REVIEW: LEGION – SEASON 2

Legion (2017)

MAIN CAST

Dan Stevens (The Guest)
Rachel Keller (Fargo TV)
Aubrey Plaza (Life After Beth)
Bill Irwin (Sleepy Hollow)
Jeremie Harris (Bushwick)
Amber Midthunder (Longmire)
Jean Smart (Smantha Who?)
Navid Negahban (Homeland)
Hamish Linklater (The Crazy Ones)
Jemaine Clement (Men In Black 3)

Dan Stevens in Legion (2017)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Katie Aselton (Our Idiot Brother)
Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
Marc Oka (Onryo)
Lily Rabe (All Good Things)
Molly Hagan (Izombie)
Jaclyn Hales (Extinct)

Legion (2017)Noah Hawley’s superhero show has been getting a bad rap. Though Legion‘s first season was a critically acclaimed centerpiece in conversations about great television, Season 2 has barely made a ripple. The critical love is still there, but this season’s viewership has been dwindling and the series has been accused of being too narratively confusing. I for one am sick of all this negativity. This past year Legion has accomplished some of the most complicated and inspired storytelling in the history of television, and it’s time this show gets the love it so deserves. It’s true this last season of Legion has been confusing. No one can deny that. But for me this show has never been a show you watch for its clear story structure. When it comes to Legion, the narrative doesn’t rest in plot points. It rests in its characters’ emotions.Dan Stevens in Legion (2017)If you watch Legion as a by-the-numbers superhero drama like Marvel’s Jessica Jones or even DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, you’re going to be frustrated. Though the series has a clear superhero at its center (Dan Stevens‘ David Haller), a well-organized superhero team (Summerland), a nefarious villain (Navid Negahban’s Farouk), and a seemingly clear goal (to stop Farouk from destroying the world), it’s almost impenetrably weird. There are just too many layers preventing the average viewer from logically following Season 2’s story. Multiple episodes take place in mental traps designed to imprison the members of Summerland. Characters often prefer to monologue about morality instead of coming up with anything that resembles an actionable plan. And whether David is helping or trying to hurt his foe Farouk fluctuates so often you need a graph to track their relationship. Add in the fact that every detail we see in Legion is supposed to be filtered through David’s unhinged mind and that David has no problem lying — to his enemies, his allies, the love of his life, the audience, himself —and the point-by-point summary of what happens in Legion can feel exhaustingly dense.Navid Negahban in Legion (2017)But unlike other superhero fare, Legion was never meant to be watched for its set pieces or its straightforward battles. Instead it’s a show as emotional and internal as its protagonist. Once you start following Legion Season 2 through its emotional arcs rather than its otherworldly action sequences, this season starts to make a lot more sense. And the story it’s telling is an achingly bleak one. Even during its elaborate Bollywood dance number, Legion‘s first season was always a sweet love story between two superheroes who met in an asylum, David and Syd (Rachel Keller). Each episode painted a new way the two loved each other, another sacrifice they would make. It was a season that loved its central relationship as much as these characters loved each other.
Dan Stevens, Amber Midthunder, and Rachel Keller in Legion (2017)Season 2 isn’t that. This season started with David re-emerging into existence after being trapped in his own psyche for a year. However, he doesn’t rejoin the team he was forced to abandon apologetically. He swaggers back into Syd and his team’s life, completely confident that he knows what’s best and hyper aware of his own near omnipotence. His timid uncertainty has evaporated, but that doesn’t mean what’s left is better. While David makes his return, Syd stands behind him, talking a big game about the importance of standing by “her man.” Though her sincerity is there, time and time again her words feel false. There are cracks in this relationship, and they’re starting to become clear to both Syd and the audience.Dan Stevens in Legion (2017)It doesn’t exactly matter why things happen in Legion. Why the mutant with dual personalities Cary (Bill Irwin) and Kerry (Amber Midthunder) split isn’t relevant. Exactly how David’s magnetic druggie best friend Lenny (Aubrey Plaza) exists in the nefarious Farouk’s consciousness isn’t important. Clear explanations for Syd’s future self and why Legion spent an episode focusing on the many different paths in life David could have taken never appear. And none of these explanations matter. What matters instead is the emotional weight behind these moments. How will two people who have been cohabiting their whole lives exist when they’re apart? How long can someone, even a character as independent as Lenny, exist in isolation? How far will David blindly follow Syd? If you strip him of his newfound allies and romance, who is David? Time after time, this season has constructed elaborate questions and used the nebulous rules of science fiction to force its characters to find answers. In this way, each new episode of Legion is a new character study that’s more nuanced, painful, and heartfelt than the last.Dan Stevens in Legion (2017)And yet threaded through this mysteries-and-answers format there’s another emotional arc unwinding, one that questions David’s sanity alongside his ego. If you could bend the laws of the universe and consciousness to your will, Legion asks, how would that change you? And how would that change the people you loved? The series doesn’t have a clear answer to those questions, but it’s smart enough to ask the questions. So often we think about superhero stories having roughly the same stakes as the normal world. The enemies may be more punchable than sickness or climate change, but our heroes typically want the same things we want — to save their loved ones and the world. But power doesn’t just change people’s decisions. It changes the scope of what they consider to be important, sometimes irreparably so. It’s these breaks between “normalcy” and the potential of superheroes that Legion portrays hauntingly well as it dances through moral theory, mental illness, emotional limits, psychic powers, and stunning visuals.Rachel Keller in Legion (2017)David was never meant to be the hero. He may have the right look and say the right things, but he’s always been a bit too ready to lie and a bit too self-involved to be what we consider heroic. However, that’s never made him a bad character. David’s biggest strength has never been his nearly limitless powers but his ability to be so authentically fragile, he can almost effortlessly bend both his allies and the audience to his will. David Haller is a hero only because that’s what we’ve desperately wanted him to be for two years. The fact that Legion has tricked us so well for so long long is a mark of how brilliant this show is at every level. And the fact it can keep up this ruse while also delivering some of the most visually haunting scenes of 2018 and incorporating drops from The Who and The Kinks is just icing on the cake.

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REVIEW: LEGION – SEASON 1

MAIN CAST

Dan Stevens (Downtown Abbey)
Rachel Keller (Hollidaysburg)
Aubrey Plaza (Life After beth)
Bill Irwin (Sleepy Hollow)
Jeremie Harris (Pariah)
Amber Midthunder (Hell or High water)
Katie Aselton (The Gift)
Jean Smart (Smanatha Who ?)

NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Hamish Linklater (Battleship)
David Selby (The Social Network)
Mackenzie Gray (Man of Steel)
Scott Lawrence (Avatar)
Jermaine Clement (Men In Black 3)
Eddie Jemison (IZombie)

For those among you who, like me, love some of the slightly weirder superheroes out there (especially of the mutant kind and preferably in the X-Men universe) but feel most of those guys’ screen outings so far were either constricted by the 2-hour format or held back by the need to appeal to mainstream audiences, I’m happy to report there is finally a full length TV-show that dares to fully embrace the craziness of its source material without taking any prisoners. The show’s name is ‘Legion’ (and I’m already pretty sure its fans will be many).Following the storyline may seem a little difficult (at least at the beginning) for ‘Legion’ plunges us head first into the confused mind of its hero, and the narrative is – deliberately – often just as fractured as David Haller’s personality. Right from the start this show makes it very clear how committed it is to convey its protagonist’s unstable state of mind – and boy does it succeed: through David’s eyes we experience an often terrifying (albeit colorful) world where we can never be sure what’s real and what’s imagined; nor can we get a grasp on where we are, when we are, or even who we are.But this trip down the rabbit hole is well worth taking (even if it does turn into a horror trip at times) for it’s a psychedelic ride that has been designed by very talented people. Creator Noah Hawley, who has already given us the excellent show ‘Fargo’, obviously knows what he’s doing, and watching the show feels like listening to a perfectly composed concept album from a seventies rock band. The cast is terrific (especially Dan Stevens as David Haller); the visuals and the production design are a wonderfully weird mix of retro and modern elements which fits David’s distorted perception of time and reality like a glove, and the mystery surrounding David as he desperately tries to cut through the haze and figure out what’s going on will keep you glued to the screen throughout.Insanity is a tricky subject to tackle, and the possible pitfalls are many; present it with too much levity and you risk the accusation that you’re making fun of people with a terrible illness – yet if you portray it as tragic and bleak as it often is  you will lose your audience. So to find the right tone here was not an easy thing to do, but I believe the show – just as Marvel did in the comic books – does an outstanding job at never coming across disrespectful while still offering fantastic entertainment.So to sum up my first impression: ‘Legion’ represents a refreshingly different side of Marvel (compared to the films and shows based on Marvel Comics’ more “grounded” creations that we’ve seen so far) and by fully embracing the source material’s “weirdness” the show is a testament to just how insanely (in the true sense of the word) inventive and versatile Stan Lee and his band of brothers were/are. This show is wilder, more surreal and generally much, much crazier than your average superhero story and there are moments where you feel reminded of the works of David Fincher, Charlie Kaufman or even David Lynch. I’d highly recommend it especially to adult comic book fans and those among you who don’t demand everything be explained within the first episode. Personally, I feel this is Marvel at its best and most complex.

REVIEW: WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN

MAIN CAST (VOICES)

Steven Blum (Marvel Anime)
Susan Dalian (Ultimate Avengers 2)
Jennifer Hale (Biker Mouse From Mars)
Danielle Judovits  (The Batman)
Tom Kane (Spider-Man: TAS)
Yuri Lowenthal (Bleach)
Nolan North (Young Justice)
Liam O’Brien (Sailor Moon Crystal)
Roger Craig Smith (Batman Unlimited)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Kieren van den Blink (Anywhere but Here)
Kari Wahlgren (Last Exile)
Jim Ward (Wall-E)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Charlie Adler (Transformers)
Tamara Bernier Evans (As You Like It)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
A.J. Buckley (Happy Feet)
Corey Burton (Jutsice LEague Unlimited)
Grey DeLisle (Megas XLR)
Alex Désert (The Flash)
Richard Doyle (Ben 10)
Chris Edgerly (Dr. Dolittle 3)
Crispin Freeman (Hellsing)
Kate Higgins (Eureka Seven)
Mark Hildreth (V)
Michael Ironside (Total Recall)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Gabriel Mann (Dominion)
Graham McTavish (The Hobbit)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Tara Strong (Batman: TAS)

The story begins with Rogue and Wolverine having an argument about him leaving. When Wolverine goes to Charles and Jean Grey get headaches. An explosion occurs, and Charles and Jean disappear. The resulting trauma caused the X-Men team to disband and go their separate ways, leaving Xavier’s once highly revered league of mutant peace preservers out of commission. Due to the loss of the Professor, Jean, and severe damage to the mansion, many of the X-Men have withered in their faith towards the stability of their former team and have since detached themselves from their former community. Some examples include Cyclops’ subsequent isolation resulting from Jean’s disappearance, Storm’s relocation back to her home continent of Africa, and Iceman’s move back into his parents’ home in the quiet suburbs.
One year later, the MRD (short for the Mutant Response Division), a government-supported organization created for the detainment and subsequent registration of existing mutants, begins capturing mutants from all over the country in response to the countless human protesters determined to protect the safety of humankind. This course of action causes Wolverine and Beast to ally and resolve to bring the once defunct X-Men team back together again. Meanwhile, Rogue is in the street and attacked by the Brotherhood of Mutants. They trick her into joining them, and she later smiles devilishly as she enters their base, appearing to have switched allegiance to become an evil mutant. Thanks to the generosity, wealth, and resourcefulness of Angel, the slowly reforming X-Men team begins to see a promising return to its former glory with the rejoining of junior members Iceman, Shadowcat and Forge along with the reconstruction of the previously demolished Xavier Institute. Unfortunately, without the necessary capabilities of a competent telepath to operate Cerebro, the possibility of locating some of the more globally scattered X-Men members along with the missing Charles Xavier and Jean seems all but a pipe dream.
Fortunately, this problem does not last for very long when Emma Frost, the beautiful former Headmistress of a now inactive mutant school of her own in Massachusetts, makes a surprising appearance on the doorstep of the Mansion with an interesting proposal: membership with the X-Men in exchange for utilizing her telepathy to pinpoint the missing Xavier’s whereabouts. Upon the team’s – and particularly Wolverine’s – reluctant acceptance of the offer, Emma’s efforts prove successful as she is able to locate a comatose Charles on the shores of Genosha in the care of Magneto. After their arrival on Genosha and a short confrontation with the Master of Magnetism himself, Magneto eventually permits the X-Men to take his old friend’s body back to the sanctity of the Mansion where he is certain that Xavier will be placed in proper care. Upon their return, Xavier telepathically contacts the X-Men twenty years from the present in an alternate dystopian future and informs Wolverine that he is to lead and reunite the X-Men if they wish to successfully prevent the inevitable war that will cause the world to fall under the domination of Master Mold and the Sentinels.
Throughout the course of the entire season, Emma’s role as the X-Men’s primary acting telepath enables the team to relocate the rest of the other members in the hopes of reforming once again and assisting in Xavier’s cause. While some were met with initial hesitancy such as with Nightcrawler, others such as Storm were more than willing to accept the offer once Xavier’s vision had been put into perspective. The X-Men overcome many hardships and obstacles along the way upon achieving their ultimate goal of relocating Jean and finally revealing the truth surrounding the mystery of the Mansion’s cause for explosion along with Xavier and Jean’s subsequent disappearances. Meanwhile, Magneto welcomes new mutants to Genosha, amongst whom is Nightcrawler. Magneto claims that Kenosha is a safe and secure area for mutants, rather than a threat. At first Nightcrawler believes this, but upon closer inspection Genosha is exposed as a method used by Magneto to use mutant’s powers. Nightcrawler escapes, but is captured by Mystique when he arrives back at the mansion.

Next, Wolverine had some sights of the past and with the help of Emma, he went to unveil the truth of his sightings. In the course, he met a lone mutant girl, and a past friend Sabretooth and finally unleash the truth of his past to a certain extent. In next, Cyclops has sad past about Jean, and he always thought that she is still alive. So, with the help of Emma, he went along Mister Sinister. The heavy fight between X-Men and Mister Sinister finished without the actual goal. Wolverine takes an oath from Cyclops to be in the X-Men and not to search for Jean. In the last scenes, Jean wakes up in a hospital after months in a coma.
It is later revealed in the three-part first season finale “Foresight” that the previously assumed attack on the Mansion was not from the efforts of a third party, but rather from the result of Jean who unwittingly releases the immense and highly destructive strength and power of the Phoenix Force, that originally lay dormant deep within her subconscious, in an attempt to halt an oncoming telepathic attack led by Emma (who was secretly working as a double agent for the Inner Circle and the Stepford Cuckoos). Along with Sebastian Shaw, Selene, Harry Leland, and Donald Pierce, it was the Inner Circle’s utmost duty to not only obtain the power of the Phoenix Force by abducting Jean from the protection of Xavier and the Mansion, but to also obliterate the ancient being’s existence before it could fully mature and consequently bring forth unparalleled destruction onto the world as it had done numerous times in the past throughout Earth’s history. However, in a move that was completely unknown to Emma at the time, the rest of the Inner Circle members all shared an entirely different and more sinister vision than Frost had initially believed: to control and manipulate the power of the Phoenix Force and have it cater to their own hidden agenda.Upon realizing the error of her ways, Emma betrays the Inner Circle and attempts to redeem herself in the eyes of the X-Men by not only rescuing Jean but, by also following through with her original plan of destroying the cosmic entity before it could mature. Unfortunately, her actions result in her apparent death. Rogue apologizes to Wolverine, and finally rejoins the X-Men for good. The now fully reformed X-Men are praised for their actions by Professor Xavier, but are warned of a new danger approaching: the Age of Apocalypse.Wolverine and the X-Men was a quite underrated animated series, which certainly deserved much more success than it got. I mean, this series at least deserved to have another season, but sadly it was cancelled too soon, despite having a high level of quality, good animation.

REVIEW: X-MEN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – SEASON 1-5

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CAST

Cedric Smith (Mutant X)
Norm Spencer (Rescue Heroes)
Catherine Disher (The Good Witch)
Cathal J. Dodd (Goosebumps)
Iona Morris (Robotech)
Alison Sealy-Smith (This Is Wonderland)
Chris Potter (The Waiting Game)
Tony Daniels (Yin Yang Yo!)
Alyson Court (Elvis Meets Nixon)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

John Colicos (Battlestar Galactica)
Jeremy Ratchford (Cold Case)
Lawrence Bayne (Highlander: TAS)
Barry Flatman (Odyssey 5)
Richard Epcar (Power Rangers)
David Hemblen (Earth: Final Conflict)
Don Francks (La Femme Nikita)
Frank Welker (The Simpsons)
Len Carlson (Swamp Thing: TAS)
Susan Roman (The Racoons)
Dennis Akiyama (Pxiels)
Nigel Bennett (Andromeda)
Maurice Dean Wint (Robocop: Prime Directives)
Philip Akin (Highlander: The Series)

 

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I recently watched through the entire 90’s x-men Animated Series for the first time. So does the show hold up for someone who didn’t watch it when it first aired? Is it still a good show? Overall, the show is really good. It was also revolutionary as it was one of the first animated TV shows to have a continuing storyline throughout the first few seasons.

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Rather than creating exclusively new story lines, the show based most of its episodes on well known events from the comics. Stuff like the ultra-famous dark phoenix saga all the way to a modified version of Days of Future Past that included the time traveling mutant Bishop. Most of the episodes changed details here and there to keep thing simple, but the basic premise remains the same.

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The animation is a mixed bag. On the one hand, still shots look very good for a 90s cartoon. Both characters and environments are finely detailed and even facial expressions are usually well done. On the other hand, it doesn’t look too good in motion. The frame-rate is often choppy and at times characters in the background are just standing still. There are occasional continuity errors as well, like characters swapping outfits between shots (the episode titled “Nightcrawler” comes to mind).

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Characters are generally portrayed well in the TV show. The main team consists of Professor X, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Wolverine, Beast, Storm, Gambit, Rogue, and Jubilee. Professor X, Wolverine, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast and Gambit are all portrayed well in the show. I found some of their voice actors were a little off-putting at first, but as I watched they grew on me. Rogue probably has the best voice acting of the bunch.

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I wasn’t quite as fond with the portrayal of Storm or Jubilee however. Storm was alright, but having her constantly talk about what she was commanding the weather to do is annoying at times. Does she have to verbally command the wind every time she blasts enemies with it? I get that she’s a bit of a showoff and that’s part of her charm, but still.

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The show has a great spotlight of different villains as well. It features everyone from mega villains like Magneto, Mr. Sinister, and Apocalypse to smaller villains like Vertigo, the Juggernaut, and even the Brood. The show even mentions the Juggernaut’s relationship to Xavier (they’re step brothers). Mr. Sinister in particular is very well portrayed in the series, and we even get an origins episode in season five (heavily modified of course).

If you have any interest in the X-men and want to try out the comics, this is a decent show for finding out some of the franchises back-story. It’s rarely as good as the original stories it’s based on, but it’s easier to find and for the most part, it’s an easy watch.