I grew out of superhero stories about the time I hit adulthood, so there’s little in the current crush of TV series from Marvel and DC to be of interest. At least until tonight’s “Legion” (FX, 10 p.m.). That’s solely because of the genius behind it, Noah Hawley, who adhered to Cohen Brothers codes when adapting “Fargo” into a first rate series. Now dabbling with sci-fi, he tells the story of a young man who is either crazy (and therefore confined in a mental hospital), or whose mental powers are beyond what anybody has seen, and can be an asset to, say, a group of mutant crimefighters.
That doesn’t happen until the end of the dazzling pilot, and once he’s with a team maybe Legion will be more conventional hero. But the way Hawley works, I doubt it.
Already he’s made its star Dan Wilson look even younger than he did when he played Matthew Crawley on “Downton Abbey.” Rachel Keller, who played a much different character on last season of “Fargo” plays his alluring counter part. Aubrey Plaza is there hanging out at the hospital as well. And Jean Smart leads the mutants. “Legion” has the look of a show that will visually stun as it satisfies the long-suffering fans looking for the new “Lost.”
Keeping the capes out of the picture was always the goal, Hawley told reporters last month at the TV Critics Association Winter Press Tour.
“The first thought that I had in looking at the genre was, well, if we remove the genre, is there a compelling show that you would want to watch there? because I think that the underlying show, whatever the genre is, has to be a compelling character or story.”
He said he found it in the “epic love story” between David and Rachel.
On top of that, Hawley said, he put the genre back into it. “If we have a character who is not sure what’s real and what’s not real, then can we make this show that’s subjective?”
That, he said, is the opposite of what he’s been doing on the generally objective “Fargo,” currently shooting its third season in Calgary.
Allowing it to be told from David’s mind gives him a chance to throw a lot in there. “Some of it feels retro, and some of it feels futuristic, and I thought it’s important to make something unique.”
It may not all make sense in its pilot, but it will have one solid thing, he says.
“We introduce this love story in the first hour and that, for the audience, everything else is fungible,” he says. “They want this relationship to be real, and they want this love story to be real, and they want her to be real. And as long as they have that to pull them through, then I think that they will give you the leeway to tell your story.
“And,” he adds, “even though in the first hour you may see some things that you don’t necessarily understand what they are, by the end of the first season, you understand what everything is. So this isn’t a show where we are trying to hide the truth from people. I’m just trying to make a subjective reality.”
That makes it unlike just about everything on TV, and that’s worth getting excited about.