From show creator Noah Hawley and Marvel Television, the FX drama series Legion is back for its third and final season, as David Haller (Dan Stevens), a man who believed himself to be schizophrenic only to discover that he is the most powerful mutant the world has ever seen, is forced to confront his actions and the decisions that he’s made. With the dark voices in his head lusting for power and at odds with everyone he once considered a friend, David is now leading a commune to satisfy his need for adulation and he’s enlisted the help of the young mutant Switch (Lauren Tsai), with the hope that she can help him time travel and repair the damage that he’s caused.
While Season 3 was still shooting, Collider got the opportunity to tour the incredible sets at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood and participate in a series of interviews to talk about all things Legion. Here are the highlights from what showrunner/writer/director/executive producer Noah Hawley had to say, during both a group interview on set, as well as in a 1-on-1 prior to that, where he talked about how it feels to end the story on his terms, testing the bonds of the audience to their hero, whether David Haller is redeemable, the David-Syd (Rachel Keller) relationship, exploring the damage that was done in his childhood, bringing in Charles Xavier (aka Professor X), his collaborative relationship with Dan Stevens over three seasons, working with him again on his feature directorial debut Lucy in the Sky, juggling the final season of Legion with Season 4 of Fargo, and what fans can expect from that show. Be aware that there are some spoilers discussed.
How does it feel to know that you’re telling the end of the story, the way that you wanted to tell it?
NOAH HAWLEY: It’s good. I love endings. What’s great about telling a story with a beginning, middle and end is that every step that you take is irrevocable. As you get into the end game of it, as with Fargo, you’re making big moves, every week, in a way that’s dramatic. It’s not the middle, where you have to keep setting things up. But I also know that I will miss making it. Twenty years into this career, I feel like all I do is start things and end them, and then move on to other things. It’s not like the old days, where you do eight seasons of something, and then you’re like, “I don’t know what else to do.” It’s just par for the course, on some level, but it is a magical show for me to make.
In the second season, David did some horrible things, and he’s the protagonist of the story. How do you deal with that, in the third season? How are people going to relate to him now?
HAWLEY: I think it’s a good question. On some level, we’re testing the bonds of the audience to their hero, or their protagonists. We’re not the first show to do it. Obviously, Breaking Bad built a whole seventh season arc around, at what point do you realize that Walter White is actually not the hero, but that he’s the villain of the story? What’s interesting to me is that gray area for the audience. David does things that are wrong, but it comes out of this need he has to be loved. What’s driving David is not some mustache-twirling, supervillain, destroy the world thing. He’s being driven by this very human desire to feel loved, and in order to achieve that feeling, he’s doing some things that are hard to root for. What’s interesting is to challenge the audience to say, 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, and that you want Syd to win. This show was built around a love story. There is this very human desire for love stories to work out, and part of what drives the story here is to figure out, is there any way for these two people, if not to be in a relationship together, but at least to get to the other side of what David has done to her.
After everything David did last season, do you think that he’s redeemable or forgivable?
HAWLEY: Well, it’s not really up to me, how people feel, at the end of the story. My hope is that we can get him there, to the degree that you’re gonna root for things to work out for him. But I also know that we certainly want there to be consequences for people’s actions. What you’ll realize, over the course of the season, is how this need for love, which is solely about him, begins to distance us from David a bit and make us realize that he’s very ill man. The question for someone who’s mentally ill, in a way that’s medical and propound, is what change can you actually expect him to achieve? He’s not really physically capable of perspective of himself. That’s part of my desire to continue to explore mental illness, as a real and adult facet of this show. We expect our characters to learn and to be redeemed, but there are some people who aren’t really capable of that. Maybe they can with therapy, but it’s hard for them to deal with tough love.
Rachel Keller has said that you had conversations with her about the #MeToo movement and how different storylines could be received in the world, right now. How did you want to handle that material?
HAWLEY: It’s not an accident that we told this sexual assault storyline on the show. On some level, telling the adult version of a comic book show involves dealing with complicated issues. What I was interested in looking at is not good versus evil. It’s the things that we do to each other and the ways that people are together. From that, you can explore the larger evils in the world. So, that idea that David would do something to Syd where he literally removed her consent, and then had sex with her, in his mind, it was a romantic act. Obviously, an objective and rational person wouldn’t see it that way. Part of it was to show the audience how ungrounded David was in reality that he could still perceive that as a romantic act, as a clear sign of his illness, and then deal with it, in the aftermath. A lot of what Rachel and I talked about was the idea that, if we were gonna tell the sexual assault story, we were also gonna deal with it. We weren’t just gonna gloss it over. And with this time traveler, David flirts with the idea of going back and making that not happen. He can go back and time and not do that to her, but what would happen is that he would still be the person who is capable of doing that, and she just wouldn’t know. It would be another kind of trick. She tries to get him to understand what he did, from her point of view, but the reality is that it’s very hard for him to see that because he’s so lost in his own narcissism. So, we wanted to really try to tell that story, in an adult way, using the inventiveness of the genre, and not trying to turn the show into a dark morality tale, but to really explore the consequences of that action, for both of them.
After what David did to Syd, at the end of Season 2, what can we expect from that relationship now?
HAWLEY: I didn’t come to tell this story accidentally. Those two characters are still very much tied together, so their fates are tied together. But to address his assault on her, without her consent, and the real-life consequences of that, is very much what we’re looking at, in this third season, along with the exploration of the narcissism in him, that keeps him from being able to see himself as anything other than a good person. We’ve exploring, this whole show, a character who doesn’t know what’s real and what’s not real, and we’re finally coming to an understanding that his reality is different from everybody else’s. How do you communicate from one reality to another reality? If you can’t get him to even see or admit that what he did was wrong, then how do you fix it? So, the real question is, can we get David to a moment of clarity, where he realizes who he is, from their point of view, and really sees and accepts that he’s done bad things? From Syd’s point of view, maybe David is trying to destroy the world again and he wants attention, so part of it is maybe not giving him the attention that he wants so badly.