Posts Tagged ‘ tv shows ’

A Review of the first season of FX’s Legion

By Kaleb Lyonnais

On March 29, FX premiered the first season finale of Legion, a television program about the character of the same name taken from Marvel Comics.  The eight-episode season was short but potent, distinguishing itself with creative use of special effects and a uniquely-unpredictable plot.

Legion is set in the same continuity as the X-Men movie franchise. The X-Men are a group of mutants, people with superpowers gained through random genetic aberrations. They were created in 1963 by Stan Lee who, after creating many other superheroes, was tired of writing origin stories for each character. David Haller, the mutant known as Legion, is the son of Professor X, the leader of the X-Men. However, with minimal references and no crossovers with the movies, anyone can understand Legion even if they have not seen the X-Men.

David is telepathic and telekinetic. Unfortunately, he is also schizophrenic, having hallucinations of strange voices and images. At the beginning of the season he believes that whenever he hears someone else’s thoughts, whenever he sees something fly across the room, or whenever anything inexplicable happens, that it is a symptom of his insanity.

As the story progresses David does not know if he is insane or if he has superhuman abilities. He must decide who he believes, the psychiatrists who want to treat his illness or the fellow mutants who want to train him to use his power.

Meanwhile David’s new friends, a group of mutants from the “Summerland” institute, are at war with Division 3, a government agency trying to control mutants. The mutants vs. government motif has been done in the X-Men movies, but Legion took the novel approach of focusing on telepathic deceit instead of combat.

Special effects are used throughout the series to portray these illusions, from monsters projected into people’s minds to entire fantasy worlds with different laws of physics. The producers stated that they aimed for a 1960s aesthetic, with bright colors and surreal scenes. The result is a memorable and palpable affect that provides continuity between the real world and the various illusions.

Much of the story is told in a non-linear order. Courtesy of another mutant, David and his new friends explore his memories. They visit many incidents where David’s power manifested, jumping from year to year. David’s memories have been corrupted, leading to an unreliable, convoluted search for the truth. Despite this complexity, the audience can follow the story easily as David tries to explain it all.

Legion‘s cast is small, allowing the audience to focus on the story instead of trying to keep track of all of the characters. David is played by Dan Stevens, who does an excellent job acting confused and uncertain without dehumanizing the character. Rachel Keller plays David’s love interest Syd, a woman with an intense aversion to physical contact (which, considering her ability to switch bodies with people she touches, is a reasonable precaution). Aubrey Plaza plays Lenny, David’s friend who dies the first episode, then makes recurring appearances as David hallucinates about her. Their allies/co-stars include the memory-exploring Ptonomy (played by Jeremie Harris), the body-sharing Cary and Kerry (Bill Irwin and Amber Midthunder), and the leader of Summerland, Melanie (Jean Smart).

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the show is its portrayal of mental illness. David begins the series in a mental hospital where melancholy patients endlessly take pills from uncaring psychiatrists. Several times mental illness is used as a trick to convince mutants that they do not truly have powers. Even David’s real hallucinations (as opposed to the real events he thinks are hallucinations) are revealed to be the result of meddling by another psychic mutants. The series gives the impression that mental illness is a lie and that mental hospitals are traps for social outcasts.

Because of the unreliable narrative and layers of illusions, the plot takes turns that are nigh unpredictable. It is made clear to the audience that David is both telepathic and schizophrenic, but this makes it unclear which events are real and which are imagined. Every episode has a revelation about an seemingly-real character doing something unreal or a seemingly-unreal event launching a real plot line.

Legion has a unique style of storytelling and captivating special effects. Its characters have multi-faceted motivations and do not rely on stereotypes to fit into the story. The plot, while complex, flows smoothly and does not resort to patronizing the audience with exposition. It is an enjoyable show to watch and an excellent experiment in entertainment.

 

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A Review of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

by Kaleb Lyonnais

Last year the first season of was released Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency on BBC America. The series is a science fiction mystery about Dirk Gently, a detective who solves cases by examining the interconnections between things. This means that he just wanders around until he solves the case by coincidence.

The season began with a rich man, Patrick String, being murdered by a shark in his hotel room. The shark seems to have disappeared. Dirk Gently, who was hired by Spring to investigate his death (which he somehow knew about beforehand), promptly enlists the help of a random bellhop.

From there, everything spins out of control. Dirk negotiates with body-swapping cultists about a kitten and a dog, an invulnerable assassin kills almost everyone, and a map leads to another map which leads to a third map. This was all in the first few episodes.

The main themes are that everything is connected and that people should embrace their differences, even if they are out of the ordinary. The show is best summarized by a line from the season finale: “Have fun with your friends. They seem insane.”

I would highly recommend Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency to anyone looking for a good show to watch. Its plot line, while convoluted, makes it hard to predict and exciting. It also serves as a reminder that, however stressful your life is, at least your not trapped in the body of a dog (I assume).

Review of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 Premiere

By Kaleb Lyonnais

Last week, die-hard fans watched a new episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for the first time in what felt like years (it was only a few months). The previous season ended with a sneak peak at the new one. This left viewers with two questions: who is this new director, and why did Daisy leave?

Fans of Marvel’s movies remember S.H.I.E.L.D. having been destroyed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. A small group of agents continued working without government authorization for a few years, with Agent Coulson as director. Movie fans also remember Coulson dying in the first Avengers movie; the short explanation is that Nick Fury is a liar.

In the new season, S.H.I.E.L.D. has regained government sanction as the chief enforcers of the Sokovia Accords (the thing everyone was fighting about in Civil War). This came with a new, government-appointed director, but the only thing that is revealed about him is that he is paranoid.

The most exciting development of the premiere was the introduction of Ghost Rider. Characterized by his flaming skull, Ghost Rider is a difficult character to portray; he appears tawdry if the special effects are haphazard, but gaudy if they are overdone. This time the special effects were realistic and subtle, a credit to Computer graphics.

The plot was not particularly interesting; this episode mostly facilitated the plots of future episodes. Daisy, now inexplicably a vigilante known as Quake, was investigating something trivial when she found Ghost Rider. Old friends are trying to balance working for (or undercutting) the new director and remaining friends. Also, Life Model Decoys were invented.

The new season will certainly be interesting. The premiere did not answer any questions but instead raised many more. Fans can look forward to dramatic plotlines, exciting fight scenes, and more, surprisingly good, special effects.

Sherlock’s “The Abominable Bride”: A Review

By Emilia Wurtz

Sherlock is a BBC show, based on the famous work of Arthur Conan Doyle, that has gained popularity in the United States. Sherlock follows Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Dr. Watson (Martin Freeman) as they take on murder cases. “The Abominable Bride”, a Christmas special released at the end of 2015, takes a new view on the life of Sherlock Holmes. Unlike the show, it takes place in 1895, at the height of the Victorian Age.

A new case shows up for the Victorian Sherlock, but he isn’t too keen on taking it on at first. A crazed woman in a wedding gown took her own life. Suicide isn’t really Sherlock’s usual case. That was, until she showed up later and killed her husband. It didn’t seem possible, and so Sherlock took the case.

If you are a fan of Sherlock, you will quite enjoy this special. It’s got an interesting case and quite the plot twist at the end. While the plot may be confusing at first, the ending explains it all.

“The Abominable Bride” was a big hit, and many went to the theater to see it. In fact, on a per-screen gross average, it beat titles like Star Wars: The Force Awakens. With 11.6 million watching, it became the most popular show over the holiday season. Fans of the show were excited because Sherlock hasn’t aired a new episode since 2014 and the last episode ended on a significant cliffhanger.

Spoiler Alert: this section sums up the plot of the show up to “The Abominable Bride.” If you have not seen this part of the show, don’t click the read more.

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