Noah Hawley discusses David and Syd's relationship and more heading into the April 3 premiere on FX.
The story of David Haller continues, as “Legion” returns to FX for Season 2 on Tuesday, April 3.
Season 1 ended with David Haller (Dan Stevens) finally free of the influence of the Shadow King, only for the Shadow King to find a new host in Oliver Bird (Jemaine Clement) and escape – and for David himself to be captured inside a mysterious orb. So, where does the story go from here?
As Executive Producer Noah Hawley told press during a visit to the Los Angeles set of the series, “If the first season was the enemy within, the second season, in my head, was always the enemy without. The enemy is now out and so it would appear that our mission is to find Farouk and put an end to him.”
However, Hawley added, “My first instinct is always ‘Well that seems very clear… Now how can I undermine that in interesting ways?’ So, there are a few things that are happening as we go into the second year.”
Read on for more of what Hawley had to say about “Legion” Season 2…
The Mind of David Haller
When “Legion” began, David Haller had been institutionalized, unaware of the exterior force inside his head, the Shadow King, who had been manipulating him. However, Hawley noted that even though the Shadow King and David have been separated, he didn’t want to abandon the themes about mental health.
Said Hawley, “There were some things that were very important to me about telling more stories in this world. The first thing was that I didn’t want to leave the mental illness component of the show behind. The first season was based around this idea of ‘Is he mentally ill or does he have these super powers or both?’ I think we kind of committed to the fact that we’re in this genre world. There are people with these abilities. There is the Shadow King, who David thought was part of his personality, and then it turns out to be a separate entity and that entity escapes and is out in the world.”
That being said, Hawley stressed, “I couldn’t leave that question of mental illness behind. It’s an integral part of the show and it’s also something interesting to me as an idea to explore this idea of ‘What is normal? What is reality, if not simply an agreement that we make?’ Someone once said that the definition of reality is that which doesn’t cease to exist if you stop believing in it and I thought that was really interesting.”
The Tale of David & Syd
The dynamic between David and Syd (Rachel Keller) has been a key component of “Legion” since the first episode, and Hawley explained, “The relationship with David and Syd is the framework that we hang this season on. My feeling was if you believe that this love is real and you’re invested in it than the rest of the show is flexible, because obviously we’re making something that’s a little surreal, where I’m not entirely convinced that everything we see needs to be tied to information.”
As Hawley elaborated, “The show isn’t an information delivery device. It’s an experience delivery device. So there can be a sense, as you’re watching the show, that you’re not exactly clear on what everything is and what everything means. But as long as there’s a sense that you care about David and Syd and their emotional journey feels real, you’ll go wherever they go. And I continue to believe that what makes the show interesting is the ways in which we can use the genre to solve the characters. It’s not about making a genre show in that ‘these are people with abilities who are at war.’ It’s that you have the genre with all its creativity and its whimsy and fantastical elements. How can we use the tropes of the genre to explore the characters and explore the story in a way that you couldn’t in a straight drama? Because you can’t play with the structure of the show [in a straight drama]. You don’t have these elements available to you. You have clear forces of good and clear forces of evil. That’s a pretty standard package.”
By comparison, Hawley said, “Legion” is a show where, “You’re playing with these ideas about what’s actually going on, what’s real… False memories, false realities. We have a lot of mental spaces this year. We have a lot of mental spaces that aren’t necessarily the real world. Once you start playing around with those things you need a clear bind the audience can hold onto.”
Hawley noted that when Season 2 begins, “[Syd] has been put in the same position that Melanie was put in, which is [Oliver] went off to save the world and never came back. And she’s found herself trying to figure out how she feels about that and not wanting to surrender her own identity to this wait, to this search for him, etc. So I think if the first year was about the honeymoon of new love, this second year also has a component to it which is about the maturation of the love story between these two characters, with the idea that they love each other very much. But the world is a serious place and they have to make some mature decisions and move their relationship forward.”
The Shadow King Unleashed
The Shadow King/Farouk has escaped inside the body of Oliver Bird, and in Season 2, Hawley explained, “We introduce this idea that what Oliver is doing is he’s out there looking for his own body. If you think about a mutant that is someone that genetically changes, that mutation is mostly found in their physical genetic material. We play with this idea that his mind is very strong but if he were to be reunited with his body, he would become much more powerful. So we introduce this idea that they’re in a race to find the body. No one knows where it is. Our friends at Division Three, with David, are looking for Amahl Farouk, who is out there in the body of Oliver looking for it and that’s the framework of the season – who is going to find it first.”
In Season 1, Farouk was seen in various ways, but as Hawley noted, “He was hidden and metaphorically behind many faces.” In Season 2, “We’re removing the mask and Amahl Farouk becomes a major character in the show.”
Discussing what it was like to develop Farouk — who will be played by Navid Negahban in Season 2 — in a more direct manner this year, Hawley remarked, “It’s been really interesting because I had to find his voice.”
Describing the Shadow King, Hawley said, “He’s a centuries old mutant. Literally, he’s called ‘the King’ right? So there’s this idea that he’s out there in the world trying to get his body back, which he was kicked out of, and it’s about respect for him and the fact that people are treating him like he’s some kind of vermin but he’s the sun, he’s the moon, he’s a god. And so a lot of this for him — he’s a very patient guy. He hung around in David’s mind watching him eat baby food for a year. He’s a very patient guy. So he’s a very manipulative guy. He’s a very confident, powerful guy. He doesn’t say more than he has to say. But he’s also kind of a snake in the garden. He can talk you into anything.”
“Legion” is based on a character who originated in the X-MEN family of comics, and while many of the specifics are unique to the TV show, Hawley noted, “There are a few things that were interesting to me to incorporate from the X-Men universe. The first, just broadly, was its very gray approach to morality and this idea that characters can cross that line. You can have a character like Magneto who is a villain one week and a hero the next week and the struggles they’re all going through with their identity and trying to do the right thing — it’s not the same black and white universe as some other comic franchises. I really wanted to play with that and that real world morality. At the same time, I feel like the one thing about David Haller that you can’t change is his origin story and who his father is and it’s something we started to address in that first year and continue to address in our second year in a way the audience might like.”
Hawley said he felt “Legion” had to stand on its own, but added, “I feel like we set up, in this first year, an origin of this show which has the idea that David’s father defeated the Shadow King and the Shadow King took revenge by going into the mind of his son. And now we’re at the point where the Shadow King is racing to get his body back. What’s he going to do when he gets it and how is that going to circle back if he’s clearly interested in revenge? So we’re playing with all of those elements but I feel like I’ve made a show with its own universe and I want to try to stay inside of that as much as possible.”
What’s Coming Next
When it comes to any mystery elements in the series and the perspective of “Legion,” Hawley remarked, “The whole idea is to make a show that’s subjective. So if David isn’t sure what’s real or not, we’re not sure what’s real. That said, I was never interested in mystery for mystery’s sake. If you look at the first year, as David got more clarity, we got more clarity. In the beginning, we kind of had no idea what was going on and in the end it was very clear what was going on. But going into the second season, I didn’t want to just lose clarity for some reason. I think that’s part of what’s fun about the show. Part of this year and some of the things we’re doing is to kind of reset the table to allow us to figure it out again. What’s real, and what’s important, and what is his own baggage getting in his way? I think that I’m also very interested in continuing to expand Rachel Keller’s role and this idea that the show really is a two hander for me between [David and Syd] and there’s a journey that they’re going on. And in the X-Men universe, as I said, who’s a hero and who’s a villain? It’s not said. It’s not ‘The Matrix,’ right? It’s not like he’s chosen to be the savior of everyone.”
Hawley added, “There’s a sense that in David’s story he could be heading toward becoming a Super Villain, or maybe she is. I think there’s this idea that when you’re creating your own sort of myth you have to put a lot of energy into building the challenges and the seminal moments that these characters go to to decide ‘How is history going to remember this?’ So that’s part of it as well – continuing to expand to see the world through her eyes.”
“Legion” Season 2 premieres Tuesday, April 3 at 10:00pm ET/PT on FX.