Mutant history on live action television can be best described as being icky.
For example, remember the last 1996 made-for-television flick Generation X? No? That’s probably ‘cause you didn’t watch it… or don’t want to remember it. Not that the movie didn’t have ambition. With a line-up featuring Emma Frost and Banshee a good decade and a half before their appearance in the movie franchise, and a white-washed Jubilee (something Hollywood producers would love even more today), the movie was quite ahead of its time. (Hell, it even used the Hatley Castle as Xavier’s Mansion years before it would go on to fulfil the same role in the first X-Men trilogy.)
Next came Mutant X, a joint effort between Marvel and a couple of smaller studios that got their asses collectively sued by Fox when it came to light that Marvel was effectively trying to eat its cake and have it, too—the rights for the X-Men (and anything mutant related had been licensed to Fox years earlier). While the series did run a semi-healthy three seasons, the legal problems and ensuing drastic creative changes culminated in the death of the series.
Most recently, we’ve had the original concept series Heroes. Completely unrelated to comics or the X-Men (the spin-off comic series was published by DC, actually), the series was a redefinition of what it meant to tell a superhero story in truly long form. It was a clear point of evolution from the likes of Smallville’s teenage drama-driven approach, and offered a whole new take on television’s superhero efforts.
And now, we have Legion.
Not exactly a character on the radar for many casual fans, Legion (a.k.a. David Haller) is the son of Charles Xavier and ex-flame, Gabrielle Haller. Born with ridiculous telepathic capacity that leads to (or manifests as) dissociative identity disorder, Legion was not an easy character—in and out of the fictional Marvel universe—with the extent of his powers and condition, writing him could be actually a stretch.
And yet, the series makes it work. With a blend of quirky writing, quirkier characters, and an absolute disregard for linear revelation, the team behind Legion quickly establishes that while this may certainly be a show about mutants, it certainly isn’t gonna be your run-of-the-mill, baddie-a-week type.
Especially since the bad guys are already in the good guy’s head.
While both Dan Stevens and Rachel Keller nail their roles as people with tribulations abilities perfectly, it’s Parks & Recreation alum Aubrey Plaza that steals the show by not only playing a role written for a much older man, but by actually sticking to the dialogue and playing the role as a young woman who thinks she’s an old man.
The true freak of nature here, though, is creator, writer, and director, Noah Hawley who has pretty much single-handedly crafted the look and feel of the show.
However, with directorial duties shifting to others for the rest of this 6-episode season, and writing duties taken over by Peter Calloway and Nathaniel Halpern for starting with the third episode, it remains to be seen if the show can maintain its quality.