A few years back, FX had announced that Noah Hawley was to create, write for, and help produce an adaptation of the Coen Bros. classic film, Fargo. As one does, I heard the news and was skeptical, extremely so. In the world of reboots/remakes/sequels/prequels, was the lacking of originality in cinema being brought over to television as well? I had found out about the series around the same time that Hannibal (the series) and Bates Motel had begun airing as well.
I hoped for the best and waited for the pilot episode of Fargo, and with that pilot, I instantly ate my words and thoughts and dived into the show. It borrows on themes and ideas of the film, but Hawley finds a way to bring an entirely new story to life. And he does that, once again with his latest show, Legion.
Noah Hawley made a deal with FX, which led him to write and create the show Legion, about the character David Heller (played by Dan Stevens), a(n important, and very powerful) mutant from Marvel Comics. As David (or his moniker, Legion) is a mutant, he is unable to be used in the Marvel Cinematic Universe currently, and Fox is seemingly more interested in starting their X-Men films again than expanding on what they’ve established, so it seemed less likely to get around to Heller, his abilities, but more importantly, his story.
The show begins it’s mere 8 episode run in Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital, as we find Heller being a patient for him being diagnosed with Schizophrenia, alongside him is his friend Lenny (Aubrey Plaza) and quickly (episode running time wise, not narratively as Heller has spent years in the hospital himself) Syd Barrett (played by Rachel Keller, and also inspired by the member of Pink Floyd). He is instantly infatuated with her, and their relationship brings them closer together, and eventually out of Clockworks.
I will attempt to avoid spoilers for the season as a whole but will need to discuss the season’s opener first, so if that is too much, to shorten the rest of the review, watch the show.
It is soon revealed that even though David has spent his life believing and being treated as someone with a mental illness, we are shown that there’s more to it than that. A chase, a conspiracy, a giant battle, and multiple one-takes are shown in the first episode. Also, a lot of power exudes from Heller. The episode (and the rest of the series) relies on interrogation-like scenes, and the dialogue in each masterfully written scripts are just sublime. The pilot script is outstanding and made me inspect every episode closer to minute details which led me to watch every episode at minimum three times each.
It’s insanely early, but I will be willing to put money down on both Dan Stevens and Aubrey Plaza for award recognition. From Plaza’s ferocity that occasionally borders between sexy and absolutely terrifying, to Stevens who shows someone who is truly intertwined into their own mental illness that they want to escape from it, but while afraid of what it means to be without it.
And this is why I had to write about the show.
Visually, narrative, the dialogue, the performances, they are all impeccable, but at the core of the show is a person attempting to live with and without a mental illness. There are moments, phrases, and powerful imagery that constantly would strike a chord with me. I have been left speechless and frozen in my seat because they are moments, phrases, or an image that I have encountered, but more importantly have encountered very recently.
As someone with anxiety, depression, and a tendency to overthink every situation makes a violent cocktail that leaves me to isolate myself from my loved ones. It also makes it really tough to work and do things I love doing like writing and going out to watch movies, which used to be my one escape from reality. I know it’s been shown before, and will be shown again in the future, and we’ve all read it somewhere but seeing it on screen this time hit me harder than it has before. All of this has made me who I am, but it won’t define me.
Noah Hawley and his writing/production crew dealt with mental illnesses with such grace, and compassion that I was left in awe for the 8 hours of the show. To have someone battle, and tackle it on the forefront became so refreshing and when all the latest comic book films have been about making it bigger and bigger, Legion took a very deep dive into someone’s own explosive and scary mind.
At the end of the pilot, David asks Syd “is this real?” When our mind plays tricks on us daily, it’s so easy to lose sight of reality.