NBC's Constantine may not have survived its first season, but the other comic book-based shows on network television -- FOX's Gotham, ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The CW's Arrow and The Flash -- are going strong. Thus the news that 20th Century Fox was developing two different shows set in the X-Men universe wasn't a complete shock, but fans were pleasantly surprised to learn that Fox and Marvel had actually closed a deal to work together to bring Hellfire to FOX (home of Gotham) and Legion to the more mature-themed FX network.
Hellfire will be based on the villainous group the Hellfire Club (introduced in X-Men: First Class) while Legion will focus on the title character, named David Haller, who is diagnosed as schizophrenic, but learns that he is actually a mutant. In the comic books, Haller/Legion is the son of Professor Charles Xavier (played in the films by Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy), whose multiple personalities control different mutant powers. Legion is being executive produced by FX's Fargo creator Noah Hawley, who is also writing the pilot.
Noah Hawley recently spoke with TV Insider about what interested him about the material and how Legion will connect to the larger X-Men cinematic universe. Despite being "...not a huge comics person" and stating that he started developing the show "...not even based on any of the characters from the universe" (which may not sit well with die-hard X-Men fans), Hawley seems to understand the main conflict between the two main factions of mutants.
According to Hawley:
"Magneto feels that he knows humans will try to wipe them out because they're a fear-based animal, and so they have to be wiped out first. Which, given his past, is a totally legitimate feeling. And you've got Professor X saying, no, we have to teach them, and get them to the place where they can accept us, which is also a totally valid point of view.
I like those two morally opposite ideas could exist in this world. I basically came up with a TV show that I wanted to tell and then found the right character for it. It was more about trying to find my way to what the show was. In some ways reverse engineering it. We found the perfect character. But it has to be a great show, it can't just be a great genre show."
Hawley also spoke about why, specifically, he was interested in developing a show around the character Legion/David Haller, who is definitely a complex character perhaps best suited to a more long-form narrative platform. Hawley said:
"What I really like about him is, here's a character who is schizophrenic on some level, a character struggling with mental illness. Is he crazy or does he have these powers? The answer is, kind of both. I'm a big believer that the structure of a story should reflect the content of the story. And so I liked the idea that if you have a character that doesn't know what's real and what's not real, that is also the audience's journey."
As for the major question fans have around Legion and Hellfire -- how either of them will or will not connect to the main X-Men film continuity -- Hawley more or less clarified where Legion will stand, saying:
"It's conceived more as a standalone. I don't want to say too much more about it on that level, but certainly it's not constructed as a back-door anything. It's more just that there's a story that I want to explore that has to fit into that larger universe, which is exciting."
Indeed, in the press releases announcing the deal in place to develop each show, "X-Men" did not appear. Hawley explained this by saying, "The people who care that it's an X-Men title are going to know it's an X-Men title. You're looking for the largest possible and most diverse audience, so that's not the most important thing."
While Legion will evidently exist apart from the established X-Men films -- although it is not clear at this point if Legion will (like The Flash and Arrow) remain a separate universe or be tangentially connected to the new continuity established by X-Men: Days of Future Past and continued in 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse -- Hawley hinted that Hellfire might take its narrative cues directly from the films.
When asked about whether or not the shows will cross over with each other, Hawley answered:
"We certainly haven't had any conversations about crossovers. I don't know anything about it, but I think that one is more linearly taken out of the world of the movies. Ours has its own world to it."
Given Legion's place on FX rather than FOX, using that platform to explore the themes of alienation and the outsider status of mutants from the perspective of a character like Legion -- and keep the narrative more self-contained -- makes a certain amount of sense. Fans of shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Netflix's Daredevil have come to expect references to a larger shared universe, however, and it sounds like a different pocket of the X-Men universe will be explored through Hellfire.
Hawley did not have much to add when it came to questions about how closely Marvel Studios will be working with FX Productions on Legion, but the fact that the deal was made is a comforting sign to those who feel that Marvel's input on these characters is crucial to their long-term survival. With Daredevil proving that this kind of story is a great fit for a long-form, mature adaptation, a similar approach to characters from the X-Men universe is pretty exciting, as long as the showrunners don't stray too far from the source material.
Dates have not yet been set for the FX’s Legion and FOX’s Hellfire (working title) pilots.
Source: TV Insider