Legion: The new X-Men spinoff is way better than you're expecting

Noah Hawley's done it again

Jacob Stolworthy
Thursday 09 February 2017 18:13
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Be honest - when you heard an X-Men TV show based on the son of Charles Xavier and starring Dan Stevens was being made, you disregarded it.

It's always nice to be pleasantly surprised - Legion debuts in the UK tonight and it's well worth your time, proving one of the most captivatingly mind-bending hours of television you may watch all year.

Still, boasting a showrunner whose recent track record proves their adeptness at steering unexpected projects to acclaim (more on that below), perhaps Legion was always destined to be - well, better than you expected.

1. Two words: Noah Hawley

If you recall Hawley's name but can't quite place it, allow us to refresh your memory: he's the guy who somehow turned the Coen Brothers' 1996 film Fargo into one of the decade's greatest TV shows. His appointment as Legion's showrunner instantaneously sets this new series apart from the deluge of superhero spinoffs currently plaguing the small screen - and within minutes, it's clear to see he's speckled his unique blend of alluring characters, left-field dialogue and diverse camerawork giving Legion more gusto than it had any right to have.

2. The cast are terrific

Dan Stevens, fresh from his Hollywood audition, The Guest - has cast those Downton Abbey memories into the doldrums of your mind. All eye-twitches and sardonic retort, he (somehow) brings an air of 'every man' to a role that you really won't have anything in common with. Legion's other standout is Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation's April Ludgate) who plays fellow mental patient (and best line-hogger) Lenny Busker. Elsewhere, Rachel Keller and Jean Smart - both of whom Hawley has carried over from Fargo's acclaimed season two - impress as Syd and Melanie Bird.

3. It's doing something different with the superhero genre

Mainly in the way that it refuses to depict that possessing a superpower is a gift but a big, fat, ugly, inhibiting curse. Stevens' character David Keller has lived his life believing himself to be insane - he's holed up in a mental asylum with presumed paranoid schizophrenia - when really, he may just have telepathy. Hawley directs the esoteric script with an eccentricity that ultimately turns what should be fantastical into an extremely realistic portrayal of mental illness.

4. You don't need to have seen all the other trillion X-Men films to enjoy this

The Marvel universe may be an exciting prospect, but it also requires a load of upkeep the ensure you're on the ball with each new film or TV show you watch. Legion arrives with no pretence that you need to have seen every single X-Men film released since 2000. You can sit back and enjoy - well, get propelled forwards by - the ride whether you're well-versed in X-lore or not. A refreshing prospect.

5. It's very Preacher

Preacher being the Amazon Studios series created by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen. It aired last year, displaying a pulpy penchant for sex, violence and superhuman abilities. By our reckoning, it was perhaps the most underrated TV series of 2016. Sure, it may only be February, but Legion looks like it's on its own crazed course to achieve a similar feat.

Legion begins in the UK tonight (9 February) on FOX at 9pm

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