Four episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
It’s been almost five years since the MCU bled across mediums with the ABC series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and while Marvel’s network shows haven’t experienced the same level of success as their Netflix counterparts, with the glaring exception of Iron Fist, the franchise’s home programming sector is doing a helluva job keeping fanatics occupied between Avenger phases.
Expectedly, in a business where imitation is the sincerest form of exploitation, it didn’t take long for FX to catch the superhero sickness and develop their own series alongside Marvel Television, Legion.
In its first season, we made the “rainbow connection” and the show boogied its way into the top pantheon of superhero TV. Led by a consistently off-the-wall performance from Dan Stevens as David Haller, an extremely powerful mutant unable to fully control his superpowers, Stevens continues to prove in season 2 that no one can play crazy quite as he can. Legion remains an unmatched assortment of vivid colour and obscure visuals that feeds off its bizarre source material and expels something surreal and utterly madcap.
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Season 2 picks up some time after where we last left off and there are a couple of things you should know and reacquaint yourself with. First, David is able to escape the floating orb in which he was abruptly and inexplicably imprisoned. Second, Sydney Barrett (Rachel Keller), Ptonomy Wallace (Jeremie Harris), and the rest of Haller’s mutant rebellion have united with season 1 inconvenience, Division III, in hopes that their joint effort can bring down the elusive Shadow King.
Amahl Farouk is a vastly different villain in comparison to Aubrey Plaza’s delectably deranged shapeshifter. The Shadow King, who we last saw drive off into the sunset occupying the mind of Oliver Bird (Jermaine Clement), has taken to an entirely different exterior this season, one that can’t be mistaken for The World’s Angriest Boy in the World or Lenny. Suave, sinister, and sharply-suited, Navid Negahban’s portrayal of Farouk throughout Legion’s sophomore outing is intoxicating and hellish.
To defeat this more goal-oriented version of Amahl, Division III has turned to David and Admiral Fukuyama for guidance. Fukuyama is quite the basket case, and by that I mean he wears a basket over his head. The Admiral interacts with his lessers much in the same way any sane person would, via a trio of moustached robot women. Division III, overseen by Fukuyama, and David’s connection isn’t a securely fastened link, a looseness that Farouk is underhandedly using to his advantage throughout season 2’s first four episodes. To make matters worse, there’s an unknown force causing anyone it interacts with to become trapped in their subconscious.
In a sleight-of-hand magic trick, the impressiveness lies in how the illusion is achieved rather than the outcome. Legion often feels as if its complex characters are merely vessels for elaborate visual hi-jinx, but no amount of camera tricks and VFX software can undo narrative importance. That’s not to say Legion’s over-the-top graphics and dance numbers hold no value; it’s merely a matter of understanding what’s on the other side tipping the scale.
Don’t worry, Noah Hawley’s creation is as batshit crazy as ever, but season 2 does attempt to root David, Syd, and the rest of Division III’s mutants in what’s becoming an increasingly diminishing reality. The episodic lessons on the human brain, narrated by a familiar TV star, almost make you forget that what you’re watching is based on a Marvel comic. There’s no denying that the cold opens dish out some hard truths, but I still can’t help but feel that Legion isn’t far from losing its grip on realism forever.
Better than season 1 in some regards, but weaker in spots, it’s difficult to say whether Legion’s second outing is an improvement over its predecessor or at a stalemate. Arriving at the midway point, with this and last season vying for position, episode four (Chapter 12) handily vaults season 2 over its predecessor. Barrett and Haller’s romance is perched on the back burner for the better part of the first three episodes, but Chapter 12 puts an end to Sydney and David’s simmering in an emotionally-gruelling hour of television.
Season 2 has ditched the yellow-eyed demon and cut back on the serious tone, opting for a more charismatic, likeable baddie and slight humour. So far, the gamble has paid off. To be honest, though, the only thing I’m sure of with Hawley’s Legion at the moment is that I want, nay, need, more screen time dedicated to the Cary (Bill Irwin)/Kerry (Amber Midthunder) dynamic.
There’s never been a show better equipped to simulate the neurological sensations of being on dangerous psychedelic drugs. If that endorsement isn’t compelling enough to get you watching, I don’t think Legion is the show for you.