‘Legion’ Showrunner Breaks Down How Time Travel Sets Up the X-Men Show’s Endgame

“There’s nothing [David] can do in the present moment to make his life better,” Noah Hawley tells TheWrap

Last Updated: June 25, 2019 @ 8:00 AM

(Warning: The following story contains spoilers from the Season 3 premiere of FX’s “Legion”)

David Haller (Dan Stevens), already one of the most powerful mutants on the FX show “Legion,” just got a bit stronger courtesy of his new time-traveling friend, Switch (Lauren Tsai). Showrunner Noah Hawley tells TheWrap her abilities, and more importantly, what David plans to do with them, will be a major factor in concluding the FX show’s three-year story.

“For David, who really feels like his life was ruined when he was a baby and he never had a chance, there’s nothing he can do in the present moment to make his life better,” Hawley told TheWrap. “He tried to have his love story [but] he messed it up. He tried to go off and start his commune and they came looking for him.”

The premiere finds David and Lenny (Aubrey Plaza) holed up in a remote hippie commune, where he is essentially mind-controlling everyone into bliss, while looking to recruit a time-traveler so he can go back and fix his life. It’s already known that “Legion” will finally introduce David’s real parents — including his famous father, Professor X (Harry Lloyd) — in the third episode this season.

At the end of Season 1, David learns that he’s been mentally tormented his whole life by Amahl Farouk (Navid Negahban), also known as the Shadow King. After losing a telepathic battle with Xavier, Farouk attached himself to David as a parasite within his own mind when he was a child. In a cruel twist of irony, Xavier sent David away as a child in order to keep him safe from Farouk’s influence.

But in season 2 that narrative was flipped on its head, with David and Farouk swapping roles as the hero and the villain. And at least at the outset of Season 3, Farouk is very much in the “hero” corner, helping Division 3 find, and eventually take down, David, who they still believe is fated to destroy the world.

But David still thinks of himself as the hero, which is why he wants to go back and un-do the damage caused by Farouk burrowing himself in David’s mind all those years ago. “It’s clear the only way he’s gonna solve things is by going back in time to give himself another chance,” continues Hawley, who teased that David going back to this moment is going to have an unintended effect. “There’s always consequences in a time travel story, and that’s where the fun begins.”

Time travel is always a tricky plot element to introduce, especially in a series that spends so much time within the mental realm of its characters (name us another show that will have an interpretive dance battle in the astral plane). Even the way “Legion” illustrates how Switch travels through time is more unconventional than most other depictions. To her, time is a physical hallway, lined with doors that mark how far back she can travel, getting darker the further back she walks.

“It was very fun to design and think about, which is how do you take something conceptual and turn it into something visual,” continued Hawley. “That’s been the fun of the show overall is to say we not only have physical real spaces, we also have mental spaces.” He also argued it allows them to tell a very-human story about the nature of regret and the consequences of trying to change your own past.

“Without time there would be no regret,” he said. “The great thing about telling a genre story is you’re able to use the techniques of the genre to explore character in a way that, in a straight drama, you can’t.”