9.5

Legion Review: The Most Playful Show on TV Gets a Bigger Sandbox

(Episode 2.02)

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<i>Legion</i> Review: The Most Playful Show on TV Gets a Bigger Sandbox

Fresh off its Peabody Awards nomination, Legion has fully hit its stride in Season Two, offering one of the most visually stunning, trippiest, reality-warping episodes yet, and anyone who’s watched Noah Hawley’s FX series knows that’s saying a lot.

Not since Breaking Bad has a show played so much with camera perspective. From the close-up of an amusement park lollipop and the opening credits reflected in a crystal ball, each shot is framed with all the intention of a Wes Anderson film, the whimsy of Michel Gondry and the surrealism of David Lynch. Geometric shapes, shifting color palettes, spinning cameras, overhead shots, fuzzy video feeds, close ups of chattering teeth, and distorted faces all reflect the psychedelic and psychotic qualities of the story.

Since this is a comic-book world filled with super-powered mutants and fantastical technologies, Noah Hawley can populate it with characters who wear baskets on their heads or feminine androids with thick, black mustaches. And because both the protagonist and villain can reshape reality, interactions can take the form of a dance-off (last week) and a wrestling match that escalates from samurai swordsman to tank to tornado (this week). Characters can have internal dialogues that manifest externally, switch bodies, drop through solid floors or get stuck with a third arm protruding from their chest. Hawley and co-writer Nathaniel Halpern are clearly having fun piling one crazy idea atop another and the result is delightful. It’s a show that celebrates, above all else, imagination.

After ridding himself of the parasitic entity who had plagued him since childhood—revealed to be Amahl Farouk, the Shadow King—David has been tracked with finding Farouk’s body and destroying it, along with his friend Oliver, who Farouk has possessed. But he’s also been contacted by a future (and one-armed) version of Syd, who asks him to help Farouk find his body. In “Chapter 10,” she explains that Farouk, though he’s killed a handful of people, is needed to fight what’s coming next—a plague that kills everyone.

In a show that constantly plays with reality, it’s difficult to know who or what to trust, but David’s only anchor is Syd. And just as he trusts her completely, when he confesses to present-day Syd that he’s helping Farouk, she trusts him—and her future self—just as absolutely.

So David must help the tapeworm who plagued his childhood, the nightmare inside his mind that caused him to attempt suicide, who kidnapped Oliver’s body and trapped his mind, who just murdered a bunch of Division 3 soldiers and turned one into a pig. We finally got to see his true face, played with requisite gravitas by Iranian-American actor Navid Negahban (the Sultan in Guy Ritchie’s upcoming Disney live-action Aladdin film).

“You are the creator of reality,” Farouk tells David. “You gotta get up from the kiddie table. It’s all about respect, my man. You and I are… gods. What did John Lennon say? Bigger than Jesus.”

We also get to see the return of Lenny as more than just the face of the Shadow King, further allowing Aubrey Plaza to shine as a lunatic junkie who wants to suck the marrow out of life now that she’s dead.

Jon Hamm  is back to narrate another bizarre interstitial about perspective and reality, using ticks and bloodhounds as counters to humanity and how we’re the only animal that forms ideas about the world — “the only animal on earth that goes mad.”

It only causes us to trust what we’re watching even less. The plot seems almost straight forward at this point compared to Season One, but everything hinges on the word of future Syd. A show that has reveled in playing with reality is now playing with the concept of time. And there’s no more playful show on TV right now.

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