Legion was nothing if not unexpected. When the murmurings from Fox first began to eek out, there was talk of a show set in the School for Gifted Youngsters. It made sense. With decades of X-Men stories and side-characters to mine, there was a familiar sandbox to play in, set up by the multiple X-Men movies. Above all; it was safe.
The original low-budget X-Men movie, by Bryan Singer, probably had more of a hand in the current superhero blockbusters than we'd give it credit for, but each installment stayed fairly pedestrian, if not routine. Oddly, of a metaphor for minorities and LGBT, they didn't really break the (master) mold. So it's the most pleasant of surprises that Legion is something of a mutant itself.
Based on the X-Men comics, David Haller was the son of the titular Charles Xavier (Prof X) and became schizophrenic following a terrorist attack that also ignited his psionic powers. Not the most accessible of characters to base your show around. Yet the makers of Legion commit to the crazy. Whether further episodes will make an effort to tie Legion into the X-Verse is yet to be seen, but it really doesn't matter. The show is happy to be it's own animal, and while charcters make mention of "mutants", there's not an X-Reference in site until the title at the finale.
Legion is audacious from it's opener. It's quick-cut origin story is a sensory overload. Images are brash and the sound is cranked up. Then there's a cut to the most off-kilter visitors room you're likely to see. As if they're aware of the opening sequences effect on it's viewers, "Welcome" is dotted around the walls in different languages. Maybe in a bid to settle us in. However, two elderly spectators add even more peculiarity to the proceedings and it's clear we may have to take this chance to catch our breath. The Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital, where we find David, is an idiosyncratic dream. Instead of grisly institutions, there's a kitch sheen to everything, as if Wes Anderson had designed the production.
The show is also unapologetic in how it presents itself. The crash-cuts and odd interludes seem almost experimental. Dreams are as haunting as the most effective horrors (prepare yourself for the demon with yellow eyes), patients get spattered on walls and there's even time to squeeze in surreal dance numbers. However, the most interesting thing about Legion is you don't feel like you can trust him. Most pilots have to leave gaps in the trail of breadcrumbs to keep the network interested enough to green-light the show. The makers just leave them in a pile and get a leaf blower to them - and it works!
Whether they can keep up the splendor for a season or more is something to be seen, but we're going to have a blast finding out!
4* - One Flew Over The Stepford Cuckoos' Nest