Legion season 2 episode 1 review – bizarre, brilliant, and smart TV

It’s probably best if you don’t try to understand everything in the Legion season 2 episode 1, and just go along with it. You’ll definitely enjoy it more that way. If anything, it feels like the showrunners have gone even more arthouse and conceptual with season 2, and the first half an hour is near impossible to follow because there’s no ‘normal’ scenes to give context to the bizarre events that unfold. There are hundreds of people chattering their teeth in a basement, a guy with a laundry basket on his head, flanked by androgynous robots with moustaches, and a scene with Aubrey Plaza and Jemaine Clement drinking cocktails in a swimming pool. Despite all the rather obtuse storytelling, though, I found myself grinning throughout most of this brilliant first episode.

To kinda catch you up: a year has passed since The Shadow King escaped with Oliver’s body, leaving David trapped in a mechanical orb. Although David only perceives that he’s been out of action for a day. The rest of his mutant friends have formed an organisation, with different Divisions dedicated to tracking down the Shadow King, but they’ve encountered a big problem along the way: The Catalyst. Essentially, it’s a psychological infection that causes regular humans to become permanently non-responsive, and to continually chatter their teeth. It’s intensely disturbing. To say more than that is to spoil much of the episode, so I won’t, but that’s the basic set-up. If you’re thinking of getting into Legion season 2 without watching S1: don’t. It’s confusing enough when you know what’s happened previously. Without seeing Legion season 1 (opens in new tab), it’s impenetrable.

What you get with this first instalment of season 2 is a strange collection of scenes, which I’d be hard pressed to describe as a coherent episode of TV. It’s like a music video from the ‘90s, shot by the crew of Blade Runner 2049. It’s superhero TV discovering some of the paintings it did after coming down from a particularly disturbing acid trip. In many ways it’s beautiful, and when you get what the show is telling you, some of the scenes feel utterly, brilliantly unique. You may have heard that there’s a dance-off (opens in new tab) part-way through this episode. You heard right, but you’re in no way prepared for how incredible that scene is.

Nor are you ready for one particular scene where Melanie Bird (Jean Smart) has a tragic conversation with Syd about “our men”, which touches on the male superhero obsession with saving the world and the consequences their actions have on the ones they leave behind. It’s a pocket of sobering humanity squeezed into the sprawling madness of the rest of the episode. Tonally, though, it’s very much the exception – Legion remains as darkly humorous as ever, packing in a handful of genuinely funny moments to keep things as grounded as possible.

That has always been the true genius of Legion, and this first episode of season 2 definitely feels like the most refined example yet. It walks the line between wilfully conceptual TV, visual spectacle, and a wonderfully human story – never letting one element overpower the other. The resulting mixture is a show that undoubtedly isn’t for everyone, and many may watch this episode and decide it’s a load of old arty crap. Following what’s happening minute to minute is still intensely demanding. Persist, though, and Legion rewards you with scenes, lines, and characters you’ll never see anywhere else on TV. It’s the only show that could pull off the line “So… I’m supposed to find The Shadow King from inside a daiquiri” and it’s all the better for it.

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