In its first season, FX’s “Legion” was revolutionary in the way it abandoned the predictable limits of superhero TV. Taking a more cinematic approach towards telling an intimate and introspective story, “Legion” focused less on its Marvel origins and more on the complexity of the mental illness consumed protagonist, David Haller (Dan Stevens, “Downton Abbey”). Shooting every scene with the look and feel of a movie, the combination of the series’s hypnotizing special effects and Jeff Russo’s (“Fargo”) stimulating score made “Legion” one of the most ambitious television thrills of 2017.
Last season revealed that David — whose delusions and ravaging thoughts were believed to be caused by schizophrenia — was, in truth, one of the most powerful human mutants to ever exist. It turns out that much of his mental instability was really the result of being infected by an evil parasite called the Shadow King, aka Amahl Farouk (Quinton Boisclair, “Channel Zero”), since childhood. If season one was a dynamic look into David’s insanity in a “normal” world, then season two will be more about the ways David is actually “the sane man in an insane world,” as intended by creator Noah Hawley (“Fargo”).
This season’s premiere begins with David waking up from his year-long comatose state inside Division 3, a hidden organization which recruits good mutants to search for the missing Shadow King. Though David believes that he was only gone for a single day, all of his comrades have quickly adjusted to the new normal of working alongside the old enemy without him. Just as David questions, we all too are wondering what happened to Summerland and why there are women with mustaches singing.
But being “Legion” means it’s highly unlikely that we’ll get any direct answers right off the bat (or ever). While the premiere does provide some recapping and follow-up on the cliffhanger of the last season’s finale (you know, when David was captured by a glowing orb and suspiciously floated away), it’s clear that this time around, “Legion” would still rather take us through a maze than provide us with direct resolution.
Yet, it’s exactly that mystery and frustrating lack of clarity that makes “Legion” so addicting. By traversing through the inner workings of David’s mind, we are constantly left questioning what we see. Do the random dance-fight sequences have a greater meaning? Are the trippy intermediating narrations from Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”) foreshadowing of what’s to come, or just pauses to provoke self-reflection? Important information within “Legion” is conveyed through moments of intense detail and overwhelming action alike, which leaves us to piece together our own interpretations.
Once again, Dan Stevens is exceptional as David in every way. Portraying moments of hopeless confusion to heart-wrenching compassion, Stevens manifests the unforeseeable future of his character with sublime ease. With a cast of other greats who will hopefully get more screen-time as we go on — including Aubrey Plaza (“Parks and Recreation”) as Lenny, David’s confidant who is currently held captive by the Shadow King, and Rachel Keller (“Fargo”) as Syd, David’s recurring love interest — “Legion” has all the necessary flair to excel in season two.
Additionally, with the familiar but just as awe-inspiring cinematography of the premiere alone, it’s evident that “Legion” will remain as artistically inventive as last year. Though “Legion” has no distinct time setting, the opening scene depicting Lenny and Oliver (Jemaine Clement, “Moana”) laying on a pool raft under the sun is colored and shot impeccably, aesthetically reflecting the retro vibe of the ’70s. It’s those mind-bending camera angles and distorting effects that flip the visuals of your typical superhero shows on their heads, and prove that skillful TV can feel like a film.
Though the season two premiere may be unsatisfying in giving us any sort of explanation, it is extremely satisfying in style and potential. With the anticipation of a larger focus on David’s character evolution and the substance of his delusions, season two is shaping up to elevate and impress.