“Legion” Review- A look at an unreliable narrator

      Noah Hawley’s new television series “Fargo” has been held in critical acclaim, having already aired two seasons, and with an upcoming third season starring Ewan McGregor, Carrie Coon and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. In between, Hawley has created what could potentially be one of the most twisted and confusing mind-benders of all time: “Legion.”

      A TV show based on the Marvel comic book character of the same name, “Legion” is the story of David Haller, a severely paranoid, schizophrenic mutant (a person with abilities that normal humans lack) with the ability to hear people’s thoughts and move things with his mind. With the help of his romantic interest and her mysterious companions, David goes on a journey to find out just who he really is…and isn’t.

      From the start, “Legion” messes with your mind. Set in a non-specified ‘60s/‘70s blend of a world, characters, events and places pop up with no frame of reference. Under no circumstance can you go into this show knowing every single thing that will happen on screen. Some things are put there as references to other things, and other things simply occur just to mess with your head, such as a random choreographed dance sequence in the first episode. Are we perhaps meant to see the show the way David sees things himself?

      The very British “Downton Abbey” and “Beauty and the Beast” star Dan Stevens portrays the American David Haller, and so far, I do not detect any slip in his attempt at an American accent. Take notes, Ewan McGregor. Portraying his friend Sydney “Syd” Barrett (named after the bassist of Pink Floyd), who has the ability to switch bodies with another person if she touches them (I know, it is complicated to explain, but visually is easy to understand), is Rachel Keller, a relatively newer actress who most notably appeared as Jean Smart’s two-timing granddaughter Simone Gerhardt in “Fargo Year 2.” Smart, who previously appeared in and won awards for her Emmy-nominated role as the steely crime matriarch Floyd Gerhardt in “Fargo Year 2,” makes yet another triumphant return to form as Melanie Bird, an empathic psychotherapist who uses unconventional methods to help David hone his psychic powers. Fun fact: Jean Smart joined the series immediately when asked by Hawley, despite knowing nothing about the source material. That, my friends, is true devotion.

      Aubrey Plaza resurfaces from her role as April Ludgate on “Parks and Recreation” to play David’s friend Lenny, who has a history of drug abuse and may or may not be real. Bill Irwin, Jeremie Harris and Amber Midthunder appear as fellow specialists of Bird’s. Katie Aselton portrays Amy Haller, David’s sweet but misguided sister who tries everything to remain positive in spite of her brother’s mental illness. Interestingly enough, Amy’s clothing and hairstyle are certainly reminiscent of the mid-1960s, and yes, there are shag carpets. There are several references to Marvel’s “X-Men” comics, since David Haller originated as the time-dispersed son of Professor Charles Xavier in the comic books, such as Melanie Bird’s white ensemble and blonde hair, a possible nod to Emma Frost. Sydney appears to be loosely based on Rogue, with her powers involving touch.

      The show goes above and beyond in its depiction of mental illness. David, Lenny and Sydney are institutionalized at the start of the show at Clockworks, where everyone wears orange (this is a nod to “A Clockwork Orange”) and are subjected to rather unconventional methods of treatment. David’s mental illness serves as the catalyst for the rest of the show. David himself is an unreliable narrator, since we know from the get-go that he is not (completely) crazy. Even after learning that he’s not crazy, his lifelong traumas, his difficulty in controlling his mutant abilities and hints that at least some of his problems are psychological in nature constantly make you question everything that’s happening whenever he’s on screen. Whom can he trust, and what can he feel?

      Sources: Comic Book Resources, Hollywood Reporter

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