memory or projection in the present that is happening in real time?
Haller is waking up to his potential as a prized mutant while trying to download his past and look at it with the POV that he is not mentally ill, but gifted.
Here TV Critics Ernie Estrella and April Neale chat about Chapter 2 of Legion, and David’s ongoing travails as he peels the onion of his existence with the help of Dr. Bird (Jean Smart) and his new mutant friends…
April Neale: Episode 2 is the journey for David to understand his mind, and get answers and rewrite his personal history. But it’s not my favorite episode so far, to be honest. I felt this one wallowed too much in his memory/telepathy in real time and was just frenetic for me. What was your take?
Ernie Estrella: This is what I believe to be the info dump, whereas the pilot you’re not sure what’s reality. In this episode, you get a strong sense of what is reality and what is memory. I am taking this episode more on face value as opposed to the first episode.
They’re confronting David about his powers, where he’s used them in the past and the real traumatic pieces that continue to affect him today.
It’s a lot to take in, but we’re also seeing the capabilities of David, who probably has yet to test the limits of his powers.
He’s just scratching the surface, like when he’s talking to Syd using just his mind. Dr. Bird and company have their suspicions, but it appears like the Eye has a clue to his true potential.
It’s trying to establish a lot of the rules and world building, so that’s why it might seem clunky, but I love when they get inside David’s memories and his moments with Syd.
AN: I appreciate your perspective. The women in this series intrigue me, especially Dr. Bird and Lenny. Let’s talk about his perception of his “illness” now being “a gift” which is playing tricks on his mind. How do you grade Dr. Bird so far in her treatment progression of Haller?
EE: Jean Smart is just wonderful. As a powerful telepath herself — assuming this because she accompanies Ptonomy on the mind trips — we haven’t seen her with the “gloves off”.
But I love this idea that she’s the Professor X of Legion, this sage source of the state of the mutant world and she’s there to foster new and young mutants to control and hone their powers.
AN: Hawley was smart to take the matriarch Gerhardt of Fargo Season 2 and make her the strong female lead in this. Jean Smart is a fantastic actor.
Okay, the character that is jumping out at me is the Interrogator, the Eye, the man with the Jafro (Jewish Afro)…creepy. What do we think his role really is in Division 3? Remember that I know nothing of this comic book.
EE: He looks like the hunter and most immediate threat David has coming for him. I think he’s there to assess the threat of each mutant that they come across and decide whether or not to kill them.
That’s the feeling I get from that first episode as he was in on David’s interrogation and is out trying to track him down.
In Fargo, Hawley always had a talent to build tension within each episode but you knew who those antagonists were.
I don’t think the Eye is coming to use David’s great power, I think his role is to eliminate the ones who pose a real threat.
For me, my favorite character is Ptonomy Wallace, the memory builder, who we get to see come out of this episode as the powerful telepath that can enter your mind and recreate those lost memories you have hidden deep within.
I also like the idea of a glass of milk helping you come out of his mind trip. What’s your take on Bird, Ptonomy, and Cary? Do you think they can be trusted?
AN: Short answer, yes. I really love the character of Ptonomy too, and Cary who is a scatterbrain genius. For me, the unseen heroes are the DP, editors and the art department, the visuals of the interior sets, the exteriors in British Columbia, I cannot get enough of the look of this series.
Also while we are talking about favorites, I absolutely reiterate how important the character Dr. Bird is to me in this, who says: “The human race is beginning to evolve…” Portentous statements like that make me want to know so much more and it’s driving me crazy.
And do we know what is causing the mutations and who is behind the drawing of these enemy lines?
Bird also tells David: “The ones they can’t control…they kill.” …oooh. I also appreciate the physical restraint and menace of The Eye (Interrogator) Hamish Linklater. Where did this guy come from!
EE: Yeah, and that’s why I think the Eye is the guy they set loose. Since genetic evolution has always been the central theme of any X-Men story and how the populace tries to muzzle or discriminate against those with mutant abilities — a metaphor for how we treat those different from us.
Hawley’s take has a more adult take on it, like the new movie Logan.
AN: Given that harsh plan of action, what is protecting the new locale, Summerland, from a visit from Division 3?
EE: I’m imagining other mutants that are able to block out satellite signals, or given that this has that retro feel and the need for a boat, perhaps it’s an island?
AN: I like the idea it could be an island. Okay, memory work time. What the hell is with that book — The World’s Angriest Boy — David’s dad was reading him, or was that an illusion of what we THOUGHT was his dad? I think David accidentally killed his dad, what do you think?
EE: Or his mother. I think we’re led to him killing at least one of his parents. April, I’m not sure how well versed you are in X-Men history or the source material that Noah is drawing inspiration from, but in the comics, David or Legion is the son of a very famous, powerful mutant.
I won’t spoil it for you in case you don’t want information and we can’t be sure Hawley is adapting the comics faithfully.
Now, comic fans may be scrambling to see how much of this show is part of the canon or the X-Men movie universe. I’m not holding it to that at all, nor am I expecting a straight adaption either.
If so, it would be ballsy of Hawley to tie it to the films and reveal who his father is supposed to be, but I’ll say this about that book, it is certainly the kind of book that conditions someone in a negative way.
Kind of makes you wonder about all of those parents who actually read “Go the F*** to Sleep” to their kids.
AN: I know, there were people who did that, crazy. I know nothing of the X-Men except Halle Berry cannot rock platinum hair and The Wolverine has talons and Patrick Stewart was their mutant professor.
Let’s talk about the use of Lenny visiting in this series. She is dead. But now she’s like Griffin Dunne in American Werewolf in London post-werewolf bite, showing up in all sorts of memory and real life recollective moments.
Aubrey Plaza’s energy is perfect for this Girl, Interrupted role. What do you make of this loquacious off-the-wall character?
EE: I love her character. I was really worried that after the first episode that we wouldn’t see her again, that she was this high-profile guest star. But I love that she continues to haunt him or remind him of certain parts, or is it certain personalities?
I think visually she gives each scene she’s in a punch. She’s the type of exaggerated character who you might see in a David Lynch story, where you just can’t take your eyes off of what she’s doing. Noah Hawley draws on that strength of hers.
AN: I’m glad she’s popping up unexpectedly, Plaza is a force.
Syd and David are feeling each other out in this new environment. Syd believes she killed Lenny. “We’re having a romance of the mind,” she tells him. Are you buying that these two will remain romantically involved?
EE: The romance thing I haven’t bought yet from a straight point of view of the time these characters have been with each other.
However in the context of these mutants living in a world that is trying to figure out how to deal with them and not let the knowledge of them escape to the public, finding out that someone shares your fears, your experiences that surround you, has to be comforting.
For that, I’m riding it out, and I adore Rachel Keller in these period piece clothes and hairstyles. I’d be smitten too.
As for her, she may be drawn to David’s innocence in all of this, or perhaps his power.
I hope she doesn’t betray him in any way but once he lets loose with his powers, I suspect people will look at him in a different light. You sound like you’re suspicious of this match?
AN: Too much too soon as far as I am concerned. I am in that I am not buying they will be content to hold a piece of fabric as “hand holding” and as David comes off all the psyche meds his libido blows up along with his powers. I’m just thinking David is going to want to kiss someone eventually…
What do you think is the yellow-eyed fat dwarf-devil?
EE: He’s quite a jarring sight isn’t he? Again, it might be a bad thing to have a foundation of X-Men comics because part of my experience is wondering, “is this that character or is that this character,” playing in my head.
I’m really trying to view the series without relying on that information (and to be honest, it’s been several years since I read the stories containing Legion) and judge it on its own.
If you recall in Fargo Season 2 how aliens were plugged in there and it just worked? The fat, yellow demon vision has potential to be that similar element for Legion, or it could be just a manifestation of one of his personalities. It means something, obviously, but it might not be best to take it so literally.
There lies one of the problems (or fun things, depending on your perspective) when you can’t trust the protagonist, like Mr. Robot for example.
It’s a designed mystery, for sure. We’ve yet to figure out all of the rules of this world (and Hawley’s interpretation) and see what this manifestation is for David.
I want to believe that he’s a symbol or represents something in David’s mind as I’ve yet to see another character acknowledge the vision.
But he does resemble on appearance, a fan-favorite X-Men villain (Mojo), or at least parts of him, but I believe it’s way too early to tell if it’s going down that road, which would be a REALLY crazy trip that seems too distant of a departure from what the rest of Legion is.
That said, I wouldn’t put it past Hawley. What’s your take on the yellow-eyed devil?
AN: I felt like that vision of the troll devil man represented the entirety of his powers and the unknown results it could yield or net — something David doesn’t know but feels energetically.
Then given my complete lack of X-Men schooling, I’m probably so off on this it just has to play out for me as we go along.
EE: Ah, but that’s the fun of it, right? I think the not knowing and the guess is what makes TV fun, which is why I hate binge TV because there’s no dialogue on these shows since everyone is at different points, so the suspense of the unknown is either too long or not long enough. What else do we need to talk about?
AN: Binge TV is no good! Everyone digests it on their time and terms, and what the hell? TV is meant to unspool at a pace so everyone can argue about it the next day.
Let’s talk about Cary for a sec. During David’s archaic brain scan with Cary, he sees the past in a memory and then the quivering closet door belching guttural noises freaks him out.
Then he transports to real time and sees Amy abducted by the Clockworks hospital and she is taken by the Eye aka The Interrogator. Then… leeches? What were those black, eel-like things in the water?
Tell me, Ernie, what in the 1968 chartreuse hell is going on!
EE: One thing that Hawley is toying with here is this period piece neuroscience. If the rise of the mutants happened in the 60s and 70s what kind of contraptions would be used to try and see if they have extraordinary abilities?
I love the set designs and the monochromatic green screens with blips and boops that tell you nothing, and yet we have something analog like leeches that suggest Amy will have them affixed to her next episode, to suck memories or mutant abilities out of her?
I’m imagining if I was the Eye, I’d want to see if David’s powers are shared by her sister or perhaps she has powers of her own. I love these scenes with Katie Aselton too, who we’ve seen previously in The League.
She has this innocence to her in the motif of the show and in Hawley’s bright green color palette for her. Green’s the color of life, growth, nature, fertility and energy, so her place as it seems should be with Dr. Bird, or out of suburbia.
Hopefully, she escapes the clutches of the Eye so we can find out!
Legion Chapter 2 aired Wednesday February 15, 2017, on FX. Chapter 3 airs Wednesday February 22 at 10PM ET/PT on FX.