Thanks to Fox we’ve seen the first 3 episodes of Legion, the new TV show inspired by X-Men comics. Iain McNally finds out if it’s a worthy addition to the previous X-adaptations or is destined for X-Tinction.

David Haller is, to use the scientific term, insane. His past is haunted by unexplained voices, sudden violence and gaps in his memory while his present is fractured. It’s not even entirely clear when his present is, with the first episode of Fox’s Legion sometimes leaving audiences as confused as David. Is he in the Clockworks Mental Hospital, is he being interrogated by a sinister man in a suit, or is he somewhere else entirely? One thing’s for sure, everyone seems to think that David has some strange abilities and they are all out to use him for their own ends.

Based upon the X-Men character of the same name, although not any particular storyline, the first hour long episode of Legion introduces David’s predicament in a stylish, visually arresting way before the next two episodes set out to explore who he is and how he fits into the world the show is building.

“Something new needs to happen soon”

Legion Blast

X-Men fans may be disappointed to find that most of the trappings of the franchise are nowhere to be seen, for the first three episodes at least. Apart from David himself none of the mutants who turn up (and they do call them “mutants”) seem familiar from the comics and the villains of the piece don’t appear to be versions of any comic book bad guys. There’s no Wolverine, Deadpool or Professor X to be seen either. Legion even goes so far as to avoid tying itself to any particular decade with its design, props and costumes.

This isn’t a bad thing, as it gives the series an intriguing style all of its own. Dreamlike and sometimes confusing, there’s no leather or yellow spandex to be found. Instead the show features a much more grounded yet still very stylised look, similar to the films of Wes Anderson or the TV show Pushing Daisies. Characters sport unique sometimes garish costumes, but ones that that make it very clear who and when they are. Some extras even look like they just walked off the set of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

“Why are the hot ones so crazy?”

Legion Clockworks

The show has a feel not unlike like that of the old 1960’s TV show The Prisoner,giving it a very different aesthetic to its TV superhero brethren, and clever dissolves and transitions keep the audience on their toes.

Legion also straddles multiple genres successfully, with the investigation of what is going on in the first episode giving way to surprise action scenes, dance numbers and comedy and horror elements in later episodes.

Dan Stevens, soon to be seen as The Beast in Disney’s Beauty in the Beast, manages to make David an intriguing character and avoid the pitfalls inherent in playing “crazy”. Aubrey Plaza falls victim to some of these as fellow mental patient Lenny, however she’s offset nicely by Rachel Keller’s enigmatic Syd, a woman who doesn’t want to be touched as well as the rest of the cast.

David’s understanding of his “powers” and past are slowly, but satisfyingly, teased out in these first episodes, but it remains to be seen how the story will develop over the remaining five episodes and into any subsequent seasons.

“A Legion of One”

Legion David

A cursory Google search may explain David’s powers and provide possible directions for the show but enjoying Legion isn’t dependent on puzzling over the questions it raises. Having personally only read Si Spurrier’s take on the character in X-Men: Legacy, it’s pretty clear what’s going on however, there’s more than enough here to warrant continued watching.

I’ll definitely stick with the show to find out who, or what, are the “Yellow Eyed Devil” and “The World’s Angriest Boy in the World”, what’s going on with David’s father, and how things play out for him.

Legion is a unique, interesting and enjoyable take on the X-Men universe and one that I hope we get to see explored further.

Legion premieres 10th February at 8pm on FOX HD Astro channel CH724