The title of the trippiest show on television is a tough belt to hold. There are some crazy weird shows these days, from “Adventure Time” to “BoJack Horseman.” Yet none hold a candle to the latest work from “Fargo” creator and showrunner, Noah Hawley. Hawley’s X-Men series, “Legion,” is not only one of the weirdest shows on TV today. It’s also among the very best. Hawley’s willingness to embrace the strangest aspects of his own creativity, and merge them with the very weird world of the X-Men results in the best kind of weird you could ask for. That’s just part of what makes “Legion” so great.
“Legion” returns with David (Dan Stevens) waking up from a sleep state. He’s been missing for almost a year, and his friends (Jean Smart, Rachel Keller, Bill Irwin and others) have since joined Division 3. The team is now heading different divisions of the organization, which gives each the ability to exploit their considerable talents. The Shadow King (Aubrey Plaza & Jermaine Clement) is still on the run. Ptonomy (Jeremie Harris), Kerry (Amber Midthunder) and Clark (Hamish Linklater) are finding people infected by “the Catalyst,” a seemingly mental disease the Shadow King inflicts on those around him. The Shadow King is searching for his body, and he uses the “disease” to distract those who search for him.
Once again, the performances are simply some of the best on television. Dan Stevens continues to show why he might have the brightest career ahead of him. He can play the hero when he wants to, but there’s a twinge of supervillain in him at all times. He is charismatic, but also devilish in his thoughts. It’s a tightrope that very few actors can pull off, and Stevens is perfect for this role. His performance as David is as nuanced, leveled, and insane as any on television. Wrapped into a single role, it’s one of the great achievements in modern television.
Aubrey Plaza and Jean Smart are also incredibly strong in their performances. Simply put, no one could have gathered that Plaza had this in her from her previous roles. She’s a perfect villain, so evil in fact that she masks David’s more dangerous tendencies. That is quite the feat to pull off. Smart dominate’s when she shows up on screen. She’s one of television’s greatest performers and her commitment to the role shows how much the crew has bought into Hawley’s vision. She has some great moments in the first few episodes, which continue to showcase one of the most nuanced performances on television right now.
The show continues to have some of the best production quality of any series on television. The cinematography and direction are gorgeous. The shot composition tells as much visually as the words spoken by characters. The characters are perfectly framed throughout, leading to some truly special shots. The cinematography is aided by fantastic production design that changes drastically from shot to shot. Nights may be light in bright blues, while days are full of oranges, yellows, and earthy tones. We’re in science labs, nightclubs, and water sensory deprivation tanks. It’s a beautiful and complex world that surrounds our characters. It’s an easy way to help us buy in to the weirdness that makes the show so fun to watch.
Last but not least, the show remains one of the tightest scripts on the small screen. The scenes are brilliantly written to feel like we’re in a dream state. The weirdness that fills each scene is accompanied by dialogue that can be emotional or fast-paced, depending on what is needed. Hawley and his team allow characters to bounce concepts and ideas back and forth and hold extremely compelling discussions. As we see the tale unfold, it’s clear the zaniness all serves a purpose. Whether the team is writing in a dance fight, betrayal, or the next weird idea, it’s clear that the meandering path holds real meaning. That knowledge makes Hawley’s vision all the more exciting.
“Legion” returns to the TV landscape in a far more absurd fashion than the first season. Yet this shows true growth for the series, providing audiences with an even more uncanny look at the X-Men. Hawley brings these incredible characters to life through some of the strangest moments you’ll ever see on TV. That makes the moments all the more enjoyable, as we are experiencing the closest thing to an auteur’s vision in the world of comic books. Luckily Hawley’s vision has true meaning behind it, giving us an undeniably compelling landscape to fill with undeniably amazing characters. This is not only the best superhero show on television. It’s one of the best period.