There are some film directors who are one of a kind. Tarantino, Scorsese, Spielberg, del Toro, all are individuals whose films radiate a unique style and tone. I mean, could you imagine a remake of PULP FICTION or GOODFELLAS without Tarantino or Scorsese in the director’s chair? For a while, film director duo Joel and Ethan Coen were among this unparalleled pantheon. Then came Noah Hawley with this crazy idea to turn the iconic Coen Bros. film FARGO into a television series. Film nerds balked at the idea. Not only was FARGO the movie that more or less put the brothers on the map, but it remains one of the most enduring cult classic films from the nineties. Keep in mind that at this point, Hawley was known only for helping to write and produce seasons 1-3 of BONES, a far cry from anything remotely Coen-esque.

READ: FX’s LEGION: An Overview of the Show So Far

Yet over the course of two seasons on FX, Hawley created one of the best shows to debut yet in this “Golden Age” of television. The FARGO television series perfectly encapsulates the absurdity of the Coen Bros. universe but at the same time is its own thing, using the rural North Dakota backdrop to tell darkly hilarious stories that might even rival the film. So when the announcement came that Hawley would be running another show for FX–a Marvel one, no less–expectations were high. Yet Hawley has done it once again with LEGION, a television show that not only rivals Marvel’s superb Netflix series but some of the films as well.

Bokeem Woodbine as Mike Milligan in FARGO

LEGION isn’t your typical X-Men story. The psychological dilemmas of the characters aren’t solved or created by a bald man in a wheelchair. There are no shape-shifting women with blue skin, and so far no adamantium claws. It doesn’t pander to comics fans with constant throwaway references or cameos and is all the better for that. But what brings LEGION above and beyond its peers is the inimitable style that permeates every frame — a style that only Noah Hawley can get away with doing on a Marvel property.

The most obvious of these stylistic choices is the soundtrack. Season 2 of FARGO worked so well as a period piece not only because of the amazing costume design but because of the hazy seventies soundtrack that back-dropped every scene. LEGION continues Hawley’s trend of atmospheric soundtracks, only this time he opts for it to be timeless instead of era-specific. From mixing 80’s horror synths while panning down psychiatric ward corridors to playing “She’s a Rainbow” by the Rolling Stones when a beautiful girl walks in the room, LEGION’s soundtrack is as unpredictable as our protagonist. It fits perfectly with the show’s pastiche. Our point of view through David Haller’s eyes is disjointed and hallucinogenic, why should we be able to easily pin down something as simple as the year this show takes place?

Dan Stevens as David Haller in LEGION

Having watched all of Noah Hawley’s past work as a show-runner, I have been able to see him grow not only as a show-runner but as an editor as well. Some of the best moments in FARGO are products of slick editing. Whether it is a gun fight in a snowy wasteland of woods or a shocking hammer to the head, Hawley does it with a flair that doesn’t take away from any scene. LEGION is a much more impressive feat of editing prowess. The show blends seamlessly from hallucination to reality, constantly making us question whether or not the reality Haller has come to is actually that. But the show works just as well when moving away from the psychological drama into full-on comic book mode. The tracking shot that finishes the premiere episode puts even Daredevil’s obligatory “one-shot-tight-hallway-fight” to shame, while also utilizing some of the best special effects seen in a Marvel television show yet.

READ: How IRON FIST Can Avoid Being Marvel’s ARROW

I had high hopes for LEGION when it was announced, but Hawley has gone above and beyond expectations. Everything is in there for a reason: the visual porn that is the dream sequences, each scene bleeding into the next with little to no abandon–it’s all there to serve a purpose. That purpose might not be entirely clear as of yet, but one thing is for certain–Hawley does not want us to feel comfortable in David’s head. With LEGION, Hawley makes it clear that this is not going to be the easily digestible comic book fare that we’re used to. It is a step forward in style and tone not only for Marvel television shows but the films as well. Noah Hawley has proved that not everyone wants more of the same, and LEGION is certainly different in all the best ways.

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