David Haller is a troubled young man, a junkie and potentially violent, who may also be more than human. His character fits into Marvel’s X Men universe, and the first question this show poses is whether David is insane, a powerful mutant or both? David has struggled with mental illness since late childhood, 10 or 11 years old by his own recollection. Diagnosed as schizophrenic, he has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for years. When he meets Sydney, a fellow patient at Clockworks, she challenges everything he has been told and he falls in love with her. With Syd, David starts a journey to uncover what is true and whether he is ill or powerful.
Legion is a show full of narratives and counter-narratives, just like our hero’s brain. Like David, it is impossible to say with any confidence what we know. Doctors constantly ask David how he feels, because it is the only thing he can know for sure. A lot is going on in this show. Colours are as important here as in a Peter Greenway film. Trees and people hiding in trees is a recurring motif, and the fallibility of perception and memory are the main themes. Timelines zig zag and it’s almost impossible to keep any of the stories straight in your mind as you watch. Even time is tricky. We are led to believe it is set in the 70’s but costumes and technology are often not contemporary to that period. We have clocks without hands. We have rapid shifts in light and shadows and an extremely slow moving river, the flow of which seems to change direction at different points. All of this adds to the strangeness and magic of the show. It makes us wonder whether we can really know anything.
Sometimes slow and at other times frenetic, the entire script seems to be designed to keep us on edge, grasping at ideas and information like straws. The direction is masterful. The more times you watch a scene the more you see. Layers upon layers of meanings and metaphors. The soundtrack is superlative. Each song matched perfectly to the action, but also suggesting further hidden meanings. The acting is spot on and the characters are brought brilliantly to life, often with humour, while at other times we can taste their fear.
It is a superhero show, in a way, but it is also psychological horror and drama. Think Jessica Jones meets Twin Peaks. I look forward to finding out what happens next.