April 3, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Legion”


LEGION:  Tuesday 10PM on FX

The first season of Noah Hawley’s LEGION was enthralling, and a bit of a disappointment.  Hawley’s adult off-shoot of the X-Man franchise toyed with narrative structure, temporal and spatial displacement, and extravagant shifts in tone, until it seemed like Hawley might blow up the entire superhero genre.  Instead, it became increasingly clear that for all its eccentricity, Legion was forming a variation on the classic origin story.  David Haller (Dan Stevens) wasn’t a madman, and his psychic abilities weren’t psychosis.  He really was a mutant, and his distorted reality was due to the fact that his brain had been hijacked by a supervillain known as The Shadow King, eventually identified as Amahl Farouk (Navid Negahban).  Hawley’s visual resourcefulness never deserted him, but Legion wasn’t the wild creative statement it could have been.

With that knowledge, Season 2 can be approached with the appropriate level of expectations.  The season premiere, written by Hawley and Co-Executive Producer Nathaniel Halpern, and directed by Tim Mielants, picks up almost a year after the Season 1 finale, but for David, it feels like only a few hours have passed.  We had last seen him sucked into an orb and being flown away from his friends, and part of the new season’s mystery will be what happened to him during the linear year that passed, of which he only remembers glimpses.  (And he’s hiding those.)  Finally rescued by Ptonomy (Jeremie Harris), David finds that his team–scientist Loudermilk (Bill Irwin) and his violent bodymate Kerry (Amber Midhunter), chief Melanie Bird (Jean Smart), and David’s soulmate Syd (Rachel Keller)–have gone to work with Clark (Hamish Linklater) and the government’s Division 3, which had spent much of last season hunting them down.  They’re on the trail of the Shadow King, through his own mental inhabitants, Melanie’s husband Oliver (Jemaine Clement) and Lenny Busker (Aubrey Plaza).  Farouk is apparently infecting people with a psychological virus that causes them to freeze in place, creepily chattering their teeth.  He will also grow massively stronger if his roving psyche is reunited with his missing body.  A complication:  one of those fragments David remembers from his time in the orb suggests that the vessel was sent by a mute Future Syd, who instructed him via glowing pencil sketches to at all costs reunite Farouk with his body.

So the Season 2 narrative, at least in the early going, is fairly straightforward, at least by Legion standards.  Everyone will be searching for Farouk’s body, with various players having different plans for it, while David’s memories will be ransacked to see what his true mission is and whether he can be trusted.  There’s no reason to think this won’t be fun; it just won’t be a no-holds-barred reexamination of the superhero archetype and its relation to madness.

In compensation, Hawley will give us plenty of eye candy.  There’s hardly a scene in the Legion premiere that isn’t worth watching twice, from the Division 3 cafe that serves its meals via mini-tugboats that travel up a stream in the middle of the countertop, to the only-on-Legion dance club dance-off between David, Oliver and Lenny.  Stevens and Keller bring emotion to the surreal proceedings, and Irwin provides some much-needed bits of non-conceptual humor.

Legion isn’t trying to re-invent the comic-book television wheel, and that’s a shame.  As a vehicle, though, it has its own special vroom-vroom.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."