The First Episode of ‘Legion’ Left Dan Stevens Asking, ‘What’s Going On?’

Chris Large/FX
Pictured: (l-r) Rachel Keller as Syd Barrett, Dan Stevens as David Haller.

There’s always room for one more. FX is going where many networks have gone before and joining the comic book fray with Legion. The drama—from Fargo mastermind Noah Hawley—centers around David Haller (Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens), a young man institutionalized with schizophrenia. When a new patient (Fargo’s Rachel Keller, above, with Stevens) catches his eye, David comes to realize that his mental struggles may somehow be related to special powers. Did we mention David is the son of Charles Xavier, aka the X-Men’s Professor X?

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The ambitious series isn’t a direct adaptation of any of the Marvel comics. Rather, it has a trippy narrative style that more resembles Hawley’s previous work on Fargo or that of HBO’s Westworld, with shifting timelines and a seemingly unreliable narrator. Are what David reveals to us his real memories, the effects of his powers or recollections tainted by those around him? “It’s a very unique take on the comic book,” Stevens says. “The nature of David and his psyche are that different people occupy his mind and have an influence on him at any given time. He acts as a [force for] the light and dark side in different ways. It’s an interesting exploration, and one that I think the superhero genre is good at exploring.”

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Stevens admits that, given the complex structure of the storytelling, he often found himself confused while shooting the twisty first episode. “[I’d be asking], ‘What’s going on? And please, what is going on? No, seriously, please, what is going on?’” he says with a laugh. “But I think Noah wanted me to be in a place where I was ready to question absolutely everything that was coming to me. And at the same time accept it in a way that someone suffering from whatever his condition might. That’s a really fun thing to play. And I think there’s an appetite for a show like this that tickles different parts of your brain.”

Legion, Series Premiere, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 10/9c, FX