If Legion feels like it will be different from every other Marvel-based TV series that has come out in recent years, that’s because it is. Creator Noah Hawley (Fargo) made it a point to try new things and explore uncharted territory with the upcoming series, which follows diagnosed schizophrenic David Haller (Dan Stevens) and his discovery of what may actually be a range of mutant powers.
It’s clear that Hawley and FX are doing something different with Legion, which is based on the X-Men universe but won’t necessarily feel familiar to longtime fans. It all adds up to a series that will take numerous risks in adding elements never seen before in a Marvel production - one that could be hit-or-miss with its built-in fanbase.
Featured in a new story for Variety, Hawley spoke at length about the production of Legion and what sets it apart from the X-Men movie franchise. Although it’s clearly at least loosely based on the iconic mutant superheroes, Hawley “downplayed any connection” to the familiar world of the comics and movies.
“With the X-Men comics, there are a lot of alt universes, so that has allowed me some leeway. … And obviously it’s a sort of origin story for David, but none of the other characters that I’ve surrounded him with are from the comics. It’s sort of an invented world.”
The series is described as a “distant cousin” to its cinematic counterparts, as it is based on a less-explored character than more famous mutants like Wolverine or Magneto. Hawley wouldn’t confirm that Haller in the series is even the son of Professor Charles Xavier, which he is in the comics. In a new “First Look” video from FX, which you can watch above, Hawley describes the series as one that plays with the superhero genre and contains unexpectedly fantastical and comedic elements.
The Variety story and “First Look” video suggest that the plot of Legion will be as cryptic and mysterious as the inner-workings of Haller’s mind, and that it “feels like a weird show that skews superhero,” rather than a “superhero show that skews weird.” The series is certainly not going to be your standard run-of-the-mill comic book show. It’s an ambitious project that Hawley aimed to transcend the superhero genre altogether with a surreal mix of action, fantasy, comedy, and even musical elements. Legion doesn’t aspire to be a great superhero show, it aspires to be a great show, period.
It’s clear that Hawley took plenty of risks with the way Legion is structured. The most important thing for a series of this nature is that it is still at least somewhat coherent. It will play on the themes of personal identity and the nature of reality, making the audience question whether what they’re seeing is real or imaginary - much like the title character. It also runs the risk of alienating die-hard fans if the show is too wildly different from the comics. But if Hawley can wrap the series and its multitude of themes and tones into a cohesive package, perhaps the risks he’s taking with Legion will pay off.
Legion premieres Wednesday, February 8 @10pm on FX.