Ever get the feeling someone is messing with your mind?
That's the clever conceit behind FX's assault to our senses. FX gleefully sends us down a rabbit hole where we can't trust our main protagonist nor the real/imagined world he lives in.
And it works.
Dan Stevens plays David aka "Legion" the powerful mutant of X-Men fame. Some of you may know me as "DC" man as Marvel comics aren't exactly my thing. Less so for the X-Men. (But I do have a soft spot for Daredevil, Moon Knight and Spiderman.) However, knowing Dan Stevens from "Downton Abbey" I was attracted to this series because of his continuing effort to break himself from typecast Hell as Downton's Matthew.
One of his first efforts to break the mold came in the form of "The Guest" where he played a character named, um, "David". (Watch that typecasting Dan!) Stevens was cut, rugged and definitely ruthless.
This new iteration of a David is gaunt, fragile and more than a little spooky. Steven's chameleon like approach to roles is much appreciated. As this David, he spices his edgy character with humor and cynicism.
David is very special though. He is a mutant with singular powers. He has the ability to "absorb" other people through his touch and through this, he is not only is granted the special powers they may or may not have but he is able to manifest these thoughts through telekinesis. So what is the drawback? Their thoughts become his.
Let's just say the attic that is his conscious mind is getting a little crowded. Hence the stay in a psychiatric hospital.
Since we're talking actors and roles we may well get to the rest of the cast.
Seen above is also the fan fav that is Aubrey Plaza. Most of you probably remember her from "Scott Pilgrim" and definitely from "Parks and Recreation". Here's a tip though, see "Safety Not Guaranteed" it's a fun little sci-fi flick for those into time travel and she is great in it.
Plaza plays "Lenny" David's partner in crime at the sanatorium. She is just as crazy/sane as he is and her character takes an interesting twist that leaves her, "here nor there".
Oh how I wish I had watched "Fargo" now. Rachel Keller, alum of that aforementioned TV show, joins the cast as Syd Barrett. She's fun, affectionate and quirky. You just want to hug her. But please don't. Syd is special too as is her relationship with David. In one funny moment David blurts out his wish to be Syd's boyfriend. Naturally, she accepts right away.
Only with the "no touching" rule they have to content themselves with holding on to a mutual tie. It's cute and a little funny.
Jean Smart (center above) also graces the televisual pages of Legion. My TV history goes way back to "Designing Women" with her but she also had a great turn in "24" as the sad, rejected wife of a corrupt president.
Smart plays "Melanie Bird" and there seems to be a little confusion as to whether she plays a good or bad guy. Yes, she rescues David near the end of the episode and is partnered with Sydney. But if you watched the previews for upcoming episodes her loyalty is called into question.
I didn't know what to call these two during the show so I started to refer them as "Cloak and Dagger." Hey, it's a Marvel property. I know that much. Turns out they are, Kerry Loudermilk and Ptonomy Wallace respectively. (Amber Midthunder and Jeremie Harris.) They seem to be "operatives" for Melanie Bird and were sent in hard pursuit for David once he escaped the Sanatorium. Do they powers? I guess we'll find out.
Obviously, the inspiration from this TV show comes from the Marvel comic. But when you look a little closer the inspiration runs a little deeper and come in the form of sight gags and Easter Eggs.
Take the oddball looking phone "booth" above. It is reminiscent of the quirky set design you used to see from the much beloved "Prisoner" TV show imported from the UK back in the Seventies. Come to think of it, you could add the funny clothes the denizens of "The Village" used to wear with the equally strange clothes the inmates of the Clockwork Psychiactric Hospital.
Speaking of which. "Clockworks" is reminiscent of the movie "A Clockwork Orange" wherein a lot of it's characters weren't exactly level headed and prone to fits of violence and fantasy.
Did you notice David's love interest is named Syd Barrett? Syd Barrett was the name of one of the original members of the band, Pink Floyd. Poor Syd was infamous for his bouts with mental instability and he found himself in and out of mental institutions too.
I got a vibe from the TV show "Lost" when a younger version of David tried to hang himself. It reminded me of the character of John Locke when he too tried to kill himself. I'm pretty sure he also used an electrical cord in his attempt. Locke suffered from depression and angst over his place or purpose in the world. Just like David.
Very Special Effects
FX made terrific use of digital effects for this show. They must of paid a pretty penny but the results were outstanding.
The junk spinning about in David's kitchen is a swirl of confusion. The blizzard of debris is a visual metaphor for the out of control madness that swirls about in David's mind.
The stop motion - slow motion effects were amazing too. They lent themselves to the explosive nature of David's personality and the destructiveness he can leave in his wake.
Then there was this disconcerting stunner as Syd's face appeared on the back of a man's head as David tried to make good his escape from "Cloak and Dagger". My mouth was agape as this out of place visage spoke to David. And he rather matter of factly spoke back to it!
Then there was this great piece as one of David's rescuers took a bullet but sent his assailant spinning off into the distance. It looked like something from a superhero movie if not "The Matrix."
The Devil With The Yellow Eyes
This is how he looks as David refers to him. But the title card above makes it seems like David is the Devil with the Yellow Eyes. Perhaps we are to believe this is just an inner demon of David's own making that haunts his psyche.
Ol' yellow eyes appears just near the end of the episode and it seems David knows exactly where to find him. Is he subconsciously looking for him? When he looks back again the Devil is gone. So, he is either a manifestation of David's mind or, worse yet, the remnant of someone or some thing David absorbed long ago.
Speaking of spooky things what is up with the "Devil Dog"?
We get a brief look at this creature as it sits in a covered cage near where the head honcho begins his pool soaked interrogation of David.
The character known as "The Eye" is also carving out a dog as David gets an earlier interrogation.
I've inserted the "Clockworks" picture again because if you look just below the word "Psychiatric" you'll notice a sitting dog figure placed above the entrance to the hospital. Looks like we have much to learn about this cagey canine.
Fun & Games
Fun & Games
How many dance numbers do you normally get to see in a serious sci-fi show?
I would imagine not too many. This bit of whimsy was a delight. I would venture to say the cast had fun doing it too. Like the swirl of debris and the exploding interrogation, the farcical dance numbers highlight the madness that goes on in and outside David's mind. But that's not to say his "madness" isn't all depression and delusion. There are also moments of joy.
Okay, so it Wasn't all Fun and Games
Here's the fate of poor Lenny after David switched bodies with Sydney after kissing her. I guess Syd wasn't to adept at handling the bazooka that is David's mind. Thankfully it looks like Lenny will be hanging around in David's psyche as the season progresses.
And speaking of touching.
As the show wrapped up the camera made the deliberate choice to close up and linger on the handshake between David and Melanie Bird. Shouldn't that be bad news for Ms. Bird? Why didn't her mind explode into a hundred different thoughts? No trading bodies? Is she "special" too?
It would seem so, although a person that can pull off a rescue like that might have other resources. Such as a defense against David's unusual powers.
Legion gave a surreal, trippy and entertaining look into the life of David. In the comics, he is regarded as the most powerful of mutants. Word is, we won't get to see the other more famous X-Men that grace the silver screen. That's okay, David's world is be enough and if this first episode is any indication, it's fans will become legion.