To my knowledge, there has never been a show quite like Legion. Focusing on David Haller, whom comics fans know as the mutant son of Professor X, Legion explored mental health and the nature of reality in a way that no other superhero show or film has even scratched the surface of. What helped a lot in my view were the outstanding performances by the cast, especially Dan Stevens and Aubrey Plaza, and some absolutely stunning writing from showrunner Noah Hawley among others. These are my top 5 episodes of Legion.
The pilot episode of Legion did a stupendous job of setting up not just David Haller as the main character but his relationship with Sydney (Rachel Keller), Division 3 as the antagonists and the concept that what we were seeing on the screen might not be reality. Sydney gets a brilliant line of dialogue in the group therapy session: “What if your problems aren’t in your head? What if they aren’t even problems?” As someone who has struggled with their mental health, I found David’s portrayal, the hospital setup and the non-linear approach to storytelling very relatable.
This episode is basically a What If…? story in which we see a myriad of different ways David’s life could have turned out if he had not been sectioned. The ability of Dan Stevens to play versions of this character as a drug addict, a ruthless billionaire, and a heavily medicated factory worker, to name a few, and have you believe that every single one of them is a real person is nothing short of phenomenal. I LOVE alternate realities and this installment was one of the best “Elseworlds” tales I have seen in any medium. Bonus points also for the very true to life depiction of someone experiencing mental distress being cared for by their concerned relative, David’s sister Amy (Katie Aselton).
Sydney’s consciousness ends up in the Astral Plane after she swaps bodies with David in the previous episode and we see Sydney as a young girl and then a teenager being raised by Oliver (Jermaine Clement) and Melanie (Jean Smart). I love this episode because of the Grimm Tales feel to Oliver and Melanie’s home in the woods and it’s really satisfying to see Syd return to the real world as a strong and confident woman having been cared for and loved by the founders of Summerland. Also anything which involves Jermaine Clement in a rap battle can only be awesome.
This episode is one of the most analyzed and talked about the show’s entire run. Basically, David defeats the Shadow King but partially erases Syd’s memory and later has sex with her. This is seen as evidence that David was evil all along. Some people believe that David was only restoring Syd’s mind to how it had been before the Shadow King manipulated her into thinking David was evil while others view this as intentional rape of Syd by David. Whichever way you interpret it this episode subverted the “hero overcomes the villain and lives happily ever after” trope brilliantly. As a side note, David apologizes to Syd for what he did to her in the closing moments of the series 3 finale which was the right way to end the show in my opinion.
Here we see David Haller declare “I’m not sick anymore” and use his powers to free himself and his friends from the dream world the Shadow King trapped them in during the previous episode. I love this episode because we see David be genuinely heroic for probably the first time and gain control of his powers at last. As someone who has experienced mental distress it was immensely satisfying to see David decide that enough was enough and he was going to do something about it. I also enjoyed Dan Stevens’s dead-on impression of Patrick Stewart during the scene with David’s rational self.
Do you agree with this list? What are your favorite episodes of Legion? Please leave a comment below and have a good day.