At New York Comic Con 2016, one of the most intriguing panels had to be Marvel and FX’s Legion showing. The X-Men spin-off has been shrouded in mystery, but there’s slightly less mystery after showing the today. They shared the first half of the pilot episode. From showrunner Noah Hawley, fresh off the Fargo TV series, and you can see the similarities. he first episode of Legion has a similar filmic and punk approach to the journey of one confused man who may be the most powerful being on the planet.
“Happy Jack Wasn’t Old, But He Was a Man”
The opening is a chilling montage of a baby growing into a boy and eventually a troubled young man. Set to the tune of The Who’s “Happy Jack,” you first spot a cheerful baby with a nearby wheelchair implying David's connection to Charles Xavier. The cheer subsides as the boy starts to hear voices and is able to move things with his mind. David is in and out of mental hospitals from then on, and finds himself committed to a very strict one after attempting to kill himself.
David is committed to an institute called Clockworks, just to put an exclamation point on make the Stanley Kubrick influences. Dan Stevens does a great job as the troubled, conflicted, and clever young man David Haller who will ultimately be Legion. He’s got a promising supporting cast including the hilarious Aubrey Plaza (Lenny Busker), who steals every scene she's in. We also meet Rachel Keller as love interest Syd Barret, David’s girlfriend who very strictly hates to be touched. The two start a relationship but it ends as mysteriously as it begins with Syd disappearing.
Not to give a line-by-line synopsis, but things only get stranger from there. We jump around from different points in time, and the viewer is just as confused as David about what's real or not. The first half of the pilot is so understated on the comic book aspects, it's 30 minutes before we hear the word "mutant" said aloud. But it seems like there's more X-Men tropes appearing later in the series.
Building Bridges With Marvel and Mutants
After the pilot, the cast and crew came out on stage, including some folks who may or may not be other mutants Legion teams with. Most interestingly, Marvel Studios TV exec Jeph Loeb was on stage with longtime X-Men film producer Lauren Shuler Donner. X-Men fans should know that Marvel and Fox haven't been friendly in the past over mutants, so this cooperation is a big moment. Loeb himself remarked that him being involved with Legion and being on stage at NYCC was proof bridges were being built.
But don't expect any Marvel hero crossovers yet, or any X-Men for that matter. Noah Hawley says they'll be pretty closed off from the film X-Men. No one would even specify what timeline the show takes place in. Noah smartly compared the eventual use of famous mutants similar to his work on Fargo. On that adaptation, he felt he had to work hard to prove the show was good enough to earn the right to reference the film Fargo. Hawley wants Legion to be so good that the movie mutants can't stay away.
Noah and the cast finished up the panel discussing a love for the X-Men, Hawley in particular said that the mutant comics were his favorites, while Dan Stevens said Legion was an Omega Level opportunity. With the series planned for FX next year, it's looking really good, and unlike any comic book series TV has ever seen. Let's hope the rest of the series can fulfill on the promise of the impressive pilot.