(Spoilers ahead for the FX original “Legion through the Feb. 22 episode.)
So far, FX’s “Legion” has been pretty closed-lipped about when exactly the show takes place. It has a late-1960s or early 1970s aesthetic, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that those decades are when it takes place.
The “when” of “Legion” is a meaningful question since the show is part of the “X-Men” film canon. Trouble is, creator Noah Hawley hasn’t revealed exactly how “Legion” syncs up with any “X-Men” stuff, if at all. It seems as though it might be set in the rebooted timeline created by the time travel of “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” but without more information, we just don’t know.
“Legion” might have just dropped its first time period clue, however. In the third episode, “Chapter 3,” Melanie Bird (Jean Smart) explains a little something about the background of Summerland, the ranch where the mutants are hanging out.
Her husband, she says, “inherited this place in the ’40s. He built this place with Cary 30 years ago.”
Although he hasn’t appeared in the show yet, we know Melanie’s husband is played by Jemaine Clement (of “Flight of the Conchords” fame). It’s his voice playing out of the robot coffeemaker at the start of the episode. His voice also comes out of the facility’s elevators.
It seems safe to assume that Melanie is referring to the 1940s as being the time when her husband inherited Summerland. (Although it’s possible she meant 2040 and “Legion” just loves its retro chic look.) If that’s the case, the bit about him building the facility with Cary “30 years ago” puts the show nicely in the 1970s. And that makes it contemporary to “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”
If “Legion” is taking place around the same time as that movie, it makes a lot of sense, although we still don’t know when exactly “Legion is happening.” It seems like it’s probably occurring after “X-Men: First Class,” which was set in 1962, but before “Days of Future Past,” set in 1973. The reason for that: The general public doesn’t seem to know about mutants yet. But the government does.
In “First Class,” the nascent X-Men intervene in the Cuban Missile Crisis and prevent nuclear war, but in doing so, reveal themselves to the U.S. government. In “Days of Future Past,” the mutants get into a fight on the streets of Saigon, and suddenly the public finds out about mutants. So it would seem the government in “Legion” knows mutants exist — hence Division 3 — but regular people don’t yet.
This point in the timeline also lines up fairly well with the fact that, in the comics, Professor Charles Xavier (in this case, James McAvoy) is the father of David Haller (Dan Stevens). If David is in his early to mid-20s, then it tracks that that Professor X would have been somewhere around 18 to 22 when David was conceived.
All this timeline stuff means a few interesting characters are potentially in the mix to show up on “Legion” — including “Days of Future Past” regulars like Beast, Mystique and Professor X. That is, of course, if “Legion” ends up actually being connect to the “X-Men” movies. There’s no guarantee now or ever.