This Legion review contains spoilers.
Legion Season 3 Episode 1
While Dark Phoenix was (not so warmly) greeted as the last installment of the Fox produced Marvel properties (we’ll believe New Mutants is being released only when we’ve got a ticket stub in our hand), Legion is in fact Fox’s final foray in the world of superpowered mutants. The FX series, created by Noah Hawley, is almost a perfect representation of Fox’s X-Men efforts – its first season was heralded as groundbreaking, complex, counter-programing to what other studios were serving up with their superhero IP, but as the series went along, it suffered from a sort of aimlessness and style over substance ethos.
Season 2 of Legion wasn’t a total misfire, as it found success probing deep into the backstory of Syd, now the series’ true hero, and exploring the different futures that David, a mentally unwell man with god-like abilities, could have found himself in had he taken other paths. Still, the second season underwhelmed and was only unmuddied by going messier, having David commit a misguided, unforgivable crime that pushed him into complete villain territory. The third and final season doesn’t shy away from this fact, as it begins with David leading a brainwashed cult that he’s literally drugging with his power, while Syd and the rest of Division 3, now calling themselves the Forces of Division and working alongside the Shadow King, look to apprehend him.
Like the past two seasons, Legion Season 3 begins with a premiere that thrillingly refuses to hold your hand, dropping viewers right into its heady, hazy world and bombarding them with idiosyncratic visuals and storytelling choices. Wisely, new character Switch (Lauren Tsai), a time-traveling mutant, serves as something of an audience surrogate. Dealing with an emotionally and physically distant father who’s more interested in robots than his daughter, Switch is exactly the sort of person that would be susceptible to a cult. We watch as Switch is strangely lured toward David, her introduction serving as our reintroduction to David now that he’s unhinged and untethered from Division 3. Switch’s journey down the rabbit hole features a stunning sequence featuring a transparent tunnel that flows underneath the city, and of course a musical number, this one set to Superorganism’s “Something For Your M.I.N.D.”
David and Switch’s meeting is cut short when the Forces of Division raid David’s cult headquarters and Syd shoots him dead. However, Switch is able to travel back in time and warn David of their arrival. In another smart move, Legion doesn’t spend too much time getting bogged down in the mechanics of time travel, instead presenting it simply with black doors labeled “One Hour,” “Two Hours,” etc. while a recording called Lessons in Time Travel waxes poetic about the philosophy of time and warns us about Time Demons. It’s a vast improvement over last season’s Jon Hamm-voiced lessons about insanity.
Once Switch’s abilities save David from two Forces of Division raids, she’s summoned to the Astral Plane for a one-on-one with the Shadow King. As they say, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and though we got awfully close with Amahl Farouk last season, it will be interesting to see him as an ally to Syd and others. Here he warns Switch about David, but from Switch’s limited perspective, it appears like David is the victim. Switch escapes and when Farouk returns from the Astral Plane, he relays to Clark and Syd just how much more dangerous this makes David. Farouk suggests to Syd that she’s emotionally too close to the situation to “take care” of David, but she insists on being there when they make their attempt to bring David down. This unlikely alliance will surely boil over at some point, but for now they’re aligned in their want of revenge over David.
Still, before the Forces of Division are even able to begin their secret mission, David has already relocated the cult. Now with time travel, David can stay one step ahead even without his expansive powers. When the depth of this ability sinks in for everyone, the credits begin to roll, as if this was just a prologue and not an episode proper, but there’s still plenty of odds and ends to chew on.
Since we already know that Professor X will be making an appearance, it’s not as notable that David spends a good chuck of time in “Chapter 20” talking specifically about his adoption, but more curious is Ptonomy returning as an android extension of the mainframe, and Switch paying close attention to her teeth every time she jumps back in time. Those are just the standout curious advancements that I expect we’ll get some answers to; this is Legion after all, you just can’t assume we’ll find out why Lenny is being called The Breakfast Queen or what the deal is with that giant pig monster. Though Legion’s whacky ways could be grating last year, the Season 3 premiere successfully splits the difference between psychedelic eye-candy and intriguing story developments. The episode is table-setting of the highest order, and it looks like the main course will be just as unconventional as we’ve come to expect.
Nick Harley is a tortured Cleveland sports fan, thinks Douglas Sirk would have made a killer Batman movie, Spider-Man should be a big-budget HBO series, and Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson should direct a script written by one another. For more thoughts like these, read Nick’s work here at Den of Geek or follow him on Twitter.