On Monday, Legion fans were finally introduced to Harry Lloyd’s version of Charles Xavier. Episode three of the X-Men adjacent series introduced us to an entirely different Xavier than what the audience is used to. Instead of stalwart, stoic, straight-laced Patrick Stewart-esque Xavier, and instead of happy-go-lucky, carefree, James McAvoy-esque Xavier, the audience got a Xavier who was still learning his powers. The audience got a Xavier who is more like his son, David, than we were probably aware of.
And that’s the beauty of Legion. While many of the source characters are similar to the comics counterparts, they all just happen to be skewed enough that they fit into Legion‘s zany, hard to pin down aesthetic and time period. However, creator Noah Hawley almost considered bringing in Patrick Stewart or James McAvoy which would have solidified Legion in the X-Men continuity even more.
In an interview with The Wrap Hawley said, “We’re going to have to meet [David’s] parents eventually. Nobody fought us on it. There was a question obviously about what age is he? What’s the model? Is he the McAvoy age? Is he Patrick Stewart age? Should we try to get either of those actors to do it? Ultimately, I felt like we established our own alternate reality here on Legion, where it’s both 1964 and the future… I think I felt like the younger Xavier was actually more consistent with the timeline. But there’s something about David, if David meets his father and his father is his age, I think there’s something interesting about that.”
We could have had it all, Hawley. In the end, it was a good idea that Legion didn’t use Stewart or McAvoy to keep the show separate from the films. They are all still connected in some little way.
Lauren Shuler Donner, who serves as executive producer for Legion and has produced all of the X-Men films under Fox said, “I’m cognizant of his legacy. It is within the canon to show a younger Charles, a young, naïve, just-finding-his-powers Charles. So I think it sort of finishes a story, a Charles Xavier story, at the right time, in that Fox is now moving to Disney and there’ll be a whole new iteration. So [these] universes have synced in a wonderful coincidence.”
So now what the fans are waiting for is how, when, and why David and Xavier will eventually square off. At least we know the why. At the beginning of episode three, Xavier is seen in Morocco after abandoning Gabrielle Haller, his wife and David’s mother, to fight Farouk, the mutant he discovers with a Cerebro that’s in beta testing. As we all know, the war with Farouk doesn’t exactly go very well. The episode ends with a harrowing image of Farouk in a rocking chair, cradling baby David, and calling him, “my angel” and “my beautiful boy.” It’s a stark image and one that leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.
One good thing about episode three is just how beautiful Gabrielle and Xavier’s relationship grows. It mirrors Syd and David’s relationship in season one. While I don’t particularly think Syd and David’s relationship is a healthy one, Gabrielle and Xavier’s relationship is quite nice. Gabrielle and Xavier are two very different people, both scarred from war (it’s implied that Xavier was a soldier in World War Two which sets Legion’s present smack in the seventies, a move that Hawley’s avoided before), and both willing to help each other.
“I always think that [Xavier], however strong his powers at that age were expressing themselves, but they were something that he wanted to do some good. And I think that Gabrielle allows him to do that,” Hawley says. “I think that he used it, the mind [to kill the enemy solider]. I think it opened himself up and he became scared of it. I don’t think anyone would know what happened in that tunnel besides you… Part of me wonders if he committed himself, or if he allowed himself to be brought there because he kind of has become lost.”
Adds Hawley: “The story from the comics is that he met Gabrielle in an institution and helped get her out of a catatonic state, and it was interesting to the degrees that it paralleled David and Syd’s story, and I wanted to look at that.”
Legion airs Mondays on FX at 10/9c.
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