Legion

Seek television that breaks concepts down to dust, a story of the mind that tinkers with perception, deception, time and personality, every bit as warped and alien as a dream. All of those arguments you’ve ever had about what a superpower should be capable of are great fodder for a creative mind, but it’s so rare to see the product of those arguments come to mainstream television. This kind of arthouse flexing of the thought muscles, toying with metaphors brought to life, the landscape of the mind turned into a battlefield, that’s usually the reserve of Sundance Festivals and indie game developers.

Legion, a series based on a lesser known X-Men character, and played by Dan Stevens, who you’ll know if you watched Apostle on Netflix at all. Legion is the son of Charles Xavier himself, and like his father he is a staggeringly powerful telepath, actually a great deal more powerful, but there’s a few complications attached to his ability. At a very early age, David Haller was subject to a dark parasite that piggy-backed off the strength of his mind, another telepath – Amahl Farouk, the Shadow King, disembodied but no less alive, arrogant and malevolent, and harbouring a vendetta against David’s father.

Now, whether it was because of Farouk, the strain of carrying the indomitable will from an early age, or the side effects of having the bogeyman that haunts you for decades, or if it was already part of his mind, David… Legion, suffers a host of mental health issues, not least of which being dissociative identity disorder on a massive scale. He’s a bucket of voices, a classroom of toddlers piloting a psychological tank, and the results are amazing.

Where Legion breaks the comic book mould is that war between telepaths isn’t an action packed romp of explosions, gunfire and thrown fists, they’re wars of words, and emotions, and concepts, which leads to battles of song, dance, hallucinations, haunted-house style walks through memories, and the reshaping of reality, not just mental reality but the physical world.

The series features surreal and dark performances from Aubrey Plaza and Jemaine Clement, predominantly comedy actors but masters of the strange, and brilliant at creating unsettling characters. One can never be certain if Aubrey’s character, Lenny, is real or a mask of the Shadow King, worn to gain trust, even to the very end it’s near impossible to know for sure. As for Jemaine’s character, Oliver, is never entirely certain if he is real, being so wholly attuned to his own mind and the myriad worlds and sweet jazz therein, that his body has become a fiction to him.

The “side cast” are also arranged to explore psychological concepts; memory, identity, loss, dependence, addiction, and all of the madnesses that dog these parts of human interaction, and because they each represent a part of the human condition we get chance to explore their feelings and their characters through interconnected narratives that drive towards a single, many layered plot.

It’s all strangely beautiful, and set to a 60’s/70’s backdrop, colour scheme, and soundtrack, meaning everything is cast in this psychedelic clash of colours and images, equal parts horror film, musical, and emotional drama, but dotted with anachronisms to  There’s astonishingly little in common with anything else based in a comic book universe, although I’d say it has fingerprints in the Joker, being based on the struggles of mental health. We’d have seen something like it in the New Mutants, a project so quagmired in production limbo it looks set to sink into oblivion.

But it’s more than just comic books, I don’t remember the last thing I saw that was so willing to violate the basics of narrative to the point where it becomes an aesthetic study of character rather than a straight forward beginning-to-end story. And sure, there’s a narrative to follow, but it’s impossible to know what parts are story, what parts are fictions, what takes place in the mind, or out of it. This is television that plays with the medium, rolling camera angles, shifting aspect ratios, clever transitions, unapologetic use of colour motifs, even the recaps that begin some episodes replace “previously” with “apparently” or “ostensibly”. When season three introduces the mere concept of time travel, it’s not a shark jumped, more a continuation of themes, themes of warped narrative and the inherent instability of the mind. We cannot trust our narrator, not the accuracy of his story, or his motives, or the way he perceives himself.

The only thing I’ve seen come close is American Gods, or perhaps Westworld, and more should be done like it, mentally challenging, shifting sands of ideas that force the brain to work harder instead of accepting a linear and heavily simplified story telling upon which our brains grow fat. A little mental junkfood is all well and good, and I’m not saying that this is your meat and potatoes as such… perhaps a more accurate analogy would be that it’s like a long holiday somewhere far from home compared to a weekend in the same old pub. One expands the mind, the other is all too comfortable to promote active thought. There’s nothing wrong with either, but too much of one makes the other lose value.

Infinity Train

A few years ago I stumbled across a pilot for a possible cartoon series to star Ashley Johnson in the lead role. That pilot became a series, that series will be getting a follow up some time next year, and there’s a handful of short episodes somewhere that I haven’t seen.

The series takes place on a train that is, unsurprisingly, infinite in length, and comprised of extradimensional cars that contain worlds that conform to a strange and alien theme. Kingdoms ruled by dogs, nations of sentient water blobs who are terrible salespeople, caverns of crystal that alter with sound, worlds where reflections can gain independence from their caster, that sort of thing. The cars reorder themselves on a whim, and some require quests to be completed or revelations to be reached before they will reveal a door onwards, some are just hard work.

Main character, Tulip, is a young programmer and games designer who flees a troubled home life to get to a design camp, and takes the train oblivious to how it’ll interfere with her plans. Suffice is to say that the train turns into a journey of self discovery, and she gathers new friends along the way, because it’s a kids show, of course she does, and one of them is a robot with mental troubles of its own, and the king of all corgi’s voiced by Ernie Hudson because hell yeah he is!

I won’t lie, I tend to evaluate any intellectual property based on how easily I imagine running a role-playing game in the setting and using the rules inherent to the world, and by that category alone I’m pretty well sold. Characters could start with a fixed level of mental disquiet, and every step of their journey either brings them closer to, or takes them farther from the revelation that will point the way home. Sessions are based on cars, their are enemies… allies, and all of it is in pursuit of personal betterment… like Quantum Leap… but it’s a train.

How can hindsight be so flawless if we use rosy tinted glasses to see it? We look at the kids shows of our youth as “the golden age”, hell, I’ve had plenty of arguments with people about who got the best era of cartoons, but the truth is we only remember the good ones. When I was a kid I watched Hey Arnold and Recess (also starring Ashley Johnson), and that’s still good TV, it’s dated surprisingly well over the years. But we also had Bodger and Badger, Teletubbies, and the Men in Black cartoon series. And it’s easy for us to watch kids TV now and say “Well this is terrible, we’d never have sat through this!” Well, we did, we just forgot because it wasn’t very good.

We’re already confronted with a generation who grew up on Adventure Time, of which I’m already a fan, and I think that – given another season or two – Infinity Train has that kind of potential. It doesn’t shy away from thoughtful dialogue, challenging issues, or emotional moments, nor does it dress up every heartbreaking moment in clunky metaphor, we see the unpleasant home life that drove Tulip to flee home, and we understand the struggle she’s going through. It’s a situation many children suffer with, and it can present them with challenges that are horrible and confusing, but all too real. And slowly but surely we see her come to terms with her situation, and that’s not say that things automatically get better for her. There’s a happy ending that’s not “happily ever after”, but accepting, and powerful in its own way.

Ok, it’s also a kids show, I’ve no doubt with a subtle change in target audience – like if this was an anime instead of a western cartoon – it’d be able to go a little darker, take things a little more seriously, maybe even take a more dramatic stance on the adversity Tulip faces; it’d be nice for more animation to embrace the melancholic. But I won’t lie, I’m curious to see what a second season of Infinity Train can offer. The trailer already shows that we have a new protagonist, but thanks to certain events in the first season we keep Ashley Johnson’s character, Tulip. There’s also no malevolent force controlling the train, so I’m curious to see what adversity our new hero faces.

Happy Halloween 2019 From GeekOut UK

Let’s chat a little bit about Halloween and the significance it has on geek culture. After all, this is a night that many geeks revel in. So today, I thought I’d talk quickly about a few Halloween episodes from TV shows that I thoroughly enjoyed – And yes, there’ll be at least one Treehouse of Horror episode. With that said, let’s buckle down, get the popcorn and snuggle on the sofa with these spooky specials.

Happy All Hallows Eve! Happy Halloween! Etc.

Anyway, let’s chat a little bit about Halloween and the significance it has on geek culture. After all, this is a night that many geeks revel in. So today, I thought I’d talk quickly about a few Halloween episodes from TV shows that I thoroughly enjoyed – And yes, there’ll be at least one Treehouse of Horror episode. With that said, let’s buckle down, get the popcorn and snuggle on the sofa with these spooky specials.

Continue reading “Happy Halloween 2019 From GeekOut UK”

Riot Games Go All Out For 10 Year Anniversary – New Games!

Riot Games have gone all out for their 10 year anniversary, which is a pretty exciting thing to be able to say. Riot Games made the Free-To-Play giant, League of Legends, which is a major title in the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre. For years, they’ve run just the one game but this year, they’ve decided to throw caution to the wind and show how much progress they’ve made in their world.

Riot Games have gone all out for their 10 year anniversary, which is a pretty exciting thing to be able to say. Riot Games made the Free-To-Play giant, League of Legends, which is a major title in the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre. For years, they’ve run just the one game but this year, they’ve decided to throw caution to the wind and show how much progress they’ve made in their world.

Continue reading “Riot Games Go All Out For 10 Year Anniversary – New Games!”

Disenchantment Season 2

Matt Groening’s foray into fantasy dropped its second season this week.

Wow do I wish I had more to say. Usually when I review something I’ll be watching it again on the other screen while I write, but Lego Batman’s on Netflix now, so is the Between Two Ferns movie and those are two things I would rather watch! It’s nothing against Disenchantment… no, wait, it is, it’s definitely something against Disenchantment because so help me I do not recall anything that happened in the series that I watched three days ago!

Continuing the storyline that began in the first season and wrapping up the cliffhanger we left in in which Princess Tiabeanie “Bean” leaves Dreamland with her evil mother, oblivious to the fact that said mother is evil. Elfo the elf is dead, Luci the demon is stuck in a bottle, and all the people of Dreamland have been turned to stone, leaving King Zog alone to go mad. All of the above is wrapped up within a couple of episodes, and we learn who the shadowy figures were, Bean’s aunt and uncle.

We now get new plot threads, an elf conspiracy that goes nowhere except now all the elves have moved into the kingdom despite the fact that the city is a terrible place for them, and there’s an ever growing mess with the mother’s side of the family. But… I mean we’re not here for the story, right, we’re here for the comedy? Not sure what happened to that either to be honest.

In season one, Bean was a troubled and rebellious teen, she seems like she’s lost a lot of her zest, becoming a wooden peg on which the plot hangs. Elfo’s incredibly upbeat attitude has been tempered by cynicism with an upbeat delivery, which suits his character progression but loses his naive obliviousness. And Luci, who had been the main source of cynical comedy suddenly takes a backseat. King Zog is beaten down and humbled and clashes less with Bean which was half of his schtick. The first season was rife with jokes that didn’t so much subvert fantasy expectations as shine a massive spotlight on them, mixed with some excellent wordplay, with comical situations and characters.

This time around the jokes are few and far between, and the watering down of the characters only makes the whole thing more bland, and that’s the worst of it, it’s just underwhelming. Secondary characters are thrust forward to negligible effect I felt like Disenchantment was building to something, and I feel like it burned through a lot of the interesting questions pretty easily and left us without much to drag us into season three, if such a thing is coming.

And the worst part is… if it does, I still think I’ll watch it. There’s a cliffhanger, a mystery or two, and a likeability to the cast of characters that makes viewing all too easy. This is passive viewing at its most passive, while the humour is weakened, fewer laugh out loud moments, but it remains watchable and vaguely entertaining, especially if you watch both seasons back to back because there are a handful of running jokes that are forgettable but still kind of humorous, and there’s enough interesting narrative to keep you just barely engaged while I do something else on the other screen… like complain about what I’m watching!

It all nets to somewhere around “watchable”, or perhaps “bearable” but given the legacy it’s come from that makes it something of a disappointment. From the creators of Futurama and the Simpsons comes “more of the same”. Enjoy it if that’s what you want in life.

Top 10 – Hunters

GeekOut Top 10s

Shh, do you hear that? It sounds like the trees rustled over this way, quickly, hide in the underbrush. Now, careful, for today we’ve got to keep on the low-down, lest we become prey for them. Whether you’re a vampire, a beast, or even just an ordinary human, today we’re going to check out the Top 10 Hunters across all pop culture. Video games, Film, TV, Literature, you name it, we’ve got it covered. Continue reading “Top 10 – Hunters”

Top 10 – Rocks and Stones

GeekOut Top 10s

Hey, it looks like we’re on a roll. Whilst you may be rocking away, things are going to get a little cold, a little stone cold! Ahh, I crack myself up, so whilst we boulder towards this week’s list, let’s get some ground rules out of the way with. This list must at least feature the rocks, stones, boulders or otherwise in a fashion that they stand out. That’s about it, so let’s get ready to rock and roll!


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Review – The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

I think I watched the original Jim Henson production a couple of years ago, a double bill with Labyrinth which – to be entirely honest – I never remember watching as a child. But Dark Crystal, the original Dark Crystal, I most certainly saw many years before. One of my earliest experiences of pure fantasy, and it is pure fantasy, free of human protagonists, devoid of anything familiar upon which to hang a sense of reality, comprised only of the complex and wondrous puppetry with which the Henson name is synonymous.

It remains firmly in the cult classic category, a lesser known kids film that connects and resonates with adults who loved it then and revere it now, and – like many a resurrected passion project – the prequel series saw a lot of fans emerging from the woodwork to support it. Continue reading “Review – The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance”

Top 10 Characters With Crazy Hair

These characters know how to show off their unique personalities. This list is to celebrate characters who hair is literally an extension of themselves and their personalities. It’s also for if they can use their hair as weapons, or just general talking points. Whether it’s a cultural thing or if it’s just how they roll, we’re going to celebrate hair in all of its ridiculousness. Yes, this list is only for Characters with Crazy Hair. 

GeekOut Top 10s

These characters know how to show off their unique personalities. This list is to celebrate characters who hair is literally an extension of themselves and their personalities. It’s also for if they can use their hair as weapons, or just general talking points. Whether it’s a cultural thing or if it’s just how they roll, we’re going to celebrate hair in all of its ridiculousness. Yes, this list is only for Characters with Crazy Hair.

Continue reading “Top 10 Characters With Crazy Hair”

Top 10 – Magical Menageries

A menagerie is a collection or group of animals, in today’s case, we’re going to be looking at magical ones. This isn’t just a list of herds or groups, but rather areas which feature a collection of the most magical creatures. In this week’s Top 10, we’re going to get all magical and in some cases, a little bit science-fictiony. But don’t worry, we’ll stick to our guns and only pick gatherings of creatures that have some strangely magical properties. Continue reading “Top 10 – Magical Menageries”