This article contains spoilers for Legion episode 1.
Legion has finally arrived! After what felt like a huge pile of teasers, the first X-Men series from the new Fox/Marvel collaboration has reached our television sets. And, as expected, it’s a bit odd. Good odd, I think, but it’s a bit early to say for sure.
Fargo’s Noah Hawley has written an intricate storytelling weave made of mutants and madness, and its hour-long opening episode left me with rather a lot of questions. Here they are, along with some stab-in-the-dark attempts to answer them…
Where does it fit with the films?
It doesn’t. (Can you tell we put the easiest question first?) If you were wondering where the story of David Haller fits with the contradicting timelines and multiple recastings of the X-Men movie universe – don’t bother.
“With Legion, we’re our own universe”, omnipresent X-producer Lauren Shuler Donner told IGN recently. “It gives Noah [Hawley] the freedom to do what he wants to do. Because we play with so many different timelines, and we rebooted and not really rebooted and all that, we felt like, OK, we’re going to throw it out there and hope the fans accept it.”
FX network president John Landgraf clarified things in a similar statement to Screenrant:
“It’s not in the continuity of those films in the sense the current X-Men films take place in a universe in which everybody on planet Earth is aware of the existence of mutants. The series Legion takes place in a parallel universe, if you will, in which the US government is in the early days of being aware that something called mutants exist but the public is not. I wouldn’t foresee characters moving back and forth [between the films and the show] because they really are parallel universes.”
Where are the X-Men?
A good question! Since Legion has been billed many times in the press as an “X-Men TV show”, you might be wondering where all the X-Men are. We see mutants in the episode, but no one flying a jet or wearing a great big X across their chest. And how else are you meant to spot an X-Man?
It’s unclear at this point if the team that bust in and save David at the end have some sort of allegiance to the X-Men. I’ve got a fancy press pack in front of me as I write this, and if those guys were X-Men, Fox have opted not to mention it.
Given the aforementioned statement from Landgraf – which states that the public is not aware of mutants yet in this universe – we’d expect the X-Men to be a very covert organisation. Their numbers, their roster, or whether they even exist yet in the Legion universe is yet to be established.
What is ‘The Devil With The Yellow Eyes’?
Mentioned a couple of times in David’s therapy sessions near the start, could The Devil With The Yellow Eyes be the big bad of the series? Could it be a supervillain mutant of some sort, perhaps one rooted in David’s schizophrenic mind? Possibly! But for now we know diddlysquat about this devilish being
Yellow-eyed characters from the X-Men comics universe include Mystique (seen in the movies), Nightcrawler (also in the films) and Mojo (an alien who, um, runs an evil television network). But I don’t think any of them are in the show. It seems more likely that the yellow-eyed devil is a darker side of David.
After all, in the comics, David’s eyes often glow (sometimes yellow) when he’s losing control of his multiple personalities and doing bad things as a result.
Is the government the villain? (Also, what’s Division 1?)
Legion certainly isn’t the first X-Men story to paint the authorities in an evil light. Armed guards, electrified swimming pools and a lengthy interrogation meant that the government agents in this episode felt a lot like the baddies. Could they be a dark offshoot of the government akin to the Weapon X programme from the movies? And also, why do their scientists wear woolly hats?
At one point, a government agent states that “Division 1” thinks they should kill David while they have the chance. What is Division 1, and why don’t these people have to do what Division 1 says? No ruddy idea.
This show has already made me paranoid… to the point that I’m not even sure if these guys were really aligned with the government, despite us being told as much. Many of David’s captors were reduced to skeletons at the end, so answers might not be very forthcoming in future episodes.
What “happened in Redhook”?
During the same conversation in which Division 1 was mentioned, a government agent referred to “what happened in Redhook.” On first viewing I thought they meant the incident that took place at Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital. But could whatever happened in Redhook actually be a different mutant-based event that has the government worried?
What happened to the noose?
We clearly see David hanging himself right near the start. The government agents say he was found with the appropriate burns on his neck, but there was no noose in sight. What was that all about? Did he simply use his telekinetic powers to get rid of it, or is there something larger at play?
Recurring weird background characters – important?
A guy in the green suit that was witling pieces of wood throughout the episode: is he an important future player or quirky character just for the pilot? As with most things in this show, it’s incredibly hard to tell. But I can’t help thinking that he’s a mutant with wood-based powers. Woodneto, perhaps?
And what about this guy, hiding in a bush at Clockworks? Notably, he’s not wearing the same clothes as the patients…
Again, there’s every chance this is just a quirky background detail not worth thinking about… it’s very hard to be sure on that, though.
Does David know about his powers? And what actually are they?
The pilot makes it clear that David believed he had “power over things” at an earlier point in his life. But his time within that oddball institution known as Clockworks has done a decent job of drumming that out of him. For most of the pilot episode, David seems to be unaware of his powers, or at least unwilling to talk about them.
After smashing up that interrogation room with his mind and sending a pen into his questioner’s face, he’s probably aware of them now, though. Between that and the kitchen scene, it’s obvious to us at home that he’s very powerful.
There’s also mention of an increase in “telepathic activity” at some point, so perhaps David can read minds as well as move things with his mind.
In the comics, David has multiple personalities which all have different powers. So far, the show hasn’t showed us that, but there’s still plenty of time. Maybe his medication hasn’t fully worn off yet.
Fun fact: in the comics, David also lives in Scotland. That’s one thing they’ve changed.
He looks a little bit like Blob from the X-Men comics, and a little bit more like the Abzorbaloff from Doctor Who, but I’ve got the feeling that this creature – again – is one of David’s inner demons. David’s whole thing in the comics is that he has multiple personalities, each with their own powers. Maybe this is one of them.
It must be important, whatever it is, since it popped up regularly throughout the episode. It even appeared when David was wondering whether to shake Melanie’s hand.
What happened at the psychiatric hospital?
When David kissed Sydney, the pair did a full-on Freaky Friday body-swap. That’s Sydney’s power, her mutant ability, and the reason she tries not to touch people.
This left David in Sydney’s body, being led away and ultimately set free. Meanwhile, Sydney was in David’s body, and accidentally used his telekinetic powers to seal all the patients in their rooms and remove the doors. To recycle Lenny’s metaphor, David gave “a bazooka to a newbie” and, unsurprisingly, stuff blew up.
What’s this thingy all about?
During that kiss, the camera panned through David’s eye and into a trippy sequence that Doctor Strange would’ve been proud of. At one point we see a row of screens displaying various things.
Once again, it’s hard to tell if this is an important visual we’ll be seeing more of a random detail thrown in for fun. I’m leaning towards the former this time, though – maybe this is how David sees the world.
Is Lenny really dead?
When Sydney was in David’s body, she didn’t quite manage to get every patient back into their room: Aubrey Plaza’s Lenny was left halfway through a wall, dead. It was a grisly visual.
But Lenny did show up and chat to David later. I’d say that was a hallucination, unless David has a bringing-people-back-from-the-dead power we don’t yet know about.
How did Sydney escape?
So David escaped in Sydney’s body and Sydney stayed at Clockworks, trapped in David’s body. Some time later, David realises – by touching his chest and not finding boobs there – that he’s back in his own body. He rings Clockworks, who seem to deny having Sydney in their care. Then Sydney shows up at the end of the episode and saves David from the government.
How did she get out of Clockworks, though? And why did they deny knowing who she is on the phone? Or did David misremember that phone call? Maybe we’ll get some answers next week.
Is this Professor X?
You don’t put the back of a bald guy’s head in an X-Men TV show without intending it as a nod towards Professor X. But what’s the narrative purpose of this hairless cranium? Is there one?
Could it be, perhaps, that Sydney isn’t the only one being projected into David’s memories? Is Charles Xavier in there as well, keeping an eye on another powerful telepath? Will the show develop a similar link between Charles and David to the one in the comics? Who knows!
Who is Melanie? (And who are her friends?)
Sydney, Ptonomy, Kerry and their as-yet-unnamed telekinetic friend led David to Melanie Bird, played by Jean Smart, at the end of the episode. “Come on, son. Take my hand”, she said. Eventually, he obliged. End of episode.
But who is this woman? The official Legion synopsis, published by CBR, tells us that she’s “a nurturing but demanding therapist with a sharp mind and unconventional methods. She and her team of specialists – Ptonomy (Jeremie Harris), Kerry (Amber Midthunder) and Cary (Bill Irwin) – [will] open David’s eyes to an extraordinary new world of possibilities.”
But I can’t be the only one thinking that she might be a secret baddie. Gee, this show doesn’t let you trust anyone.
What does the title refer to?
When Melanie and David shake hands, the title card for the show comes up. But what does the moniker Legion refer to? Placing it at this point in the episode seems to suggest that the ‘legion’ in question here is Melanie’s team, which David looks set to join.
But that’s not what it refers to in the comics. Therein, Legion is David’s superhero/sometimes supervillain codename. It’s a reference to the multitude of personalities, creatures and powers lurking within him, which have yet to be revealed in the show. I still reckon they will appear at some point, though.
Which scenes weren’t real?
The dancing sequence was a dream. As much as I’d like to be real.
David being chased by Jeremie Harris’ Ptonomy and Amber Midthunder’s Kerry Loudermilk was a memory, which Sydney then infiltrated (presumably with the help of a different mutant with the power to do that). The chase did happen, but this was David’s memory of it rather than the real deal.
David’s interrogator arriving at Clockworks and getting out of a car didn’t happen either – that one was just David being an unreliable narrator.
Lenny appearing at David’s sister’s house was a hallucination. I think. And the flashes of the Blob creature thing may only be happening in David’s mind, as well.
Other than that, I think we’re meant to believe that everything else in the episode happened. OR DID IT?
So David is off his medication, has made some mutant friends, and he’s found a new therapist. But after an hour of telly, it’s still not clear who the villain of the series is, or what will propel the narrative across the next seven episodes.
Your guesses of what’s to come are as good as mine (probably better, actually), so do feel free to plonk them in the comments below. This feels like a show that will serve up plenty of discussion points.
Here’s the trailer for next week’s chunk of Legion, which at least confirms that the witling guy will be back…