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Friday, April 21, 2017

What The Whatty What? #Legion #FX #FullSeasonReview

What The Whatty What? #Legion #FX #FullSeasonReview

All pictures courtesy of FX and 21st Century Fox

What the hell did I just spend eight weeks watching? Was this a comic book TV series or one really long Rorshach/Breckin-Meyers/AreYouCrazy test, because I'm not sure I passed. This review is coming hella late so let's just get into it already, right?

Legion (#Legion) is FX's and Fox's first step into comic book television programming based on their still very lucrative ownership of Marvel's X-men. Side note: Just imagine how crazy comic book films would be if FOX had learned to expand their properties long ago. Anyway, Legion stars Dan Stevens fresh off his wild success as Beast in Disney's newest Beauty and the Beast (2017). Though never mentioned or given that code name in this first season, Dan Stevens plays the titular character but his current name is David Haller. David has a problem, among many. He is—oh, how do I put this delicately? He's crazy. Like, bonkers out of his mind, “dude, you need to talk to Jesus... or at the very least Dr. Phil” kinda crazy. Or at least he thinks he is. All his life he's been told that there is something wrong with him mentally. This, in a rather brilliant opening sequence on episode 1, is shown through a series of flashbacks where he starts out as a normal child then gradually becomes a ne'er-do-well who robs convenient stores and blows the windows out of the back of cop cars. All that delinquency winds him up in the institution. And this is where we find our sorta/maybe/one-day(?) hero.

David and Lenny 
Living a routine and regimented life, David wakes up in the institution, takes pills, goes out to the common area, sits with his good friend Lenny and stares at nothing, waiting patiently through the rest of the day until lunch when he can finally have some pie. Cherry pie's his favorite. And really, who doesn't love some good sweet American cherry pie. Mmmm! Oh, his friend? Yeah, Lenny is this crazy Beetlejuice-lookin' chick played by Aubrey Plaza. They love to joke about whether this wheelchair-bound guy's spittle is aided by milk or some other lactic substance. At first, she seems like a minor character, but she gets really interesting.

Things change for the better weirder better... Better-weirder when he suddenly sees a new girl named Syd Barrett. Let me start by saying that I find her rather refreshing. She looks to have a very average body—not overly toned, not fat, not thin. She just looks average. Take offense all you want, but in Hollywood, the land of extremes where you're either plus-sized or waif-thin, seeing a woman with a Midwest body and a gorgeous face is refreshing. Moving on, Syd introduces herself in a group therapy session which seems very ala carte/take it or leave it. Her damage: she can't be touched. David immediately makes her his girlfriend by asking, “Do you wanna be my girlfriend?” They engage in a heated I'm-not-touching-you romance and then we suddenly...

I Suddenly Have a Crush

Zip forward into the future. Here, David sits at a table being interviewed by Clark, a purple-suited fella who works with a very silent partner undergoing permtastic-fro-ness called The Eye. They act as police or authorities talking about an incident that David was a part of. Note that this show, in setting up its format and language plays heavily with both time and space and dreams and memories, so you may very well get confused at times but that's fine.

Holding Hands... Sort of. 
We zip back to the institution where we see David and the girl continuing their romance until she has to leave and the day of the incident arrives. The night before, David has a smaller occurrence where he finds himself floating mid-air on his bed. The bed crashes and breaks which make the guards upset. They try to confine him to a different room. As they are moving him, Syd gets released. She's going home when he runs to her and, in the heat of passion, kisses her against her wishes. And then we have our first “what the *&$!#” moment. So, as David tells the story in the future and we switch back and forth, he explains that suddenly he became her and she became him. What? Yeah, from here on out, this review might get really confusing if you don't know the backstory of the comic, but I will try keeping it as simple as possible, while linguistically confusing you, per usual.

The incident occurs totally without him. See, he exits the building in her body. Meanwhile, as Syd is stuck in his body, things go crazy. If you haven't guessed by now, both of them are mutants. Her power is body transference through touch. Now in his body, Syd can't handle his massive amount of unbridled power and inadvertently causes the incident. Somehow, she manages to wall off all of the rooms—no doors, no exits, no vents of any kind for any room, sealing everyone in her ward inside. During this, she somehow kills Lenny, leaving her body half-merged within the wall. And you feel really bad for Aubrey Plaza for a minute, but can't focus on things because it continues getting weirder.

As it turns out, her power only lasts for a few hours. David sits outside eating and drinking when he suddenly gets his real body back. Now he's out and himself. On the reverse, Syd is also out but she is not free because some people have taken her thinking she was David. They want David for his power. Drumroll! And his power is...

Amazing  Ordinary Amy and David
Psychokinesis, telepathy and basically anything dealing with the mind. In fact, it is believed that he is the most powerful mentally-enhanced mutant ever. And he has no idea who he is or how he got these powers. Now, get ready for an onslaught of characters that are all important. First, we have David's sister that he goes to for a brief stay. Amy Haller is his groovy older sister who has been looking out for him since they were kids. She knows some secrets but won't tell them because... well, they're secrets. We have the group of people who wanted to kidnap David and ended up taking Syd: Ptonomy Wallace who is a memory specialist that can remember literally every part of his life; Cary Loudermilk and Kerry Loudermilk who are actually one in the same (more on that later); and Dr. Melanie Bird who also has mental capabilities. They want David to fight a coming war that they are predicting between humans and mutants or other mutants. They want to train him to utilize his power and take his place as the lead mutant, but first, they have to figure out his damage.

Syd, Dr. Melanie, and Kerry

So, through a series of outlandish scenarios, this group, along with Syd, rescue David from the police/authority-looking guys (purple suit and The Eye) because those dudes want both Syd and David. They break away and take David to some place to train out in the middle of the woods. And so the show truly begins and gets to its thrust for the first season. In order to train him, they must first get down to the core of who he is—know thyself so that your pursuits may be true. In order to do that, they have to access deep memories that hide very important pieces of his past and figure out why he always thought his powers were a mental disease. But when Ptonomy starts digging through his head, and David and Dr. Melanie start walking through his memories, something goes wrong. They discover that he has a parasite that is literally hiding and re-writing David's memories. And suddenly your mind is blown.

Ahh. Why You Mad, Bro?
That female friend named Lenny? Yeah, actually a fat white dude named Benny in real life. David grew up apparently hating his father because he was always gone. And because of this, David has a memory of a storybook entitled “The Angriest Little Boy in the World” which is one of the memory personifications in which he hid his own dark thoughts. Okay? To review, there is the normal David, there is the Angriest Little Boy, and then there is this parasite, all of them occupy David's head. When in his memories the Angriest Little Boy tries killing him, the parasite stalks him and the group, and David can't ever control what's happening.

I'll be brief here because it actually gets rather repetitive as a series but the group has to figure out how to get rid of the parasite without killing David; the parasite is trying to take over. As it turns out, the Lenny character—the woman he had envisioned as his best friend—is actually the parasite. Don't get me wrong, Benny—the white guy the character is actually based on—does exist. But the parasite, in reality, is this horrific Humpty Dumpty-lookin' mofo that David calls Devil with the yellow eyes. It has to disguise itself as the more palatable Lenny within David's mind. So the question then is how long has this parasite been connected to David. Answer: Almost his entire life.

Probably Spent His Easter Avoiding Being Painted, Hidden, Found, Cracked and Deviled

The Eye and purple suit are still pursuing David and the group, but David focuses on finding this parasite and doing the nasty with his girlfriend. Though not fully in control, David does figure out how to bring Syd into his personally created dreamscape where they can touch all they want. They have sex, it's mind-blowing (ha! Get it? Man, I'm really crushin' the humor) and they quickly become addicted. But when David discovers that The Eye has jailed his sister, he knows he has to go get her.
The scientist of the group, Carey does some cat scan and MRI analysis on David's brain to find the parasite. Meanwhile, his other self Kerry goes with the group to try and get answers about David. See, Carey is a mutant who exists as two people. He is an older scientist while Kerry is sort of his sister that most of the time lives inside of his body, but comes out every so often because she loves the action of a fight. She also doesn't age like him unless she is outside of his body. It's cool but very bizarre.

Cary and Kerry; On of These Things Is Not Like the Other

Anyway, somehow the entire group gets stuck inside of David's mind after he rescues his sister and brings her to their childhood home on Lenny's direction. David/Lenny want answers about their parents. Amy finally tells him that he was adopted and that's when Lenny traps everyone back in an alternate reality in the institution. Here, it is important to note that Dr. Melanie has had quite a bit of experience with these alternate reality scenarios as her husband has been inside of one for the last twenty years, essentially Inception-ing himself into an imaginative kingdom/wasteland where anything can happen.

The group must get Melanie's husband Oliver Bird who comes up with the perfect solution to defeat or at least suppress the parasite in David's head. Meanwhile, Syd works to convince everyone back in the institution that this is all fake and they're really trapped deep inside David's mind as controlled by Lenny. Essentially they're on the third dream level of Inception. Yeah, that icy mountain one. Somehow they all get out while David talks to himself to problem-solve what's going on. He figures that this parasite is also a powerful telekinetic and was probably the enemy of his real father who he believes was also a powerful mind-enhanced mutant (side note: his father happens to be Professor Xavier of the X-men but in the comics, he doesn't know about the baby for a long time). David believes that the two of them fought, the parasite lost its real body and retreated into a nearby vessel: David's body.

Naturally, David gets out of his mental prison, saves the group from a machine gun outside, and yanks Oliver Bird out of his dream state. Though Oliver doesn't recognize his wife, he does know he's married. Anyway, one final battle between David and the parasite and it suddenly jumps from David's body into the other mutants, hopping around essentially playing Duck-Duck-Goose with their bodies. It ends up in Oliver's body and he escapes with Lenny in his car. You get the very distinct feeling that almost nothing has been resolved and that this entire first season was a prologue to a greater story. But one thing is good: Syd and David can be together. Or at least they could have had David not been sucked into a tiny snow-globe orb at the end of the first season.

Oh Yeah, Here's Ptonomy. Almost Forgot the Black Guy, Tokening It Up

What is my grade? I give it a B. It's only eight episodes but it does get a little repetitive concerning the parasite. Yet, it still moves fast. It's a conundrum in that little seems to happen, yet it's still entertaining. Maybe that was because I was struggling to figure out what was going on the whole time or because I just got enamored with the visuals, but either way, it had my attention. The entire plot is summed up with: “why are you blocking me from helping you? I'm not blocking you from helping me.” In fact, on numerous occasions, the conversation is literally, “Why are you fighting me? What memories are you hiding?” and “I'm not trying to hide anything, I swear.” It's a trippy series that probably only makes sense if you're really into mental calisthenics or you are really high (I enjoy the mental calisthenics myself). I think it's a series that gets much better upon second viewing after you know everything.

But there are a few flaws if you ask me. The very notion that Lenny got killed at the beginning of the series confused me later when you realize that Lenny never existed. Granted, the language they used there was brilliant as they just said that “that poor girl was stuck in a wall,” and knowing that Syd was literally stuck behind a walled off-door she created from her doing means that could've been the reference. But again, it still had me confused on if that was the intent or not.

Also, when really breaking it down and looking past the clutter, what else happened? I think here it boils down to the question of what you want out of the first season of a series weighted against the length of a single season. With only eight episodes (side note: Writer's Strike here we come. A post on that later) for the first season and just about as many characters, it played well to have much of the writing solely focused on character development. But outside of that, you're going into David's mind, the angriest boy chases, Devil with the yellow eyes chases you, then you're out. And you repeat it the next episode. And the next. But I think what makes the series is its 70s(?) atmosphere and the innocence that both Syd and David show through the process. They are the epitome of girl and boy-next-door that want desperately to be cool and only end up being themselves, which is cool in its own right—Holy crap! I'm totally putting that line in one of my YA books. If you steal it I will stab you in the thigh. Again, the casting here is impeccable and Dan Stevens sheds some of the blond Ken-doll veneer he has shown in films like The Guest and has in his IMDb profile pic.

Should you be watching? Sure. Again, there are so many comic book iterations out there, but all of them are different and go at different speeds. This is far different than Marvel's Netflix offerings, Agents of Shield, and any DC shows on the CW. It's thought-provoking and rich in beautiful imagery. But if you're looking for relaxation “no-brain-work” entertainment, this is not for you. It is not straightforward and the conversations stray off into tangents quite often. It's explorative. But, again, if you like that, this might be good for you. Check it out on FX on demand or Hulu, I believe.

What do you think? Have you heard of FX's Legion? If not, do you think you'll check it out on demand? If you have seen it, what did you think? Is it one of the best new shows this year, or did you tune out after the first dream level? And how many other personalities do you think David really has? And what about that capture bubble at the end? What the heck was that? Let me know in the comments below.

Check out my 5-star comedy novel, Yep, I'm Totally Stalking My Ex-Boyfriend. #AhStalking
If you’re looking for a scare, check the YA novel #AFuriousWind, the NA novel #DARKER#BrandNewHome or the bizarre horror #ThePowerOfTen. For those interested in something a little more dramatic and adult, check out #TheWriter. Both season 1 and season 2 are out NOW, exclusively on Amazon. Stay connected here for updates on season 3 coming summer 2017. If you like fast action/crime check out #ADangerousLow. The sequel A New Low will be out in a few months. Look for the mysterious Sci-fi episodic novella series Extraordinary premiering soon on Amazon and my blog. Join us on Goodreads to talk about books and TV, and subscribe to and follow my blog with that Google+ button to the right.

Until next time, “Bend this spoon. Soon, you will realize that it is not the spoon that bends, but you.”

P.S. I know it's paraphrased from The Matrix, but I didn't have the energy (too lazy) to look up the exact quote. But David was totally giving me a Neo vibe the entire time. In fact, if you look at, practically the entire first season can be neatly overlaid onto The Matrix. Dr. Melanie (Morpheus), the black guy is that one black guy from The Matrix that didn't come back in the sequels. Though he doesn't technically betray them, Oliver Bird is similar to the Ignorance is Bliss guy in the Matrix (dang it, I can't remember his name). Syd, Trinity—too easy! And David has totally been “living in a dream world, Legion.” And here you thought I was going to include an Inception quote. Tsk tsk! I'll think of a better sign-off next time.

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