State of the Legion
How an unsuspecting series became 2017’s best TV show
By Brett Luft, Web Editor
If I told you the best show in 2017 belonged to the Marvel universe, which one would you think I’m referring to?
A month ago you’d probably suspect I was talking about Marvel’s Iron Fist, but the truth is that show is a critical failure. With mostly negative reviews, Iron Fist has stopped Marvel’s television powerhouse dead in its tracks.
It will recover, of course, but it does create an opportunity for a newcomer to truly shine: Legion.
Legion is FX’s newest masterpiece. From the mind of Fargo showrunner Noah Hawley, Legion follows David Haller as he tries to cope with schizophrenia inside a high-end insane asylum.
But the voices and events that Haller invents aren’t symptoms of schizophrenia. Haller isn’t crazy, as it’s quickly revealed that Haller is the most powerful mutant to ever live — after all, in the canon of X-Men he’s the son of Charles Xavier.
But Haller isn’t the only thing powerful about Legion. The show has also struck reviewers in a way that Marvel’s Iron Fist can never dream of. The show is one of the most positively reviewed releases of 2017 but that wasn’t always the case.
When information first came out about Legion, I was skeptical. Very little was revealed, and the show looked completely bonkers. I was afraid it’d turn out like the third X-Men movie, rather than Logan.
But Marvel’s Iron Fist was the opposite. It had the entire force of Netflix and Disney’s marketing teams, and it had a lot to live up to in comparison to Marvel’s Daredevil and Marvel’s Luke Cage.
But it never delivered because it was bogged down by problematic source material filled with concern about Orientalism, Asian stereotyping and the “White Saviour” complex.
Marvel’s Iron Fist isn’t labelled bad because of poor acting or straying away from the source material, but people don’t like it because it chose to stick to its roots and reinforce everything that was done wrong in the source.
And the opposite is true with Legion. Legion chose to reinvent itself for television as something that finds inspiration in the source material, but not live by the rule of its source.
Legion is about the struggle of a man trying to find his place while battling his demons and less about paying fan-service to the X-Men franchise.
But where Legion truly shines is in its ability to tell a good story without resorting to clichéd tropes. Where Marvel’s Iron Fist plays with 70s Kung-Fu tropes, Legion tackles its story in a refreshing way.
Legion is constantly shrouding its storylines in mystery and dealing with subject matter in a way that leaves the audience artfully and purposely confused. This is because it reveals enough of itself to keep people interested and uses cinematography and action to move the series along.
But outside of all of that, it also tells the story of mental illness in a way that isn’t insensitive to those who might be battling their own challenges. It doesn’t exploit mental illness or illustrate sufferers as maniacal or exotic.
Looking at all the areas where Marvel’s Iron Fist went wrong shows us where Legion is doing things right. It may not have been on my watch list at the beginning of the year, but Legion is the most refreshing television series to come out of 2017.
Legion airs on FX every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. MDT.