To say that “Legion” has left an impact on comic-book television — and prestige TV, in general — would be a massive understatement. With its Season 1 finale right around the corner, audiences have been left reeling at the disruptive style, unpredictable narrative and engaging story contained throughout FX’s “X-Men” spinoff.
After the climactic penultimate episode (March 22), we were left with so many questions. Thankfully, Screener was privy to a call with showrunner Noah Hawley to understand his mindset. The crazy journey is just beginning, and Hawley gave us some insight on Season 1 while teasing the story’s future. What does the future hold for David (Dan Stevens), Syd (Rachel Keller), Melanie (Jean Smart) and the rest?
David’s mental state is changing, but things won’t get any easier
It’s going to be very odd for him now — to have more clarity, and be alone in his own mind. And to have some power to keep those voices out, and to keep those visions out, means that he’s suddenly isolated — in a way that seems healthy, but may have unintended consequences.
When someone’s been blind their whole life and has been given sight, they can’t see, because their brain doesn’t know how to see: They see light and they see shapes, but their brain doesn’t understand those shapes. If they’ve never seen a chair before, how are they supposed to know that it’s a chair just by looking at it? It’s a similar thing with David: He’s never interacted with the world in this solitary way before and he has sort of an inherent distrust of reality because it keeps shifting on him. I don’t think he would just wake up tomorrow and be what you and I would call normal.
Professor X can show up in the future — but not the immediate future
Any person who learns that they were adopted is going to have those questions and is going to want to seek out those birth parents. I think that’s a great, natural story. I think certainly where we left David at the end of the first year, that can’t be his first priority. But certainly in coming to understand who he is and what his purpose is in this world, I think that’s definitely something we’re going to approach.
It’s a creative conversation — but also a corporate conversation, you know, on some level, in terms of the movie studio, and their relationship to “The X-Men,” and the characters they want in the movies and want to protect, potentially. Were we to have Professor X on the show, or even Patrick Stewart or James McAvoy… It’s a conversation both with the actor and with the studio. So I don’t know. I haven’t really delved into that quandary yet! But, I certainly need to start thinking about it.
The Season 2 story will be bigger and last a bit longer
The goal is to do ten [episodes] this time. My feeling with the first season, because it’s such a complex show, was that eight hours was the right amount. I could tell a single story in eight hours — and if I had 10, I would have to start a second story. I just thought, this show is a lot to take in, and I wanted to make it a complete thought for the audience. I think now that the show has its identity, and it’s populated with characters that people are invested in, we have the opportunity to broaden it a little bit and tell a bit more story.
More character-centric episodes may be on the way
I continue to be excited about shifting points of view and I toyed in the first year with sort of learning more about Syd and diving more into her memories and history, the way we did with David. But ultimately, it felt like too much information and the potential for being confusing.
I am excited about the idea of looking at all these characters and learning more about them… Using them as a way for expanding the story, both from a character standpoint and thematically, and to create unexpected collisions and connections.
The production’s moving to L.A. and ‘Legion’s’ look & feel will change
This was set up as a show that’s going on the road — and I think, to the degree that the season started with this idea when you were oriented and knew where you were, the show shifted from a psychiatric institution, to an interrogation room, to a swimming pool, and out into a war zone — in the first hour!
There’s a degree to which the show needs to continue to evolve, and I’m excited to try and look at Southern California in a way that we haven’t really looked at before, and try to use what we have — not to ground it in our present-day reality, but to try to find a way to continue to tell stories that are urban, rural, and in the astral plane, as it were… Stories that continue to look like nothing else.
The Shadow King’s design was inspired by Sigmund Freud — and a reality show?
It was a conversation I had with our production designer Michael Wiley. He told me he was obsessed with this reality show “My 600 Pound Life,” which I hadn’t seen, but I did respond to the idea: Whatever was inside David has been feeding on him all this time, and as a result, there was something engorged or tick-like about it. It was reaching this very corpulent state.
A big part of our approach this season was in looking at the full title of the “X-Men,” which is “The Uncanny X-Men.” I found this essay by Sigmund Freud about “the uncanny,” and about the supernatural — why people are afraid of the things they’re afraid of. It’s the idea that the thing that really scares us the most is when familiar things operate in unfamiliar ways. So a house should not be a haunted house. It freaks us out because that’s not the way a house should be.
I think there’s something similar with this idea — we just have this visceral human reaction … There’s something uncanny about it, and something we react to physically. I thought that was interesting. And then we found this guy: Six-foot-eight, the skinniest guy that you’ve seen. We built this suit for him so he’s both hugely corpulent but also very thin in places, and that adds to the unnaturalness of the character: It was designed to have sort of a visceral impact.
This won’t be the last we see of the Shadow King
I think we’ve now created a villain for David that’s worthy of building a whole story around. The backstory of this thing — and their relationship and history — are now nuanced and rich, it makes for a potential showdown that we’re really invested in as an audience, as opposed to doing a villain-of-the-year kind of an approach. I don’t know how long that story will sustain, or the permutations of it, but I do think it’s a really fascinating setup to follow.
“Legion’s” Season 1 finale airs Wednesday, March 29 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX. A second season has been ordered for 2018.