A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Since my family was too poor when I was growing up to afford comic books, I never got into them, though I have always read the comic pages in the local newspaper. But most of those aren’t of super heroes, so I’m far more familiar with “Doonesbury” or “Ziggy”, than anyone from the Marvel universe. And that’s where the subject of my review is from, a spinoff from the X-Men, a schizophrenic superhero named David Haller, who is featured in this new series on the FX channel in the U.S. He is played by Dan Stevens, the dreamboat from Downton Abbey and the reason I began watching both shows.
When the series begins, David has been in a mental hospital for years because of some startling incidents. Then the hospital is invaded and David is kidnapped by Division 3, a nefarious group which appears to wish him harm. He is subsequently rescued and taken to Summerland, a wooded retreat run by Melanie Bird(Jean Smart) and a team of experts, who try to convince David that he is not schizophrenic, but a mutant with special powers. Throughout the series, the viewer sees things from David’s viewpoint as he tries to learn what is real and what is imagined and whether he’s mentally ill or not.
All of the actors involved are excellent and bring layers to their characters. Dan Stevens is handsome and appealing as David. Rachel Keller is Syd Barrett, David’s love interest whom he meets at the mental hospital. Aubrey Plaza is Lenny, who has been friends with David since they were both teenagers. She brings a feral slinkiness to her character, who morphs into a multitude of personas. The two opposing organizations, Summerland and Division 3, are staffed by distinct personalities with specific skills.
While the show is good vs. evil at it’s core, it doesn’t take itself so seriously, as there is not only humorous dialogue, but sometimes dance numbers. And that leads me to my main feeling about this show: it’s bizarre. As a person who grew up watching nature documentaries, the whole concept of wondering what is real and what is imagination kept me very off balance. As a wimp, I was worried about it being scary, but while certain scenes made me nervous, there were no outright frightening parts.Even the villains are not truly scary; one looks like an overlarge English schoolboy from Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” and another a tan version of the Blue Meanies from “Yellow Submarine”. There are a lot of long hallways that remind me of a De Chirico painting. And some situations David finds himself in, such as glass coffins and icy rooms are illogical.
Lighting and music is effectively used to set strong moods.But that’s not the only mechanical techniques in play, sometimes a segment is shown without any sound at all. Special effects are expertly handled, David’s telekinesis is spectacular, with smashed dishes and utensils flying around a kitchen like a tornado or a conference room exploding.
The producer of the show, Noah Hawley, described the atmosphere as having an Alice in Wonderland quality and that’s a good way to put it. Sometimes I felt too off kilter and would consider not tuning in to the next episode, but the likable, but flawed characters and mysteries surrounding them would override my caution and I watched every episode of the first season. And, I must admit, has me curious about what will happen in the next.
originally aired February-March 2017 on FX network in U.S. 8 episodes in first season