‘Legion’ Creator Noah Hawley on the Final Season, a ‘Satisfying’ Ending & ‘Fargo’ Season 4
As FX’s bonkers Marvel Comics-based series Legion reaches its final season, its protagonist, the powerful mutant David Haller (Dan Stevens) is not simply the messed up, misunderstood character we may have perceived him to be initially. He might actually be the villain of this story.
At the end of Season 2, David’s girlfriend Syd Barrett (Rachel Keller) and the rest of the Summerland gang finally figured this out (you know, after David manipulated Syd’s mind into believing she still loved him) and attempted to force David back into treatment. But David, clinging to the mantra “I’m a good person,” couldn’t believe his friends when they told him that his actions will eventually lead to the destruction of the world and that, after all this time, he is in fact mentally ill.
So, after not taking any of that news well, the telekinetic schizophrenic runs away and takes his junkie pal Lenny Busker (Aubrey Plaza) with him to start a cult and locate a time traveler. Because how else do you fix your mistakes?
With eight episodes to go, creator Noah Hawley talks us through what’s to come on the wild ride.
How does it feel to be entering the third and final season of Legion?
Noah Hawley: It feels good, definitely. And then there’s always that part of you that goes, ‘Well, it’s over. Did I do it right?’
Should we expect a definitive ending, or something a bit more open-ended at the conclusion of these final eight episodes?
The story that we have begun comes to an end, but there are other stories about these characters that are possible. It’s not my intention to tell them in the near future. But, long live Legion.
How would you describe this season’s overall objectives and themes?
It’s interesting because I think that we’ve established a complex protagonist and narrator through David who, when we met him, was in the psychiatric hospital and he had tried to kill himself. It was clear that he was a very damaged young man and we asked this question: ‘Is he mentally ill or does he have these abilities?’ And he got pulled into this traumatic comic book story and we definitively said, ‘Well, he definitely has these powers.’ Then, over the course of the second season, we realized that the answer was both, really, which meant that he also has a mental illness.
The third season is concerned with the idea of, ‘Can he redeem himself?’ Is he capable of change and putting his own needs second? Or is the narcissism that we have come to discover in him going to make him incapable of being good in a way that we are all expected to be good to each other?
Now we’re going to see him running this cult alongside Lenny. Is it all completely for selfish gain or is he genuinely trying to help people?
I think it’s both. He’s a very vulnerable character. What we saw in him at the end of the second season was a child, really. A sort of very hurt child who kept repeating ‘I’m a good person’ and ‘I deserve love.’ I like to say in Fargo that there’s always a character who is the worst person on the show who says, ‘I’m the victim here.’
I think it’s worth noting, that in David’s eyes, he is a victim. His life was ruined. This monster came into his head and he never had a chance. But we also saw, in pursuing his own needs, he made some very bad choices and he hurt the people that he loves the most. And yet he was incapable of acknowledging that because he thinks he’s a good person who deserves love and everything he does is good.
So then the question in the third season is, can we get him to really see himself? Can we get him to that clarity? That’s of course where the mental illness makes it difficult. The narcissism isn’t just, ‘My boyfriend is so vain.’ He has this psychiatric condition that prevents him from being able to accept hard truth about himself.
Will his multiple personalities continue and become more severe as Season 3 progresses?
The fracturing of his mind definitely continues as a challenge for him. It’s a weakness and a strength, as you’ll see towards the end of the season. But it means that his inner conflicts can be personified and it allows us to say things out loud and [have David] literally confront himself in ways that you couldn’t on a classic drama.
Is Lenny really just along for the ride?
The Lenny that we’ll see over the course of the season is actually in a really good place. She finally has somewhere she feels she actually belongs. She has authority. She has a girlfriend. She feels settled in a way that she hasn’t felt before. That said, it’s still a cult. It’s still run by a narcissist with heightened powers. And she’s still an anarchist and a tweaker and a character whose own moral center is hard to find. I think what’s interesting with her is putting her in that position, and then of course, now she has something to lose. What will she do to protect it? And if David has an agenda that is at odds with her newfound contentment, is she with him or is she not?
What can you tell me about the addition of Lauren Tsai to the cast as the time-traveling mutant, Switch? How does she interact with David?
Well, it was important to me that we had to switch point-of-view now that we revealed at the end of Season 2 that David is, at best, an unreliable narrator and that his perception of reality is skewed in his own interest. So, it became important to step out of his point-of-view. Lauren’s character became the vehicle to start the third season with her and to follow her for a long period of time before she gets to David, to establish a more objective, third-person look at our characters.
So, when she finally comes to meet David and he’s in his cult and got his necklaces and his cult leader get-up and talks about being in a psychiatric hospital and how there’s a monster in his head — he seems like a nutcase. You know? We’re seeing him through different eyes. We’re not automatically on his side, even though clearly, if you’ve been with him for those two seasons, you’re still invested in him in some way, but he’s no longer your way into the story. It was critical that Lauren would be able to carry that weight. [Switch] also plays a major role in David’s endgame.
This is [Tsai’s] first acting work, and she’s just a natural. I learned after that she’s a visual artist as well and she’s drawn cover art for Marvel Comics before we hired her to be in the show. All I knew initially was that she put herself on tape and she was undeniable.
We’ll also be seeing David’s parents at some point, Gabrielle Haller (Stephanie Corneliussen) and Professor X (Game of Thrones vet Harry Lloyd). Will we learn why they gave up David in the first place? And how will they be brought into the fold?
Yes, I think we learn the whole family story over the course of the season. And I guess what I’m willing to say is… we don’t have a time traveler by accident. If the central concern of David’s life is what happened to him as a baby, I think that would be something that he would want to address.
Now that David has split off and taken this turn towards being the villain of the story, are we going to see a lot more of the perspective of Syd and the Division/Summerland folks as they try and track him down? Or is there a lot more Switch/David?
I think it’s very even-handed. We need to honor that moment at the end of last season where Syd basically said, ‘You’re not the hero, I’m the hero.’ And she is our hero. As are the other [Summerland] characters. They are definitely on the side of good, even if their stories are complex themselves.
Are we really supposed to see the Shadow King/Amahl Farouk (Navid Negahban) as one of the good guys now?
He’s a complicated character. I think that issue is at the heart of the final season. Can we trust him or not trust him? And is he operating in his own interests? He talks a lot about how much he cares about David. Is that real? If you give him a path to power, is he going to take it? Is he going to be responsible? And the other thing is, this story is really about if real change is possible. Can you walk a different side of the line than you have been walking? Can you gain wisdom and experience and look at the world in a different way? There are a lot of high stakes to those questions in this case.
When you look back on the series, what do you find you’re most proud of?
It’s hard to pull out specific moments because there’s the micro and macro of the overall story that we’re telling and the tight turns we’ve had to make. Setting up a love story that’s so strong that the audience really invests themselves in it and then leading them to a place where that love can’t work anymore — and also a hero they’ve been asked to invest in, who does something that they can’t abide. And then taking that story forward and respecting the consequences of that story and yet trying to land an ending in which there’s some sense of resolution that’s satisfying. That’s the biggest satisfaction that I get.
But also, it’s one thing to be creative. It’s another thing to be creative on a deadline and while having to stick to a budget. And it’s another thing to play. To get down on the floor like my kids and play with this material. Play with it at the writing stage, and at the filmmaking stage and to be open to invention and whimsy. And to do all of that on a deadline with a budget… that’s what I’m proud of. There was never a moment where the show became work for me. Because I knew the moment it became work for me, it wouldn’t be the show anymore.
Will we see a happy ending for any of these characters by the end of the eighth episode?
I think we’ll see a satisfying ending, and I do think there’s happiness and hope to it for some of these characters. We all want love stories to work, families to stay together, good people to be protected, and bad people to be punished, but that’s not the way the world goes all the time. But, if you’re not going to do those things for an audience you have to lead them to an ending that makes sense and feels satisfying — even if it’s not a Disney ending.
By the way, is there anything Fargo-wise that you can talk about so far?
We’re writing and casting. We start shooting in October. It’s a big show. You can probably combine the first three seasons scale-wise and that would be the scale of [the fourth season]. It’s a big cast, complicated story, lots of moving pieces. The writers’ room is done. I’ve got about five or six scripts that are in various stages of completion. I’m excited.
Legion, Season 3 Premiere, Monday, June 24, 10/9c, FX