What Is “Legion” Really About?

“Legion” has been visually-stunning, thought-provoking, and mind-boggling. The debut season ends tomorrow, but what was the method to all the madness?

(Image via: FX)

As the season played out, Legion became quite convoluted. It became very hard to distinguish what was taking place in reality and what was taking place in David’s mind, but this was by design.

“My goal is not to confuse or obfuscate. My goal is to present reality as he sees it, and then try to decode it as he’s decoding it, so that by the end of chapter one, the first season, you’re going to have a much clearer sense of what’s real than you had in the beginning, because he does too.” — Noah Hawley

Legion, then, is like Mr. Robot. The show was intentionally convoluted to reflect the state of the narrator. The form came to embody the message. As David was struggling with his newfound mental capabilities, Legion was at its most confusing. As David got some much-needed facts in “Chapter 7”, we the audience got clarity, too. We were put through this journey to show, rather than tell, us what David’s journey has been like.

Part of the reason for this, I suspect, is to represent the experience of having a mental illness (even though we know David isn’t schizophrenic). Prior to its debut, Legion was touted as the story of Charles Xavier’s son, and an exploration of mental health. This was seen in “Chapter 1”, when Sydney (rhetorically) asks:

“All I’m saying is what if your problems aren’t in your head? What if they aren’t even problems?”

Sydney, as we’ve seen, becomes tremendously important to David. Amidst the madness within his mind, the only thing David knew was real was his relationship with Sydney. Sydney grounded him. She became his totem (Inception-style). Whether or not Sydney can be touched is how David, and we, know what is or isn’t real. And while Syd’s inability to be touched puts an invisible barrier between their bodies, it’s unable to divide their minds, giving David an idyllic escape and Syd a true human connection.

(GIFs via: QPotter & Eggogorgon)

Diving into Sydney’s question further, as I often like to do, my expectation of the 8-episode season was that its theme was going to be, in a short-but-sweet nutshell, “our demons make us who we are.”

The superhero genre often acts as a metaphor for people embracing our unique qualities. This was the major theme of shows such as Heroes, and I suspect this is the case with Legion, too. In “Chapter 5”, Syd asks David:

“Who teaches us to be normal when we’re one of a kind?”

This, when paired with the first question, leads me to think that the message behind Legion is: Our demons are what makes us who we are and they’re what makes us unique, so why not embrace them?

Bonus: Small Details I Loved

  1. Syd’s orange hairband that doubles as a scarf and matches her clothes.
  2. The lake David and Syd talk by, but only because it’s actually 15 minutes from where I live.
  3. Aubrey Plaza getting to be full-on weird.

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I strive towards a career that ends up leaving me somewhere between Howard Beck and Howard Beale.

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