Okay, so is Legion good?
I know it looks good. The special effects are great. The sets are beautiful. The entire thing feels like a well-designed nightmare. Like Fargo, Noah Hawley's previous series (and the one that made him The Greatest Storyteller Known To Humankind, according to the internet), there is so much care and precision put into every single shot that just the visuals of the series alone probably qualify as a masterpiece. Still, as much as I enjoyed Fargo, I never quite flipped my lid over it as much as most people seemed to, and that was because I felt that the show was visually mindblowing but ultimately kind of empty. There was something there, moreso in the first season than the second (which I thought got too tied up in its own mystery to say much of substance), but it never moved me the way the very best prestige dramas do. Breaking Bad may have looked beautiful, but the reason it connected with so many was because of the relentless story behind it about an ordinary man who turned into a villain, and the how and why of how he got there. It was a relevant, poignant story during a time where many ordinary people not unlike Walter White themselves felt like their lives were falling apart. Whether or not you rooted for him (I mean, I would hope that most sensible people were no longer rooting for him by the end of the series, but I'm sure the Breaking Bad subreddit would love to prove me wrong!) you could understand him. I bring up Breaking Bad because that show was also a visual masterpiece, and it has inspired an army of clones that have similar visual precision but fall flat when it comes to proving their worst otherwise. But you could also sub in The Sopranos or Mad Men or whatever prestige television series with deep underlying themes that you choose. What are the deep, underlying themes of Fargo? What is that show trying to say other than "we went to film school and understand how to compose these cool ass shots?".
I do think that Legion wants to say something, though - something about mental illness and being trapped by your past and your own demons. I just don't know that it's succeeding at it. I was very underwhelmed by the show's pilot, which seemed like a classic "look, we're using mental illness as a science fiction twist!" story, which is a plot point that always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The second episode was a little better, and the third episode was probably my favorite yet, the only one so far that I felt really made any attempt to engage with David and his condition as anything other than a plot device. The show occasionally approaches interesting human moments, like David worrying that Sydney wouldn't love him anymore after seeing his memories as a junkie, or David snapping at Melanie and demanding that the only thing he cares about is his sister's safety. But it doesn't linger on those moments too long, and quickly dives back into the mystery and the cinematography of it all. And that's fine! The show is beautiful and weird and confusing. But when you're bringing up issues like addiction and mental illness, I don't think you can just sweep them away when you get a cool shot, or use them as little more than a way to throw your viewers off the trail of your central mystery. My hope is that Hawley is smarter than that, and this will be leading to a place that has something more to say than "look at this really confusing plot we wrote!". I'm not holding my breath, but it would be nice for Television's Greatest Storyteller to, well, live up to that title.