Feb 9, 2017

Channel Surfing: Legion - "Chapter 1"

Welcome to a new column called Channel Surfing, in which I sporadically look at current TV shows and talk about them. These are not ones that I care to write weekly recaps for and are instead reflections either on the episode, the series, or particular moments. This will hopefully help to share personal opinions as well as discover entertainment on the outer pantheon that I feel is well worth checking out, or in some cases, shows that are weird enough to talk about, but should never be seen.
Creator and writer Noah Hawley did the impossible with his previous FX series Fargo. He took the eponymous film and expanded upon the universe while making the North Dakota crime story thrilling, funny, and most of all faithful. He's in an interesting boat as he approaches his next series, which is a comic book show called Legion, starring Dan Stevens as a man who is instated into a mental asylum. The answer starts off unclear, but the episode is quick to throw in psychedelic visuals and an equally 60's soundtrack that features plenty of The Who and The Rolling Stone. It definitely seems like his goal with Legion was to be as ambitiously unique with his series as he was with the homespun murder mystery. Does he succeed?
It's a little difficult to judge a premise so heady and complicated off of one episode. It definitely feels that while a lot of the information was necessary, that the real heart of the show is going to be coming next week. What the episode does give is a look into a mental asylum that is slick with visually stunning yet mundane color patterns. There's also a collection of characters that have intriguing but inconsequential moments that will hopefully be expanded upon in future episodes. Otherwise, this is Stevens' story as David Haller. We don't know why he's there or what he's going to do about it, but that will be what the series will probably solve.
For now, the series has set up a fascinating and cryptic world that shows Hawley swinging for the fences. Along with a retro soundtrack, he is quick to throw in a fascinating editing technique that better reflects Haller's psychosis. The series begins with a montage of Haller growing up and becoming a reckless figure. The images are ironically set to The Who's "Happy Jack," which helps to set the tone perfectly. The show is going to be a bit insane, and the twists that come with the episode prove it. By the end a few people are dead and the real impact of Haller's powers are starting to be seen. Much like its parent source material, the X-Men comics, the story evolves into being centered around a group of mutant outcasts lead by a smart professor type. However, that is the cliffhanger for the first episode, and if you wish to understand what's to come, you better stick around.
Hawley is known for the slow burn. Fargo usually didn't get great until it built the season over the first few episodes. Legion looks to be doing the same, though with more of a sci-fi bent that has some dizzying imagery, weird characters, and an overall sense of innovation. The one disadvantage is that there's not too many standout scenes that reflect Hawley's strength as a writer. What mostly happens is weird scenes after weird scenes that more than suggest that yes, this is going to get really weird, and it's going to do it really fast. This isn't a bad thing, especially if you like genre shows, but there's not much beyond the gimmicks to make the first episode explode with wonder. It's good, but can it sustain its weirdness with quality story?
For now, it is the latest superhero series to be welcomed onto TV. Maybe it will work in connecting itself to the X-Men movies in time. For now, it is a rogue agent that is having fun with what it has. There may be too much drama distracting from the excellent action set pieces, but again it is important to give Hawley time. Maybe he will make yet another incredible show. If not, he'll at least make one with eye-raising concepts that are challenging and above the generic fare that most other Marvel properties have. It all depends on where the mystery goes. At best, it has the chance to be as surprising as Fargo. One can only hope for that.

No comments:

Post a Comment