What is Legion?
Legion is an adaptation of the Marvel comic of the same name, by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz. On the page David Haller is the mutant son of Professor X and suffers from dissociative identity disorder, with his various personalities controlling different superpowers. On the small screen Haller is still the son of Charles Xavier — whom we’re yet to encounter — but his story has been given something of a makeover. Season 1 of the series dealt with David’s perceived schizophrenia, his time in a psychiatric institution, his interactions with a disparate groups of mutants, including love interest Syd, and his efforts to destroy ‘The Shadow King,’ the malevolent mutant that has haunted Haller all his life. Season 2 continues the story.
Just BEWARE OF LEGION SPOILERS ahead.
The Return of David Haller
Like the parasite that attached itself to David Haller (Dan Stevens) during childhood, messing with his mind, so Season 1 of Legion attached itself to the viewer, burrowing into your brain. The show was quite unlike any superhero story ever put on screen. David’s fragile mental state made him an unreliable narrator, his memories — which played a big part in proceedings — seldom to be trusted. While he was a superhero — potentially the most powerful mutant the world has ever seen — he very rarely did anything heroic.
And his story was wrapped in a strange puzzle box of a series, with showrunner Noah Hawley consistently wrong-footing the audience by meshing fantasy and reality, and frequently fracturing Legion‘s narrative and timeline. Which made the show a challenging watch. But one that turned into must-see TV for those paying attention.
So it’s good to have David back. Though the time between seasons has been far from kind to our troubled protagonist. Season 1 ended on something of a cliffhanger, with Haller hoping to have some respite from the chaos and drama having banished ‘the devil with yellow eyes’ from his brain. Only to immediately be whisked away by some mysterious orb.
He has been recovered at the start of Season 2. But what felt like a day to David inside the orb, was 362 days in the real world. Meaning he’s lost a year. And much has changed.
What’s New in Season 2?
In the interim, David’s mutant team of Syd (Rachel Keller) Ptonomoy (Jeremie Harris), Kerry (Amber Midthunder) and Cary (Bill Unwin) have teamed up with Division III, the shady government organization they were battling in Season 1. Seems these particular mutants have convinced the powers that be that they are harmless. And so the former foes are working together to fight their common enemies, studying and defending against new mutant threats.
The most pressing of which is The Shadow King. Having broken up with David, he possessed Oliver (Jemaine Clement) and was last seen heading south with Lenny (Aubrey Plaza). Who is also an incarnation of The Shadow King. We then get a glimpse at Amahl Farouk (Navid Negahban), who is actually The Shadow King. Which makes this kick-off episode all a little confusing.
It Gets Weirder
We’re used to weird visuals in Legion, and this season opener is no different, with the tale of dreaming butterflies told via trippy visuals, and a dance sequence breaking up the action for what feels like half the episode’s run-time.
It gets weirder — maybe a little too weird — thanks to a new Division III character called Fukuyama, who wears a basket on his head, and communicates through a bevy of women with moustaches. And it gets scarier, with the Shadow King incarnation of Oliver infecting people with some kind of psychosis that makes their teeth chatter in peculiarly terrifying fashion.
Syd also briefly swaps places with a cat. Though to be fair that’s more awesome than weird. While she seems somehow changed in this episode, a near-silent encounter with David late-on suggesting that — much like Season 1 of Legion — nothing is what it seems. And no one is to be trusted.
Is New Legion Good?
Season 2 kicks off with a voice — which sounds rather a lot like Jon Hamm’s — talking about a maze. “A vast labyrinth of pathways and corridors 100 miles long, 1000 miles wide. Full of twists and dead ends.” And that’s what Legion can sometimes feel like. Especially for those expecting a more clear-headed David post-parasite, headlining a story with more clarity and less ambiguity.
But we’re back to examining his memories and dreams. Which can make for an infuriating viewing experience. Particularly this early in the season, when Hawley and his writers are setting stuff up rather than paying anything off.
Which makes this opening episode very much a means to an end. Introducing characters like Fukuyama and Farouk without giving them much to do. And setting up mysteries for the characters to solve. Like where David has been for the last year. Where the Syd he sees at the end of the show is right now. And how those answers are interlinked, and feed into The Shadow King’s overarching plan.
So while there’s good stuff peppered throughout, and a few intriguing detours, the episode isn’t exactly a satisfying watch. And at times, somewhat frustrating. But it will doubtless make more sense as the series proceeds. And the pieces of this complex puzzle fall into place.
Season 2 of Legion kicks off April 3 on FX in the US, while it’s April 17 on FOX in the UK.