Legion S2: Episode 1: “Chapter 9”

Starring: Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Aubrey Plaza, Bill Irwin, Jemaine Clement, Jeremie Harris, Amber Midthunder, Jean Smart, and Hamish Linklater
Written by: Noah Hawley and Nathaniel Halpern
Directed by: Tim Mielants

”Do you have any waffles?”

The best filmic X-Men experience (don’t @ me) is back, and it’s like it never left in Legion S2. Subtitled “The Madness of Crowds” Noah Hawley’s bizarro, 70s inspired take on the world’s most powerful mutant shuffles its own deck mightily. It gets back on the hunt for the elusive Shadow King, David Haller’s mind, and peace between humans and mutants in a densely entertaining second season premiere.

When we last saw David, he had just been sucked into a mechanical floating ball and whisked off to god knows where. But don’t worry, he’s “better” now and ready to get back in the fight to save Oliver and bring down the Shadow King once and for all. Too bad its been a year since that night at Summerland and now everything is even more topsy-turvy. If you thought Legion season one was insane, then “Chapter 9” would kindly like you to hold its beer.

A hungry telepath, a room full of people with chattering teeth, and the cyborg leader of a clandestine human/mutant joint task force. Those aren’t even the weirdest elements of “Chapter 9”. Employing a bit of a time jump, Legion S2 drops us right in the thick of it. We join the hunt for the Shadow King and a life that moved on while David went on a psychic walkabout. We pick up one year after David and Syd’s last night at Summerland, right after Farouk escaped in Oliver’s body. While David is grappling with lost time, he finds himself attempting to adjust to the new Summerland/Division 3 union and mend his relationship with Syd.

Along with the gap in time, in which literally AN-Y-THING could have happened during, nobody plays bewildered quite like Dan Stevens. It’s so, so great to see his confused and adorable face back on my TV. Better still, Hawley and Halpern’s script basically give us as much as we need to know pretty much immediately, with Jon Hamm read parables littered throughout. Though the argument could be made that this first episode is pretty exposition heavy for a season opener. The pair, along with the precisely theatrical direction of Mielants really make it all go down smooth. Doing what some of the best-serialized comics do in four issues in one hour plus of television.

Like I said, the episode has a lot of information to try and convey, as well as checking in with all our major returning characters. “Chapter 9” never felt like it was dragging or hindered by the opening table setting. The cast all seems instantly reengaged in the material. Rachel Keller’s Syd being a standout, mainly due to her new cat-based method of coping with her body switching powers. Aided by the stellar cast, Legion S2 also continues its streak of playful psychedelic charm. Thanks to its Fargo-esque interludes, quirky dialogue, and jaw-droppingly weird set pieces. Much like the debut episode of season one, “Chapter 9” throws a metric ton of weirdness at the audience and dares it to keep up.

I feel like even if it does lose you, you are still having fun with the cast and the sharp scripts (which is really what the X-Men have needed on screen all along). I know I’m not doing it anywhere near justice. If you were worried about Legion S2 playing it safe in its opening episode, you need not worry. And I haven’t even MENTIONED THE DANCE OFF. You heard me.

Verdict: Watch It. There is Still Nothing Like it On TV.

With its Prisoner inspired production values and Grant Morrison-esque vibe, “Chapter 9” is an odd delight, one that capitalizes on the wonderful character dynamics and ambition of the first season in all the right ways. Is it dense? Absolutely. Is it hard to follow sometimes? You bet your ass it is. But is it also a wonderful representation of David Haller and his merry mutant brothers and sisters? And bloody how it is and I sincerely cannot wait to see where it goes.

Until next time, shout it loud, mutant and proud. I’ll be seeing you.

Justin Partridge
A writer, a dandy, a Friend of Tom, and a street walkin' cheetah with a heart fulla napalm. He has loved comics all his life but he hasn't quite got them to love him back just yet. That hasn't stopped him writing about them or about any other media that hoves into his sights. He can usually be reached via the hellscape that is Twitter @J_PartridgeIII or by e-mail at justin@betweenthepanels.com.

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