TV Show Review: Legion, Season One Episode One, “Chapter 1”

Details: Each episode is about an hour long. Planned to be an eight episode series for this season. Airs on FX.

If you’ve studied film history, you’d be well aware that there was a precise point in time when the works of Sigmund Freud not only invaded popular culture, but into the movies. Instead of explaining every little detail in order to convey motivations to the audience, movies started making assumptions about characters’ mental states and the audience started understanding those assumptions. Similar to books and perhaps to a greater extent, movies and television shows allow the understanding of a state of mind and the psychology of a character. This first episode of Legion is a good example of that.

Legion is a new, eight episode television series that is airing on Fox. It’s based upon an X-Men comic book character named Legion who is one of the most powerful beings on the planet with powers that pretty much allow him to do anything. The only downside is that Legion is crazy; Legion has multiple personality disorder and not only can he not control these other personalities, in the comic book, each personality controls a different power. When one of these personalities surfaces, it’s a guessing game as to whether it’s good, benign, or evil. It’s anyone’s guess how this character will be approached by the television series, but the first episode seems to embrace that craziness.

I really enjoyed this first episode and love that it’s an eight episode miniseries versus something lower budget and twenty something episodes long. I enjoy this trend in programming. Since Netflix and the prevalence of binge watching an entire television series, there has been a perceived evolution towards shorter length television seasons with higher length individual episodes and much better quality per episode. I think this is directly because of the increasing popularity of streaming services. TV shows traditionally made money based on how many people watched them and their associated advertisements. Accordingly, it used to make sense to have lots of little episodes to fill time slots that made purchasing and pricing air time easier and for programming to be more digestible to viewers. Since the advent of paid subscriptions for content, there’s no more need to appease advertisers as much. People can watch shows whenever or wherever they want through the internet. The goal has changed to simply provide better content in order to make the subscription service appealing as a whole versus trying to get eyeballs on a certain show at a certain time. That means making better programming, which seems to mean more high budget miniseries and less fluff shows.

Legion certainly seems to be one of these higher quality miniseries. The quality and likely higher budget of this first episode reminds me of something I’d see on Netflix or HBO, and that’s a good thing. There are a lot of special effects used and the story, the shots used and the editing are much more thoughtful than Arrow or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I don’t want to get too much into the story for fear of spoilers, but the main character is crazy and the story is trippy. It’s different from any other show I can think of right now, which is nice. That this story is connected to the X-Men is largely tangential in this first episode, but there are clear indicators they are related. It’s unclear as of yet whether this show shares the same universe as the cinematic X-Men or Marvel universe.

The acting was great. The only face I could recognize was Aubrey Plaza. She was good.

Overall, a good first episode that has hooked me for the rest of the season. I hope to see more shows like this.

Score: 7.5/10

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