Comics On TV

Dan Stevens, Noah Hawley, and the Legion Cast on the Show's Trippy Final Season and Charles Xavier’s Debut

Super-mutant David Haller has some killer new skills and simmering daddy issues.

by | June 21, 2019 | Comments

When news first broke that Legion’s third season would be its last, it caught fans of the off-beat X-Men–inspired series created by Noah Hawley (Fargo) off guard. But it was pitched to star Dan Stevens as a three-season story.

“Noah’s intention was always to bring it in to land with three. And so, I always knew where the story was headed, I just didn’t know how,” Stevens told Rotten Tomatoes.

He also felt “no amount of time that you could do full justice to something like Legion.” And soon when the final season of the FX series debuts on Monday, fans will see for themselves if the series does indeed land with a modicum of justice.

Set roughly a year after the events of the second season finale, Legion picks up with a new character, played by Lauren Tsai, diving headfirst into Legion-style madness. As is mutant tradition, she adopts the name Switch and quickly becomes key to David Haller’s (Stevens) plans as she can travel in time — an ability realized in the trippiest, coolest way possible. When we met with Tsai, Stevens, and other members of the cast on the set of the series in April, the actor described Switch as someone “searching for her place in the world” and “still trying to figure out her abilities.” But the place she finds David inhabiting will leave viewers wondering about his own state of mind thanks to the dozens of seemingly drugged-out young people in his thrall.

LEGION -- Pictured: Dan Stevens as David Haller. CR: Pari Dukovic/FX
(Photo by Pari Dukovic/FX)

Stevens, who described David as a “love junky,” said the apparent cult sates him with a manic devotion, while he offers them something unavailable in the rest of the world. He even added Lenny (Aubrey Plaza) is “quite happy with this setup,” serving as a Ma Anand Sheela–type character to his Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (fans of Wild Wild Country will get the comparison immediately).

Plaza added during a recent phone call: “It’s the closest we get to Lenny’s ideal, aspirational self. When the season starts, she’s kind of right where she wants to be. She’s not being tortured by the Shadow King. She has power and control and a clear idea of what she wants, finally. It was very satisfying.”

The situation in David’s commune might seem beneficial to all involved, but Stevens admitted David is not entirely happy with the way things worked out for him. “He wants to see if he can sort of unpick this unholy mess that he’s created,” the actor explained. It leads – in the most Legion way possible – to David’s fascination with Switch and her abilities. As Stevens put it, “Can he change some of these awful things that he’s done?”

LEGION -- Pictured: Rachel Keller as Syd Barrett. CR: Pari Dukovic/FX
(Photo by Pari Dukovic/FX)

One of the terrible things he did in the second season was change Syd’s (Rachel Keller) memories of events so they could be lovers again. She eventually discovered the violation, and, as Keller told us, it led to the character “kind of crawling back into herself.” But the year between seasons also saw Syd recommitting to her mission; even if it seems like an obsession to some of the other characters.

Then again, her dedication may eventually derail David’s time travel plans. Going back to Stevens’ question about changing the past, he added Syd’s viewpoint: “Yeah you can go back and you can change all these things, but does that really change who you are as a person?” It is the sort of philosophical debate which makes Legion a true X-Men work even as its arresting visuals and unusual pace set it apart.

LEGION -- Pictured: Navid Negahban as Amahl Farouk. CR: Pari Dukovic/FX
(Photo by Pari Dukovic/FX)

Another thing setting it apart is the way it re-invents itself each season. The first season saw David trying to figure out if he was ill or if there really was a devil in his mind. In the second season, he sought revenge on that demon — a mutant telepath named Amahl Farouk (Navid Negahban) — and destroyed his friendships in the process. The third sees David as the antagonist even as he attempts the heroic thing … or, at least, something he considers heroic.

“[David] feels like his life was ruined in that moment when Farouk came into his head when he was a baby,” Hawley explained. “And what he wants to do is to go back to that moment and protect himself as a baby and keep that from happening.”

The plan might seem heroic to David, but to Syd, Farouk and the others at Division 3, it may finally be the way his prophesied part in the end of the world finally comes to pass. The story idea is a key element of David’s comic book history – his attempts to travel back in time to kill Magento led to Professor X’s death and the Age of Apocalypse storyline – but it also gave Hawley a way to pivot David toward the role of villain. Not that anything on Legion is that simple or binary.

“What’s interesting is to challenge the audience to say ‘Well are you with him now? Are you with him still?’ And if you’re not with him, we have to make sure that you’re with the other characters. That you want Syd to win,” Hawley said.

Subjective reality is still a key element of the series, and while audiences may still end up sympathetic to David’s pain, Hawley hoped viewers “realize over the course of the season how this need for love — that he feels is solely about him — begins to distance us from David a bit [and think,] ‘Oh, he’s a very ill man.’”

But even in that, his illness does not necessary equal villainy in the Golden Age comic book sense. David’s selfishness may, however, lead some to see him that way. “We expect our characters to learn and to be redeemed, but there are some people who aren’t really capable of that,” Hawley said.

Meanwhile, Amahl Farouk is, in fact, trying to redeem himself. Though, as Negahban put it, “it’s more about saving the world and also saving David. He really cares about David.” Despite being the unambiguous evil orbiting David’s life in the first season, Farouk is a changed person when we meet him at the beginning of Season 3. “He’s trying to be a good boy,” the actor said. “There has been a struggle for him to kind of determine whether [that is] right or wrong for him. And he’s trying to discover that through his journey.”

In some ways, the journey, as Negahban relayed it, parallels David’s major internal conflict. “He came from nothing. He became somebody, he had the power. He got lost in his power; he didn’t know what to do with it. And his rage and anger took over,” he explained. “It goes full circle and it gets to the point that he realizes that that rage and anger is what is destroying him. So if he can get rid of that, he can redeem himself. He can redo everything.”

LEGION -- Pictured: Dan Stevens as David Haller. CR: Pari Dukovic/FX
(Photo by Pari Dukovic/FX)

To some extent, Hawley said the conflicts mirror the tension between childhood and adulthood, adding that at least some of David’s issues go back to the moment his birth parents gave him up for adoption. And David’s attempt to stop Farouk in the past means he may run into his father, X-Men founder Charles Xavier (Harry Lloyd).

Lloyd told us not to expect the “straight-laced Charles we know” from the X-Men films or animated television series.

“It’s trippy stuff,” said Stevens, adding there is “a lot of confusion and hurt, obviously” in regards to David’s feelings on Xavier.

“It is nice to finally to have this string that ties our crazy balloon to the main raft of the X-Men stories,” he continued. “And I think that will be satisfying to people who know and love X-Men and Legion.”

He also suspected Legion viewers not well-versed in X-Men lore will become curious about the Professor and his Merry Mutants: “[It] might cause them to go and watch some other X-Men-y type things.”

Of course, it remains to be seen if David will follow in his comic book counterpart’s footsteps and end the world as viewers have known it. That story was ultimately resolved when somewhat familiar mutants from the new timeline learned about David’s actions and prevented Xavier’s death. It is a pretty out-there idea and, yet, fits pretty well into the framework of Legion. No one on set was willing to divulge if the ending resembles David’s most infamous comic book turn, but Stevens said the end gives the whole story “a meaning” not readily apparent before.

“It’s really delicately done, I think. And very beautiful,” he said.

Legion season 3 premieres Monday, June 24 at 10 p.m. on FX

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

Quiz Awards kids latino Masterpiece Turner Classic Movies Amazon Prime Video aliens Tubi batman USA Network what to watch Year in Review Election child's play Family Sony Pictures Mary Poppins Returns chucky DGA comedies Winter TV TV travel Mary Tyler Moore Black Mirror historical drama DirecTV CBS All Access Western Biopics ABC Family zombie period drama Turner The Arrangement Tomatazos Nat Geo BBC One Mudbound crime thriller GIFs cars streaming YouTube Red Apple TV Plus halloween asian-american Avengers USA Certified Fresh news E! 007 Esquire cancelled TV series Stephen King Hulu south america Ghostbusters children's TV American Society of Cinematographers book Amazon Prime Extras GLAAD unscripted satire DC Comics The CW Emmys Logo Pet Sematary crime drama SundanceTV CMT casting NBC game show Schedule Academy Awards BET Polls and Games HBO Superheroe HBO Go Epix true crime Grammys Nickelodeon New York Comic Con game of thrones comics serial killer Britbox reboot Comics on TV politics Drama revenge Showtime WGN Universal Disney Plus APB documentaries indie Vudu Arrowverse facebook Kids & Family Elton John Writers Guild of America sitcom Trailer The Purge Valentine's Day breaking bad Sundance TV golden globes Premiere Dates Anna Paquin Food Network Chernobyl E3 witnail ABC mission: impossible Television Academy documentary biography Funimation Comedy Lifetime Christmas movies LGBTQ Pride Month Netflix 71st Emmy Awards justice league The Walking Dead a nightmare on elm street die hard crossover TBS X-Men dc Martial Arts Winners FOX harry potter PaleyFest hispanic Sundance hist Chilling Adventures of Sabrina rotten movies we love MTV Classic Film Emmy Nominations Sundance Now Sci-Fi 21st Century Fox Lionsgate mockumentary Interview 20th Century Fox cancelled medical drama Black History Month Ovation vampires supernatural jamie lee curtis Oscars Holiday A&E VICE IFC 4/20 parents robots spain dogs AMC dark RT History HBO Max spanish language GoT TLC blaxploitation Heroines versus ESPN TCA Winter 2020 TCM spinoff TCA 2017 joker screenings MSNBC cults Mindy Kaling Netflix Christmas movies YouTube Premium slashers Awards Tour comiccon Countdown stoner adaptation SDCC Photos LGBT Mary poppins OWN discovery 2020 science fiction Starz Comedy Central MCU Shondaland San Diego Comic-Con Pop Endgame Amazon diversity FX Hallmark mutant Summer toy story Horror Marathons Trivia elevated horror romance Hear Us Out psycho 2018 Disney VOD Film Pop TV Tarantino Rocketman Crunchyroll Dark Horse Comics scary movies YouTube Captain marvel First Reviews Comic Book Binge Guide canceled TV shows dragons TruTV Best and Worst Discovery Channel Box Office Tumblr History foreign dceu Marvel Studios Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt docudrama Toys ITV blockbuster Disney streaming service Super Bowl Freeform TCA Bravo Marvel Television TV renewals cancelled TV shows television comic binge FXX Sneak Peek RT21 quibi National Geographic Marvel DC streaming service romantic comedy Rom-Com cancelled television video movie series sequel Star Wars Brie Larson CBS Nominations transformers crime Apple TV+ Song of Ice and Fire Holidays stand-up comedy disaster 45 BBC America directors See It Skip It Action werewolf singing competition cats Musicals space Fall TV Christmas miniseries Ellie Kemper Thanksgiving Pirates PlayStation VH1 Rock Film Festival movies tv talk spider-man Rocky TIFF Set visit Reality Competition The Witch Trophy Talk Acorn TV Women's History Month Animation video on demand ratings Amazon Studios Spike Disney+ Disney Plus YA Walt Disney Pictures WarnerMedia Lifetime Fox News Opinion DC Universe Travel Channel Character Guide cops Spectrum Originals Pixar Shudder teaser Watching Series universal monsters Podcast Mystery reviews 2019 FX on Hulu finale thriller screen actors guild cartoon Hallmark Christmas movies cinemax Teen Peacock anime ghosts President Paramount Network Baby Yoda Syfy cooking Columbia Pictures El Rey NYCC Crackle Video Games Cartoon Network TNT CW Seed Creative Arts Emmys anthology natural history 2015 all-time franchise police drama SXSW Adult Swim based on movie Lucasfilm Star Trek Disney Channel boxoffice political drama Superheroes 2016 richard e. Grant zero dark thirty TV Land adventure IFC Films Musical Infographic Fantasy spy thriller Red Carpet Calendar strong female leads First Look twilight Music free movies 24 frames composers green book name the review festivals OneApp concert indiana jones christmas movies best war Cosplay zombies CNN A24 2017 sag awards animated renewed TV shows theme song technology BET Awards nature BAFTA canceled talk show Warner Bros. dramedy critics award winner doctor who Cannes Apple films Country Spring TV Reality sports independent criterion BBC psychological thriller Paramount PBS social media