When Noah Hawley and FX announced that they’d be creating a show based on the infamous son of Professor Charles Xavier, Legion, otherwise known as David Haller, fans weren’t sure what to expect. What fans eventually received was a series far better than it had any right to be. Now that Legion creator Noah Hawley has announced that season 3 will be the final season of the show the revolutionized the type of story a Marvel super-hero show could tell. So before the final season airs and brings with it the conclusion of one of the greatest X-Men Series ever created, let’s take a look at what Legion does better than the X-Men films.
Something the X-Men films have done a really good job of doing is painting Professor X as an entirely altruistic force working for the betterment of mutant kind while fighting off the forces of humanity and his rival, Magneto. While Legion hasn’t actually put Charles on screen yet, they have done an excellent job of showing us that Professor X isn’t just some do-good character always looking out for the greater good without hurting anyone. Legion understands that in order for Charles to do what he doesn't with the X-Men, there are many people and mutants alike that suffer in the wake of his actions. Charles may have adopted children who had nowhere else to go, but he left behind his own son, a psychic there’s no way he can’t sense by this point.
The X-Men films likely have a much bigger budget than Legion, but somehow Noah Hawley and the folks over at FX find a way to really make whatever budget they have work for them. The films fall down in how they choose to represent psychic abilities, which essentially boil down to someone touching their fingers to their temples and looking pensive. Legion manages to fix this problem by showing the physical effects he has on the world around him. So whether it’s stacking a group of soldiers up like a living, squirming, telephone pole or an animated battle with the shadow king, Amahl Farouk himself, Legion simply does it better.
One of the greatest things about a show like Legion is that it illustrates to both audiences and produces that we don’t need to keep telling the same stories with the same big name superheroes and mutants. David Haller, Legion (as he’s known in the comics and more recently in the series), is a fairly obscure character for those who are not a fan of the comics.
And even then, he’s not a mutant that often comes to mind when thinking of ideas for solo X-Men series. What Legion does is say that we can use this vehicle, the superhero genre, and really tell excited and twisted stories because the suspension of disbelief is at such a high level already that it creates inherent freedom in the type of stories we can tell. That’s an incredibly exciting thing for the future of the genre.
Something that Noah Hawley and the team behind Legion have never strayed away from is adding new things to enhance their vision of the world of X-Men. From major characters like Ptonomy & the Kerry(Cary)s to slipping in hints at the potential of the show by name dropping mysterious characters like The Miser Sunday, there are plenty of characters to theorize about and fall in love with. One of the greatest things about X-Men and the mutants is that there are just so many of them. It’s great to see a production unafraid of building on the source material and willing to take property further than it’s ever gone before. When done right, it can add to the entire mythos and create new fan-favorite characters.
Some of the best X-Men films in recent memory and superhero films, in general, are the films that go beyond the typical superhero plot of “stop the bad guy from destroying the world and see if I can kiss that hot person of the opposite sex before the credits roll”. Films like Logan, Deadpool, and now series like Legion, are truly pushing the perception of what types of stories can be told within this universe.
It’s possible that with films like New Mutants, which is said to explore more of the horror genre than anything else, that we’ll start seeing just how much filmmakers can stretch the boundary of a superhero film.
While it has taken a while to finally get here, Marvel has finally created a series about mutants that don’t fall under the protective and telepathic wing of Charles Xavier. David Haller may be the son of Charles Xavier but besides a few mentions here and there, the series doesn't really spend too much time on it, which is a welcome change of pace. While Legion isn’t the only series to leave the X-Men branding behind recently, it’s certainly the best series doing that. The X-Men may be a team of mutants, but they aren’t Marvel’s only team of mutants. It’s nice to finally see that brought to life on screen.
There may be some standouts from the original films and certainly from the more recent ventures in X-Men-adjacent films like the Deadpool franchise and Logan, but even with the new additions to the lineup, the X-Men of the films just don’t have that much going on as characters. While Legion never forgets that it is part of the superhero landscape, it rarely spends much time focusing on it. Legion, first and foremost, is about the people that have been granted these amazing powers, not just the amazing powers themselves.
I The devil with the yellow eyes. The Shadow King. Amahl Farouk. Whatever you choose to call him, the dude’s a straight creeper. It’s hard to not be terrified of a disembodied telepathic parasite that lists “baby possession” as one of his minor offenses.
David has spent two seasons, so far, trying to do everything he can to get rid of Amahl Farouk by any means necessary and so far all he’s managed to do is lose himself, his friends, and the battle against Farouk. Yeah, Magneto can metalbend or whatever, but as Farouk himself puts it, “You gotta get up from the kiddie table.”
Legion spends so much of its time bleeding into to other genres that it’s hard to even know which “genre” to refer to. But, of course, it is first and foremost part of the superhero genre. There are so many people recently talking about superhero fatigue and how it’s finally setting in after more than a decade nonstop superhero blockbusters one after another. Legion is doing everything it can to pull influences from all across film and art history to do something new and exciting with a genre that can, at times, feel saturated.