Legion is Back, a Balancing Act over the Madness

in review •  2 years ago 

We present the English translation of the post by @serialfiller titled Legion è Tornata, in Equilibrio sopra la Follia originally in Italian

Translation by @destrudo revised by the @davinci.polyglot team.

Legion is Back, a Balancing Act over the Madness

Last year among the many TV shows proposed there was one in particular that stood out and that, in a way, could be deemed revolutionary. A show that has surely redefined the concept of comics/superheroes in TV, giving the input to what I dubbed as a kind of phase 3 for the genre in a previous post. A phase which followed the arrival of Arrow and MARVEL’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on broadcast tv and the subsequent rise in quality with the MARVEL-Netflix collaboration, particularly after the first Daredevil. The product I am talking about is based on the X-Men universe and is once again signed by MARVEL. Its name, take note, is Legion.

I’ll try to limit or omit SPOILERS, even though the complexity of the narrative and the series’ overall production make it hard to craft summaries able to convey a thorough comprehension of the show. It’s just one of those things that have to be seen with one’s own eyes. I’ll try to at least convey the visionary madness of the show and draw you in just as much as I have been, in order to prepare you for your own viewing.

The reason why I was so impatient for Legion and it’s first season was the identity of the mind behind its creation: Noah Hawley.

This name won’t ring a bell for many of you, but to the keen serialminder seeing Hawley’s name in connection to any TV production will make their hair stand on end. The screenwriter, director, and producer is in fact the mind behind the television masterpiece that goes by the name of Fargo, in which he brought back familiar themes from the Cohen brothers’ movie and shaped 3 seasons of the anthological series, scoring a great feedback from both critics and public.

Knowing Hawley’s work ethic and his way of thinking, there was great curiosity with regards to how he would approach a TV show based off of a comic-book.

By his own will and admission, the show was merely inspired by the comic-book, leaving a lot of leeway for the New York-based creative genius. It will take just a few scenes of Legion for you to fall in love with it and to understand how revolutionary it is. A visionary, oneiric, original, multi-layered show. A twisted and complicated series. Forget being able to watch it while cooking or doing household chores: you’ll need your full attention.

It took me only the 8 episodes which aired on FX in 2017 to understand that what I had before me was a masterpiece, destined to last. My hype for the second season has now become unmeasurable.

After watching the first episode of the second season, I can safely decree that not only has Legion not lost the first season's polish but has even tried to raise the bar. A bar that was already set at the highest possible level of TV quality.

Watching Legion is like walking through a maze or, to borrow the words from the voiceover at the beginning of one episode (John Hamm‘s voice!):

There is a maze in the desert carved from sand and rock.
A vast labyrinth of pathways and corridors a hundred miles long, a thousand miles wide, full of twists and dead ends.
Picture it a puzzle.
You walk, and at the end of this maze is a prize just waiting to be discovered.
All you have to do is find your way through.
Can you see the maze? Its walls and floors, its twists and turns? Good, because the maze you've created in your mind is itself the maze.
There is no desert, no rock or sand.
There is only the idea of it.
But it's an idea that will come to dominate your every waking and sleeping moment.
You're inside the maze now.
You cannot escape.
Welcome to madness.

Monologues, dialogues, and descriptions of this level are swarming in Legion. A multilayered tale that reminds us of Nolan’s Inception. An ability to tell a story through the skillful and awe inspiring usage of images, fully reminiscent of Lynch’s classic perdition with which Legion shares not only Twin Peaks-y atmospheres, but also the will to pierce the human mind and toy with it, with its fears and its lack of self-control. Hawley’s show manages to be all encompassing and alienating at the same time, cuddling us until we realize that we’ve lost ourselves in the mind of the main character. The viewer feels a background of uneasiness being swept away by the genius and the circularity of a story that succeeds in trying to continuously overdo it and go off track and then always converges on a disarming narrative coherence.

The viewer and the story’s main characters find themselves in a situation not dissimilar to that of the man that dreamt of a butterfly one night but once awake couldn’t understand whether he was a man that had just dreamt of being a butterfly or a butterfly that was dreaming of being a man. Chaos, confusion, uncertainty, an impossibility to imagine reality and realizing one’s imagination.

The technical team is praiseworthy with its ideation of surreal scenographies, blinding and twisted costumes, cinematographic-level photography, and music that ranges between the classical and the psychedelic. The actors were seemingly born to act those parts, with interpretations that never go overboard and always maintain perfect balance.

There’s also a Kubrick vibe in this show, which you can feel in the great attention to details in each and every scene, and the will to travel towards the unknown. For the most part it’s a psychological story that demands a lot from the viewer but offers much more.

Already in the first episode of the second season there are at least 6-7 high-tension scenes that other TV shows would’ve easily capitalized on and around which they would’ve built entire seasons. Here, instead, we witness scenes and characters strongly rooted in the absurd and the surreal which remain completely, and unfailingly, convincing, oneiric ballroom challenges, hallucinations that project us into other astral planes, viruses that aren’t viruses, an embedding of images reminiscent of Russian matryoshka dolls, astral plane meetings where conversations take place in ways that transcend normal schemes of communication or sex scenes between two lovers that can never touch else they will self-destruct.

Legion is a true orgy of ideas, visions, and hallucinations and, just like any self-respecting orgy, it generates a pleasure that is multifaceted and multilayered, just like itself. An almost psychotic pleasure that dives deep into the viewers’ eyes and touches the vast reaches of their minds.

Approaching Legion is not easy. You have got to let go: lose yourself in that maze and hopelessly delve into its delightful delirium.

CC0 Creative Commons
Thanks to @mrazura for the ITASTEM logo.

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