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Review: 'Legion' is a hypnotic journey into the mind of a lesser-known Marvel mutant

In a world full of deception and falsities, David Haller grasps at any semblance of truth he can find.

Haller, played by leading man Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey, the upcoming Beauty and the Beast), is the anti-hero of FX's new comic book-inspired series Legion. He's a young man who has spent most of his life in and out of mental hospitals and struggling with severe schizophrenia.

But David soon realizes the voices and visions that plague his mind may not be symptoms of his mental illness. In fact, he might not be schizophrenic at all.
Creator Noah Hawley (Fargo) brings the next generation of superhero adaptations to the small screen with Legion. Comic book fans will recognize David as the son of X-Men's Charles Xavier and Gabrielle Haller and will note some of his iconic powers.

But that's where the similarities to the comics end. Legion draws inspiration from the world of X-Men and mutants, rather than directly adapting David's story.

Legion opens with a chunky montage of David growing up as a destructive youth battling inner demons set to The Who's Happy Jack. From there we find him as a medicated, but hyper-alert patient at Clockworks, a psychiatric hospital that, yes, has the same psychedelic style as Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.

FX

Katie Aselton as David's sister Amy and Dan Stevens as David Haller.

Both Legion and Clockworks are full of trippy vibes and patients clothed in orange track jackets.

David's life at Clockworks is sleep, eat, meds, repeat, with the rest of his time hanging out with chatterbox friend Lenny (Aubrey Plaza, Parks and Recreation), whose mind seems to be pickled by lifelong drug and alcohol abuse.

The calm at Clockworks is upended by the arrival of Syd (Rachel Keller, Fargo), a troubled young woman who loathes to be touched. David is enthralled and asks Syd to be his girlfriend. She, surprisingly, says yes.

FX

Syd (Rachel Keller) and David (Dan Stevens) form a close bond despite Syd's disdain for being touched.

Syd's short stay at Clockworks ends on a catastrophic note with a kiss from David. Without giving too much away, Syd really wasn't kidding when she said she didn't like to be touched.

The first three episodes of the eight-episode first season are a mind-bending riddle that gives viewers a glimpse of what it might be like living with David's affliction.

The things he sees and hears are a warped patchwork of pain and often quite terrifying. It's heartbreaking to see someone struggle so much to try to get a grip on reality.

Luckily, Syd and Melanie Bird (Jean Smart, Fargo) are two tools on his road to recovery. Well, his road to figure out his true potential, that is. Smart plays the unconventional therapist, combining nurturing and empowering traits like that of Professor Dumbledore and Professor X.

Melanie and her team are determined to open David's eyes to the possibility that he's not sick at all, and that his abilities are actually extraordinary powers he's only just learning about. David is so powerful, he's wanted by both Melanie, who wants to help him, and an insidious government agency that sees him as a security threat.

Hawley's interpretation of the character Legion is sheer originality. Viewers will quickly forget they're watching a story first put to paper in 1985 by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz.

The story is about a man with superhero powers, but remains beautifully human. David is quickly dubbed as possibly the most powerful mutant in existence, but he doesn't know that yet.

FX's adaptation focuses on David's journey to realizing his full potential rather than the destination of reality-bending Legion.

Contact Chelsea Tatham at [email protected] Follow @chelseatatham.


If you watch

Legion premieres at 10 p.m. Wednesday on FX.

 

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