Legion Season Two Review
Apologies for the lack of Legion
reviews over the last several weeks; life got in the way and, frankly, while several episodes were better than previous weeks, there still wasn't enough to get excited about to find the time and energy to craft a review. But, here we are, at the end of season two, and the time has come to break down why this eleven episode run didn't work nearly as well as the shorter episode count in season one.
Throughout my reviews, I've stressed that Legion
is a study in style over substance (something it has in common with HBO's Westworld
). In season one, the style was combined with enough story to keep things moving relatively smoothly forward. For every insanely creative Bolero sequence, we were given a plot that made mostly sense and pushed our under-developed characters forward toward some goal (in season one, defeating Division 3). That wasn't the case in season two, and the series suffered greatly for it. The season arc, the race to find Farouk's body, was often set aside for strange diversions that didn't do anything to advance the plot (or, in the case of the botched Amy arc, didn't work because the show had sacrificed character development for style and when it needed to rely on characters to drive the emotional weight of the story there weren't any to dig into). Season two exposed the numerous structural flaws contained within Legion
, and made it harder to appreciate the interesting and complex stylistic choices Noah Hawley made throughout the season. After all, if there aren't characters to care about, why bother investing any emotional currency in the story?
Season two also took far to long to reach the climactic battle in the desert- and once it arrived, it was over far too quickly. For something that was teased and built up from the earliest moments of the season (and danced around on astral planes and future telepathic meet-ups throughout the season), I found it to be a let down. Sure, the animated portion of the fight was interesting and fun to watch (a classic touch of Hawley flare), but it barely lasted through the teaser, and was solved in a very mundane fashion. Another issue with the resolution: Why does District 3 suddenly trust Farouk? Yes, they've recognized that David is the real threat to the world, but Farouk isn't exactly a stable force. A necessary check on David's power, sure, but I wouldn't just let him sit around and game plan with the rest of the team. He's still one of the most powerful mutants in the world, with the ability to control those around him and a penchant for making people do horrific things. This isn't a guy I'd want just loose in a building with me.
Despite my issues with season two, I do have to say I'm intrigued at the prospect of an all-out evil David in season three. For one, it teams Dan Stevens and Aubrey Plaza together again, and Stevens has done his best work by her side throughout the season (Stevens's work as David has been hit or miss over the series, but the David-Lenny stuff has always been great and a joy to watch). Playing to the strengths of actors is always a good thing, and Hawley knows the dream team he has with those two. An evil David also means the gang at Division 3 will need to work together (with Farouk) to stop him. And that means the show will have to spend some time working on these supporting characters and developing them beyond their single descriptor archetypes. Legion
has a deep bench in its supporting cast (hell, it criminally underused Jean Freaking Smart this year, and if Melanie is back next season, that needs to be rectified): it needs to use them for more than just exposition dumps.
But the best part of a season devoted to stopping an evil David? It makes David a compelling character. Let's face it, the best David stuff over the course of the past two seasons has been the moments David wasn't a good person, when he gave into the anger and pain within and lashed out. It let Stevens dig into the character and it gave a wishy-washy character some oomph. I'm excited to see our series lead fleshed out a bit more and relishing the joy of doing bad things to good people. Villains are more fun than saints to watch, even if I suspect we'll be rooting for Division 3 to take him down. I'm excited for what's to come.
-- That flash forward with Melanie and Oliver, while a nice bit of domestic bliss that the duo has more than earned, worried me a touch. True, time moves differently in the frozen astral plane, so it might not actually be three years in the future. But it could mean that those two characters have removed themselves from the narrative and will only appear sparingly (if at all) moving forward. Considering the show never knew how to use Smart's Melanie this year, and how much Jermaine Clement has on his plate, this isn't a surprise, but it would be disappointing to lose these two.
-- Credit where credit is due: Most shows would shy away from labeling the actions of a leading character as rape, but Hawley unflinchingly went there with the David-Syd encounter. Kudos for calling it like it is.
-- While we haven't spent nearly enough time with Cary and Kerry this season (did they manage to resolve their issue with reintegration?), I have enjoyed seeing these bursts of Kerry's strange delight with things. This week, it was her joy at beheading the Minotaur (and tasting its blood . . . which was strange).
-- With all the hinting that Professor X may be coming, one would think having his son trying to play God and destroy the world would be cause for him to finally make an appearance on the series.
- The heel turn by David has great potential
- Good work by Stevens once the shackles were fully off David
- The season on the whole didn't know how to use the supporting cast to great effect or how to craft a clear storyline