The cast and creators of FX’s highly anticipated new series Legion gathered at New York Comic Con on Sunday (October 9) to preview their surreal take on the manic mutant.
Based on a beloved Marvel comic, Legion follows David Haller (Dan Stevens), a young man who’s been diagnosed with schizophrenia. But his mental illness might just be the result of latent mutant powers. Ultimately, it’s revealed that those voices in Haller’s head are of the real, non-crazy variety. In the comics, Haller is the son of Professor Charles Xavier and, according to creator Noah Hawley (Fargo), there’s an “element” of the character’s lineage in the series. Whether that means we’ll see Professor X in Legion’s first season is unclear; Hawley and Marvel TV head Jeph Loeb remained mum.
The panel kicked off with a surprise screening of the first half of the pilot episode. The opening montage alone immediately separates Legion from the larger X-Men cinematic universe. It’s a wonderfully surreal and surprisingly tender exploration of Haller’s fractured reality. You don’t know what’s real and what’s not — and that’s what makes Legion so exciting. Here what we learned at the panel, including how Legion factors into the X-Men movies.
It’s inspired by Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.
Hawley said he wanted Legion to look like a 1964 Terence Stamp movie and sound like Dark Side of the Moon. “This show should sound like Dark Side of the Moon because that album is the soundtrack to mental illness, in a way,” Hawley said during the panel. As an homage to Pink Floyd, Rachel Keller’s character is named Syd Barrett.
As for the show’s surreal look, Hawley said, “I’ve learned to trust my instincts, and when I put it on its feet, it wanted to feel like a 1964 Terence Stamp movie. Because he doesn’t know what's real, so some things feel very retro and some things feel very modern.”
Legion has a distinctive look and feel from the X-Men movies, and according to Hawley, it’s one that is “far enough away from the X-Men movies, but it still lives in that universe.”
Lenny Busker’s not anyone’s “sidekick.”
Perhaps the breakout character in the pilot, or at least the first half of the pilot, is Aubrey Plaza’s Lenny Busker, a fellow patient at Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital. She’s unabashedly herself, crazy or not. When asked if Lenny would serve as David’s “sidekick” throughout the season, Plaza said, “I don’t think she thinks she’s anyone’s sidekick.”
Does Legion exist in the larger Marvel universe?Netflix
Well, it’s a complicated issue — but not because Legion is a television show. After all, the Green Guy and the Old Dude With a Shield get name-dropped all the time in the Marvel TV shows. The Marvel universe is all very much connected. But it’s especially complicated because the X-Men are still a property of Fox.
“The X-Men characters live in the Fox world, and we live in a different world,” Loeb said. However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a future in which Legion ties into the Marvel universe. “The fact that I’m sitting here is a sign of bridges being made,” he said.
"What it really boils down to is Marvel heroes at their core are people that are damaged and trying to figure out where they are in life — and that doesn’t matter if they’re X-Men characters or Matt Murdoch or Tony Stark or Peter Parker,” Loeb added. “It’s about the man under the mask ... If what you just watched feels like Marvel, then that’s all that matters.”
So ... who’s the villain?FX
Fans of the X-Men know that this is a franchise about being different, and David Haller has been labeled crazy by doctors and therapists for his entire life. He’s been ostracized by everyone. For Hawley, that’s where the dissonance lies.
“If you lived your whole life defined as one thing and learned you were something else, you’d have to go back and rewrite those memories to mean something else,” he said. “There’s a lot of tolerance, and lot of that starts inside us. This is not so much racing towards a battle with an enemy, than with the enemy within.”
According to Loeb, that’s what makes Legion so important, especially now. “Each of us in our lives feels different,” he said. “We live in a world right now where diversity and uniqueness, where we fit in or we don’t fit in ... The X-Men have never been more relevant than they are right now.”
Will David’s mutant lineage be explored in Season 1?
David Haller is famously the son of Professor X, but will Hawley explore that aspect of the character? “I don’t think you can really tell the story without that element to it,” he told the crowd, to which Stevens pointedly added, “There’s a wheelchair in the first scene!”
Interestingly enough, when asked if other characters from the X-Men universe would show up on Legion, Hawley referenced Fargo. “What I enjoyed with Fargo is that at least in those first three episodes, it seemed completely unconnected to the movie,” he said. “We have to earn the right to be in that universe ... All I can do and all I control is to make the show and to make the best version possible.”
That being said, X-Men is known for its multiple timelines, and it’s unclear what space in the larger X-Men universe Legion currently occupies, past or present. “There’s a certain degree to which that’s to be determined,” Hawley said. “We’re in David's reality so it’s hard to tell. We’re seeing this world through multiple layers of the confusion of David’s mind — but we are true to the origins of the characters.”