If you've seen Fargo, you'll know exactly why writer and showrunner Noah Hawley is considered one of TV's hottest talents. Like just everyone else out there, I thought Fargo Season 2 was basically as good as TV gets, and I'm also a pretty major fan of the X-Men — so, as you can probably imagine, I was more than a little stoked to discover that Hawley would be taking the reigns of an X-Men spin-off series.
It's a bit like discovering your gorgeous, awesomely hilarious new girlfriend also loves football. Sometimes the unlikeliest of matches are made in heaven.
Anyway, we were told a little more about the spin-off in question this week, so let's take a look at exactly what we know — and what we don't — about Legion.
What's The Story?
This is the official premise provided by FX:
Since he was a teenager, David Haller has struggled with mental illness. Diagnosed as schizophrenic, David has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for years. But after a strange encounter with a fellow patient, he’s confronted with the possibility that the voices he hears and the visions he sees might be real.
Essentially it sounds like Girl, Interrupted: The Mutant Version which obviously is a very good thing.
The Charles Xavier Connection
Legion (birth name David Haller) is a mutant who's been around since New Mutants #25 in 1985. His mother was an Israeli woman named Gabrielle Haller with whom Charles Xavier had (unbeknownst to him) birthed a son.
As previously seen in the animated X-Men: Evolution, David has a split-personality disorder, and at least 200 variations of himself (more likely thousands) live inside his mind. His mutation is pretty unique in that each of the alternate personas possesses a different ability.
For instance, Jack Wayne has powers of telekinesis, while Time-Sink has the power to bend and manipulate time. Findle the Finder can locate any living being in the galaxy. United in one body, these personalities take on the overarching alias of Legion.
What's especially interesting about David (at least in later incarnations) is that his mutation allows him to physically transform into his alter egos. Whether the TV series will go down this route is debatable, but if anything, restricting the personas to David's head and seeing how different powers manifest in the same body would probably work even better in a TV show.
This begs the question of whether we'll actually see the Professor. I'd imagine the cinematic and TV X-Men universes would be kept separate, but it's not really possible to tell the story of Legion without Xavier.
Legion Is Not Your Standard Superhero Show
Superhero shows on TV right now are basically split into two categories. On the one hand, there are light series like The Flash and Supergirl which don't take themselves too seriously, and generally accept that everything about their world is utterly ridiculous. The sun never really sets.
On the other, you have Daredevil, Jessica Jones and pretty much everything else coming soon on Netflix. These shows take themselves very seriously, and the only reason the sun never sets on Hell's Kitchen is that it never rises to begin with. If you imagine this status quo as a Venn diagram, Arrow is lumbering somewhere awkwardly in the middle, unable to commit to anything in the same way that Oliver Queen can't seem to commit to locating his balls.
Refreshingly, Legion doesn't sound as though it will fit either of those categories. Speaking to Vanity Fair, Hawley described his show as "surreal and dreamlike":
The story is about a guy who is either schizophrenic or he has these abilities, he doesn’t know what’s real and what’s not, [so] the audience should have the same experience. [It has a] surreal or dreamlike quality where it’s not just about running and kicking. There’s, whatever, 9,000 superhero stories right now. They’ve got [that] covered. I think my goal with this is to do something whimsical and imaginative and unexpected.
It’s an 8- or a 12-hour movie. Let’s tell the parts of the story that you couldn’t tell on the big screen. What is it really like to hear voices or to be able to move things with your mind or to think you can move things with your mind, but you’ve been hospitalized and they’ve been talking you out of the idea that you can actually [do it]. One thing that television doesn’t really do, and has never really done, is to tell a surreal story.
Although anyone who's seen Twin Peaks might contest that final statement, it's true that there's a major gap for a very different type of superhero series. As Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has learned (at a cost), its impossible to recreate big-screen action on a small-screen budget, so telling a more low-key, human story (just as Jessica Jones did) could be a smart way to approach this X-Men spin-off.
The Cast Is Quite Ridiculous
A series like this will live or die by how much we want to spend time with these characters. Bringing David and his many alter egos to life is Dan Stevens (pictured below in the pilot episode), the British actor who found fame in Downton Abbey. Stevens was thrillingly good in the 2014 horror flick The Guest as a soldier with psychological issues of his own, so I'm pretty excited to see what he can come up with here.
Alongside the main man are the awesome Jean Smart and Rachel Keller (both worked on Season 2 of Fargo with Hawley), Aubrey Plaza, Amber Midthunder and more. It's a pretty promising cast, to say the least.
When's The Trailer Out?
Although the pilot episode was shot a few months back, Legion only just got a full series order for eight episodes, so don't expect to see a trailer any time soon. Shooting begins in Vancouver this Summer with a premiere on FX next Spring. You can see Dan Stevens in action in the trailer for The Guest (on Netflix now) below:
In the meantime, X-Men: Apocalypse is out now and flourishing at the box office, while a New Mutants movie is also on the way (the New Mutants being the comic of Legion's origin) alongside Deadpool 2. On balance, it's a pretty exciting time to be an X-Men.