TV: Legion (Season 3)

In a genre beset by formulaic sameness, Legion stands out as a wildly inventive, perverse, and deeply weird trip to an obscure niche of the Marvel universe. After its bracing and innovative first season, this show went full bonkers in its second year. This concluding season continues in that vein. At some point, this stopped being a Marvel show and started being an experimental Noah Hawley auteur project, and while this is likely the source of its occasional flaws—auteurs, unchecked, are prone to extravagance—it’s also key to what makes it great.

Legion follows the troubled life of David Haller (Dan Stevens), a volatile, schizophrenic mutant with epic mind powers. Over the course of the first two seasons, David first befriended and later abandoned a group of mutants—including Sydney Barrett (Rachel Keller), now his ex-girlfriend —who attempted to help him master his powers and save the world against the Shadow King (Navid Negahban). As it turns out, though, it’s David who’s the real threat. As season three begins, he’s founded a hedonistic commune with his old pal Lenny (Aubrey Plaza), and he’s about to embark on a misguided quest to set things right in the world, by going back in history with the help of a time-traveling mutant named Switch (Lauren Tsai). But David’s risky mission threatens to tear apart the fabric of space and time, forcing Syd and her allies to attempt to stop him.

Legion’s three seasons form a mad, vivid, really different trilogy, and what a refreshing change of pace it is from the fun but familiar superhero fare that has become so ubiquitous in recent years. It’s patient, weird, perverse, and fascinating, and I don’t doubt certain viewers will ricochet right the hell off of it. Giving Legion a hard pass would be entirely understandable, too. The show is unforgivingly artsy, prone to bouts of deliberate opaqueness. Its habit of lapsing into science fictional music video, riveting in earlier iterations, starts to feel pretentious and jarring, meeting with uneven results this season. But the show is nothing if not committed to its gonzo vision, and by and large that vision is compellingly executed. The cast is terrific, with Stevens and Plaza contributing unforgettable performances, and the series’ horrific slow-build of an apocalypse pays off in ways both satisfying and unexpected. It’s unfortunate Marvel doesn’t let its properties cut loose like this more often, for while it surely won’t resonate with everyone, it’s a unique and eye-popping saga that has plenty to offer its peculiar target audience.

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