Last week's premiere episode of FX's Legion was a brilliant introduction to the trippy world inhabited by David Haller, a superhero on the page of Marvel Comics given a radical makeover on the screen, to the point that Legion really doesn't feel like a comic book series at all.
There are powers, sure, and some of the usual tropes of the genre have already begun to make themselves felt — shady government units hunting "special" people being a perennial #XMen favorite — but that first episode was very much its own beast. As the mysteries of #Legion begin to unfold in Episode 2, it starts to feel a little less self-consciously surreal. In many ways that pilot episode was a misnomer, and the follow-up feels like the actual blueprint for this show's identity going forward.
If the first episode was mostly cleverly-disguised set-up designed to get us to a place where we and David are both aware that his mental illness really isn't a psychological condition at all, this second chapter slows the pace a couple of notches while beginning the important work of exploring what David is actually capable of.
As Melanie Bird (Jean Smart, excellent as always) tells David: "We believe, myself and the people here, that you are a very powerful telepath. Telekinetic, potentially." Considering what we know about the comic book origins of Legion, telekinesis and telepathy barely scratch the surface of what David is capable of, but neither he nor Melanie seem to realize at this point that those powers are unique to each of his myriad individual personalities (assuming the show even goes down that route).
More questions arise from Melanie's words: How does a display of mutant power actually catch the attention of both Bird and the government ops team lead by The Eye? Surely some kind of telepath or empath is required to detect another. What's Melanie's specific ability, other than speaking in an abnormally calming tone?
Last week I wrote that Syd's feelings may not have been real but rather an intentional means of luring David in, but Episode 2 clarified that what she's feeling is seemingly legit. It's difficult to shake the feeling, though, that not everybody in David's new surroundings are who they present themselves to be. Right now, he trusts his new friends because he has to, because they're helping him peel back the layers of his own past. How long until he begins to question those bonds of trust? Being a Noah Hawley show, you better believe Legion won't be as straightforwardly good guys-vs-bad guys going forward as it feels at this point.
For more Legion:
- This 'Legion' Easter Egg Might Actually Blow Your Mind
- 6 Major Mysteries From 'Legion' Episode 1 To Make Your Head Spin
"Ptonomy is what we call our memory artist" is a superb sentence to introduce somebody with, and already his character demonstrates the value in Legion's habit of only introducing a power when the story requires it. This isn't Xavier's School For Gifted Mutants, and David doesn't seem particularly curious about what the others at Bird's safehouse can do, but Ptonomy is crucial in taking us back into David's memories, and newcomer Jeremie Harris does a great job of making him likeable while holding back on his character's personality. I don't know much about him, but I'd like to know more. I'd also like to know where he buys his clothes, 'cos the man stylish af.
Stray observation — Ptonomy giving David a glass of milk ("Drink this, it helps") serves as a reminder that milk is always inexplicably creepy in TV shows, as if Westworld didn't hammer that home already. If I'm questioning Ptonomy's trustworthiness on any level, it's the milk that did it.
Another curious fact of this show is that nobody actually uses the term "mutant." Why is that? We know it exists inside the X-Men universe, and there's every chance Professor X (David's father in the comics) will have a role to play down the line in some capacity. So why the pains not to use the one word which accurately describes David, Syd and the others? I don't have the answers, but it feels like something to watch for.
It could also have something to do with the mysteriously unspecified time setting of Legion. Again this week, there were minor hints that we're actually in the future here, not the past, such as the fact that the elevator is programmed to go "down" on Syd's voice command. That's some advanced tech for the '70s. I suspect it all ties in with the greater conspiracy of the series, but the show isn't showing its hand just yet.
As the show acclimatizes to a more leisurely pace of storytelling, smaller moments are given the breathing space to make an impact. It was almost too on-the-nose, but I enjoyed David's sister Amy being warned: "Mrs. Haller, I'm beginning to wonder if we shouldn't submit you for observation." Director Michael Uppendahl also fell back on some really arresting visuals, not least the obscenely stylish shot of a miniature David trying to turn the imaginary, supersized volume knob on the soundsystem in his head.
Legion Episode 3 follows Wednesday February 22 on FX. Watch the trailer below.
Which of Legion's many mysteries has you most curious — and why won't the show use the word 'mutant'?