Legion Ends Season One in Style, But Not Quite Satisfactorily

Posted on March 30, 2017

Hmm.

Yes, that is pretty much the summation of our review of the season finale of Legion, after half a day of thinking about it. Since that is not exactly quality critical thinking being articulated for you, we’re gonna try a little harder to piece together our feelings and thoughts about how this show “wrapped up” – and boy, are those scare quotes as intentional as they can be – its storylines until the next season starts.

We should start by saying we sat and watched it with a sense of glee and only a slightly nagging feeling in the back of our heads that it wasn’t quite hitting on all cylinders as a finale. Part of that came down to a pre-show discussion (Yes, we have them, sitting on our couch like our own little talk show) in which Lorenzo admitted he thought the show was too “trippy.” Tom, mustering all his comic nerd faux-authority, fansplained semi-patiently that a show about these specific characters has to go trippy or its not doing their original creations justice. Then he semi-patiently explained that the superhero genre of filmic storytelling desperately needs to be pushed out of its ever-shrinking creative box and explore different forms of storytelling; ones that specifically work well with this genre of comic book, and with the types of characters and stories that tend to arise from it. Then, having sufficiently and painstakingly explained to Lorenzo that the trippiness of the show was a feature to be valued and not a bug to be criticized, Tom happily sat back to watch the finale – with a growing-by-the-minute sense that it had finally gotten a little up its own ass and failed to serve up meaty story advancement in favor of one too many stylized slow-motion sequences.

Believe us, we had no expectations that this season was going to end on anything but a cliffhanger. And we never really gave the idea that we were supposed to get clear answers to certain questions a serious thought. The vagueness of the show really is a feature and not a bug. But as much as we enjoyed the usual mindgames and fireworks, it was hard to escape the feeling that wheels were spinning and scenes were starting to get fairly repetitious. There was much to recommend about the hour and now would be a good time to run down the good parts.

Aubrey Plaza remains the MVP of the series and we were delighted that they found a way to keep her in the story while getting her out of David’s head. Shoving her in Oliver’s has real possibility, partially because he’s a fairly powerful mutant himself and partially because any development that puts Jemaine Clement center stage is okay by us.

Umm… the music was great.

Okay, there was more. We were at first pleasantly surprised at the reveal of Clark’s family life and backstory. But spending so much time in the finale on him had us feeling slightly off kilter through the whole thing. Maybe that was by design because the show certainly loves itself an off-kilter moment, but we spent most of the previous 5 or 6 episodes thinking The Eye was going to be the big bad (on the real-world, human side of things, at least), only to have five minutes of rushed biographical montages, and “Oh, by the way, I’m Clark,” and suddenly, the whole story hinged on this heretofore completely neglected character understanding the stakes and learning to team up with his enemies. We can’t say we had hard expectations about exactly where the story was going to go, but the left-field nature of his reintroduction was jarring. It would have made much more sense if we’d followed all those scenes of his recovery and home life throughout the season instead of shoving them into the finale in order to get us up to speed.

We won’t deny a certain unexpected delight watching Clark’s life of domestic, same-sex, rainbow family bliss unfold. Not because we immediately took his side for having an LGBT family, but because the family was presented in such a matter-of-fact way, and because the somewhat refreshing lack of concern about portraying a gay man as something of a villain was nice to see. We are still in a period where it’s notable when LGBT characters are treated like fully rounded people. Then again, we’re still in a period where it’s notable when woman or people of color are too, so we suppose it’s not particularly notable at all in the genera sense. We were just personally delighted by it. More so when we found out the husband was also part of Division 3 and seemed only slightly more moral.

But just because we were personally delighted by the reveal doesn’t mean it was well executed. Clark seems like a decent semi-villain/ally to have, but the sudden focus on him at this juncture set the whole finale off-kilter. There was also, to be quite honest, something of a disappointing low-stakes feeling by the end, when none of the main or side characters died in this supposedly world-shattering confrontation.Just one barely named, largely silent one, who admittedly got a good sendoff last episode. Again, we didn’t go into the finale all blood-thirsty. We’re not even sure we thought about it much. But this episode in particular faked us out on a couple of deaths. And while we’re happy Jean Smart survived the season, all of the terrifyingly visions and apocalyptic undertones sure seem overblown in retrospect when the body count is so low. Did David’s sister or Ptonomy get killed? They might as well have, given how unceremoniously both were dropped from the story.

 

This is starting to sound a bit more negative than we actually feel. We’re disappointed, sure. As a finale, if gave off whiffs of True Detective or Mr, Robot, in the sense that a lot of the stylistic flourishes of the piece, while presented as having great meaning, were in the end, just stylistic flourishes. Highly entertaining, but not quite as meaty as we’d hoped.

 

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