Comic-Book Antihero Gets Reinvented as Mentally Ill Superhero
By: Lucia Rossi
Superheroes from comic books are coming alive on television and it’s gaining some serious attention.
Rather than just falling in line with the trend, Noah Hawley, showrunner of “Fargo,” decided to take this approach in a whole new direction.
Legion, an X-Men character from Marvel Comics, known to be the son of Charles Xavier or Professor X, has gotten his own television series on FX that premiered on February 8.
Although it doesn’t follow the comic book storyline, it has caused quite a stir because of its re-imagination of the main character, the beautiful aesthetics of the setting and special effects, the unreliability of the narrator, commentary on mental illness, and diverse supporting characters. It’s no surprise why it received such high acclaim in critical outlets, like Rotten Tomatoes.
The story centers around David Haller, played by Dan Stevens, known for his role in “Downton Abbey” and will also be playing the Beast in Disney’s upcoming “Beauty and the Beast.” Haller is a mutant with seemingly telekinetic and telepathic powers, but is diagnosed with Schizophrenia and placed in a mental health facility. He is also in this facility with his drug-addict, androgynous, friend Lenny “Cornflakes” Busker, played by Aubrey Plaza.
One day, a new patient, Sydney “Syd” Barrett, played by Rachel Keller from “Fargo,” arrives and Haller and she immediately fall in love. However, she cannot be touched due to her mutant powers. Things escalate quickly as two different factions, one that accepts mutants, and one that destroys mutants that are potentially too dangerous, go to war over Haller because of his immense power that he cannot control. Haller must learn to accept himself, and journey deep within his mind with the help of other mutants, in order to recover old secrets from his childhood and relinquish dark parts of his mind.
This show is suspenseful on so many levels with its action sequences, the explosions caused by one of Haller’s telekinetic outbursts, and random switches to flashbacks or inside Haller’s mind where there are creepy, malevolent entities that are not explained. Realities within this are constantly changed and it’s surprisingly not confusing.
I can’t say there is a concrete time period in which this show takes place because it mixes the old with the new. It has the setting, costume design, and colorfulness of the 60’s and 70’s but it also has advanced medical technology. The creators purposely do this because this is how Haller perceives the world around him and you can’t quite trust him.
Playing with an unreliable narrator was a great idea because it keeps the audience guessing. There is so much to explore within this character because there is so much mystery within him and concerning his past. The visual beauty in the style and presentation just gives it even more flare.
The love story is also similar to a Romeo + Juliet type of dynamic because there can be no physical contact, but the emotional connection is strong. Their chemistry is honest and relatable because they physically desire one another, they protect and put themselves at risk to save each other, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to be better mutants and people.