Last night, FX delivered a solid finale to the first season of their first comic book/superhero series, Legion. The series felt nothing like any of the superhero series we've seen from Marvel or DC, and for it to be set somewhere within the X-Men world, it's a dope entry into the growing world of comic book-inspired shows, which includes the likes of Riverdale and that upcoming Punisher Netflix series.
There's been a lot of chatter regarding the series, from people HATING the sixth episode of the series to questions about how different the series is. As two lovers of Peak TV and fans of Legion and comic book sagas in general, I linked up with Frazier to get his thoughts on last night's Legion season finale, the series in general, and where we think (hope!) the series goes from here.
Frazier: It was, perhaps, inevitable: that finale felt both busy, perfunctory and ultimately unfulfilling. But it was still a solid conclusion, a landing on two feet, save a wobble or two. That leaves us free to state what we’ve been ready to shout for weeks: Legion season one, confirmed classic. What an audacious, consistently engaging season of television. In this age of keeping up with Peak TV while having a life, it’s the rare show that inspires me not to touch a single device while I’m watching it. My eyes are glued. Legion is the way forward, or at least, it should be: for superhero television, and fuck it, for genre television as a whole. But let’s stick with the former. khal, how’d you fuck with it as a hella-tuned in X-Men nerd?
khal: Well that’s what boggled my mind at first: for all of this talk about “superhero TV,” Legion felt the most un-superhero-y out of all of them. And I loved it. The biggest question fanboys had before the show aired was “how will this fit into the X-Universe,” but we quickly realized that Legion has fuck-all to do with any kind of X-Men interconnectivity. That’s important in an age where we grade “superhero TV” on a) it’s actual quality and b) how it sets up the next “thing,” with the latter most of the time outweighing the former. I’m guilty of doing it myself and got a shock to my system when I realized that season one of Legion was just about figuring out this one person’s world and powers, and the rest fell into place.
Now I wasn’t 100% sold on the finale; with the way this eight-episode series was developing, I knew the season one finale had to stick the landing, but it had some minor issues and “welp, that sure was an easy fix” qualities about how it wrapped up some of its hanging strands, but I wouldn’t say I’m dissatisfied with how the first season of (dare I say) the obvious front-runner for best show of 2017 (so far) worked itself out. What would you say were some of your stand-out moments from the finale, and the season as a whole?
Frazier: Legion is doing what so many serialized shows aren’t: telling one long narrative with episodes that nevertheless stand out and stand up on their own. I couldn’t tell you what happened in episode three of Jessica Jones apart from seven, but Legion’s nightmarish dream trip in episode three was when I realized, this show is art. And then the following week a man’s astral spirit suspended in a made-up ice cube played Feist during a climax montage that had Bill Irwin pantomiming getting beat up while his physical other half took on evil government agents.
khal: That’s the biggest issue with, say, Marvel on Netflix: they will have shit happen throughout a 13-episode season, and I’ll know what went on, but I couldn’t tell you when. No full episodes stand out at all, aside from, say, episode six of Luke Cage season one. They are these gigantic mishmoshes of storylines, but none of the episodes that contain them hit you the way a singular episode of Legion does. And with an eight-episode structure, it’s been dope to see that you can’t really “do away” with an episode in this run. Even if you hated episode six (which is completely understandable), you needed that to dive into the beauty of the penultimate episode in season one. Word is that season two will be rounded out to ten episodes, and even then, I’m OK with that as long as they continue to properly construct these arcs.
In mentioning episode six, I feel like we should at least talk about that one. Can you explain to me why people were so freaked the fuck out over the hospital episode?
Frazier: My number one pet peeve of fantasy shows is the inevitable, "This Is All In Your Head" episode. Even a show as artistically in its bag as Legion can only dress it up but so much. It’s tedious. What I don’t get, is the rising coalition of contrarians who deride Legion as being a gorgeous, glossy hardcover novel on the outside, and emptier than Scott Templeton’s notepad once you flip the pages.
This subset of critics argue that we’re just blinded by the genre mash-ups and visual flair, which give Noah Hawley a veneer of auterism that he doesn’t deserve, while the show spins toward a nothing plot of endless red herrings and Russian dolls. Must be two Legions. The show I watched layered clues beautifully, and better yet didn’t hand-hold its audience with traditional origin story trappings. Whether you know shit about X-Men secondary characters or not, if you’re watching this show you’re likely a student of genre television. You can put together what Division 3 is. You can wait patiently to learn wtf Cary and Kerry’s deal is. You can file away clues from each trip into David’s messed up psyche as to what’s going on. “Chapter 7” pulled off the most engaging exposition dump I’ve ever seen, but did anyone *really* need it? Syd telling Cary to cut the shit because she’s already put two and two together, was to me, a slight nod to what Legion expects of its audience.
khal: Syd’s scene with the two of them was the most perfect shit ever; while I loved the literal chalkboard session David had with himself (with those subtle Professor X vibes) to break down the show for anyone who hasn’t been paying attention, but Syd’s comment felt like a dope shot to those who need their hands held throughout.
It’s one of those things where people want depth in their comic book/superhero TV shows and movies, but will still bug out when you actually have to pay attention, with clues nestled underneath layers of beauty and humor and leftfield wackiness. There’s no way to sit on your phone while watching Legion, and it’s dope that a comic book-based series can do that. Hopefully more shows based on comics can take Legion’s lead and dare to be as different as they are on the comic book page.
What are your thoughts on season two, though? I’m here for where Lenny and the Shadow King are taking Oliver. Feels like a solid set-up for at least the first arc of the second season.
Frazier: Jemaine Clement playing a powerful mutant possessed by Aubrey Plaza, who’s having the most fun of her career? Very much fucking here for it. I didn’t need the post-credits scene of David Haller getting kidnapped, but if that means more badass Syd on the hunt for him as we head into season two, then fuck it. Syd is on her way to the pantheon of all-time bad ass TV women. More Syd in season 2, is my only demand. In the meantime, if you loved Legion, tell a friend. If you hated it, get some love in your life.