Legion: Season 1 created by Noah Hawley (20th Century Fox Television, 26 Keys Production, Bad Hat Harry Productions)
Starring Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Aubrey Plaza, Bill Irwin, Jeremie Harris, Amber Midthunder, Katie Aselton, Jean Smart, Mackenzie Gray, and Jemaine Clement.
We are inherently unreliable. Our memories paint impressionistically over our past, providing general concepts without the detail. I often think of my memories and how they tend to trigger in conjunction with senses. A specific smell, sound, or taste can transport me to the past. But that’s about it. Recalling the past fails when minute detail becomes a requirement. I don’t remember who wore what, what time of day it was, other interested parties sitting on the periphery of memory.
For this reason, I find the discounting of eyewitness testimony in legal battles to be interesting. Generally, we tend to believe eyewitness testimony, yet our own experiences push against the reliability of such testimony. It’s never enough to put someone away on an eyewitness account without further supporting evidence.
A New Kind of Superhero
The tension of memory and recall forms the central thesis in Noah Hawley’s Legion. Set in the Marvel cinematic universe, but a far cry from standard superhero fare, Legion recounts the experiences and tensions of David Haller (Dan Stevens), a powerful mutant who believes he suffers from schizophrenia.
The show begins in a mental hospital but dispatches into a variety of timelines, often subterfuging expectations behind the cloud of an unreliable memory.
As David falls in love with fellow patient Syd (Rachel Keller) and then ultimately discovers the deeper battle between humans and mutants to which he is a critical pawn, his unreliable memory becomes the key to unlocking his full power.
As the season unfolds, the viewer engages in a deep dive into David’s consciousness and discovers many mysteries, chief of which is David’s relationship with his friend Lenny (played masterfully against type by Aubrey Plaza).
Structurally, Legion owes its narrative force to True Detective, leveraging 2/3rds of the season setting up the mystery before packing a punch at the end of the season.
Mind Trips and Mutants
Well written, well executed, and gorgeously shot, Legion won’t feel like a Marvel show, but it’s thematic richness makes it required viewing. We all have faulty memories. For this reason, it is difficult to divorce our conceptions of who we are from the experiences we have. Legion harnesses these concepts into a trippy, psychological thriller. Recommended.
Verdict: 4.5 out of 5