With “Legion” the superhero genre goes mental.
Oh, sure, there are still plenty of whirlwind special effects and supernatural eye candy explosions. There are oppressive bad guys and disastrous incidents and all the usual hoopla, although it’s done unusually well.
But what really sets this show apart is the possibility that its lead character, our hero, may be a loony tune. Or not. And he won’t be able to fully embrace the hero thing until he — and we — find out what’s going on in his head.
That hero would be David Haller (“Downton Abbey” heartthrob Dan Stevens, who travels from innocent charm to wide-eyed paranoia with surprising ease). David has been locked up in a mental institution for a while, drugged and surrounded by crazies, including caustic best buddy Lenny (Aubrey Plaza).
When a new patient named Syd (Rachel Keller) is admitted, David is clumsily drawn to her. Even though she refuses to let anyone touch her, they become platonic boyfriend and girlfriend.
But then inexplicable things happen. And David is faced with the possibility that he’s not crazy, he’s just different. As in able to read thoughts and move things with his mind different. And maybe Syd’s different, as well.
“Legion,” based on a Marvel X-Men spinoff, comes from Noah Hawley, the creator of the recent “Fargo” reboots. It’s got a top-notch cast that also includes Jean Smart, Bill Irwin and Katie Aselton, playing David’s well-meaning sister. It dares to cut between hallucinatory dance routines and torture sequences as if the two normally work side by side. It is, to say the least, audacious.
More importantly it’s interesting. It’s about the interior as much as the exterior. That’s weird. That’s good.
Tom Long is a longtime culture critic
10 p.m. Wednesday