I don’t think there’s much legitimate disagreement about the fact that the writing and characterization on FX’s Legion is thin, and that the storyline is borderline incoherent, which is why it took an exposition dump this week between crazy David Haller and rational British David in a fantasy room within a fantasy world to more clearly explain what the hell is going on in this show.
In short, there are enough clues to indicate that David is the biological son of Charles Xavier. Xavier and the fantasy world parasite, Amahl Farouk the Shadow King, battled it out in the Astral Plane when David was a baby, and while Xavier was able to defeat the Shadow King, he could not kill him. Echoing Voldemort, the wounded soul of the Shadow King survived, attaching itself to David and tagged along to David’s new adopted family. David and the Shadow King have been battling it out for years in David’s mind — which is why David thinks he’s crazy — but Syd woke David up and strengthened him for fight going on inside of his head.
This week, David finally went mindo a mindo with the Shadow King; meanwhile, Syd and Kerry got into it with Lenny; meanwhile, the real world, Cary, Melanie, and Oliver were working to ensure that David and Syd weren’t shot to death in David’s childhood bedroom.
It’s more coherent than it sounds in print, but not by much. The fact that so much of this season has taken place in the astral plane has been both a boon and a detriment to the series. For the comic book laymen among us, it may have taken a few episodes before we even realized how high the stakes were in the dream world, where Noah Hawley’s characters often feel like Ryan Murphy characters in that characters could die but not die. That notion was even more confused when Syd put on the glasses Cary made and learned that some of the monsters within the fantasy world aren’t even real within the astral plane (what is reality is such a challenging concept for this show).
I’m sure there are those — particularly those more familiar with the comics — who had less difficulty lining up all the dots and visualizing the storyline (it’s a schooner, dumbass), but for many of the rest of us, the exposition dump at the chalkboard this week was absolutely necessary to help us make sense of series.
On the other hand, who the hell cares, right? Every week of Legion could be a brilliantly acted Noah Hawley music video, and most of us would be content with just that. There are moments in the series in which I find myself battling to stay awake, but every episode has at least a few giddy, intoxicating sequences that pull us to rapt attention. This week, that sequence was set to an electronic remix of Maurice Ravel’s “Boléro,” which is easily one of the most enchanting, stupendous television sequences of the year, or of the last several. There wasn’t a lot of meat to it, although there rarely is when it comes climactic battle sequences in comic-book properties, but wow, it was fun to watch.
“Fun to watch” describes much of Legion, especially scenes involves Aubrey Plaza, who is doing work that many of us may not have believed she was capable. Honestly, it’s God’s work.
April from Parks and Rec …
… looks like a deranged Tim Burton villain on heroin:
Has anyone ever had more fun than Aubrey Plaza must be having on this series?
It’s just a shame that the substance doesn’t match the style in Legion, because aside form Hawley’s flair for visuals and a mind for creepy fucked-up imagery, there are a lot of very good actors putting in very strong performances for very thinly written characters (Jemaine Clement and Jean Smart as Oliver and Melanie Bird, for instance). The pilot episode displayed a lot of potential for the series, but while it has been able to exceed that potential in some ways, the story is still lacking.
But when a show is this much fun to watch, does it matter?