‘Legion’ Director’s Tips On Decoding the Show’s Complicated Scripts

Kim Taylor-Foster
TV Marvel
TV Marvel

If you’re a fan of Legion, it won’t have escaped your notice that it’s a complicated show. If you find yourself frequently lost, be assured that you’re not alone. Its confusing nature isn’t lost on series director Tim Mielants, who benefits from the intervention of series creator Noah Hawley and the show’s co-writers to shed light on what’s going on in the scripts. FANDOM asked Mielants to help viewers decode the complex shenanigans of the entirely unique superhero series. Here are his top five pointers.

1. Know That It’s Character Driven

Mielants says to always watch with the characters front and centre in your mind, rather than the events and story per se.

“The character is always at the centre of it. What are they feeling, what’s the relationship, what’s the central feeling of it all?” he says.

“I know where the show is going,” he adds. “I know what’s going to happen with [main characters] David and Syd and I know these two characters are at the centre of it. You’ll always feel emotionally engaged with these characters [as the show progresses], and I think that’s going to be important; I know that’s what the story is about. About them, and about Syd, and about identity. About all these different things that really connect with an audience.”

2. Think of It As Poetry

Rachel Keller as Syd and Dan Stevens as David.

It doesn’t always have to make sense.

“I like to see Legion as an experience where you don’t necessarily have to understand everything,” says Mielants. “It’s like something hypnotic. So, approaching everything from a rational point of view isn’t necessarily the experience [we’re going for]. When I did the first season, I was watching a lot of [Russian filmmaker] Tarkovsky and, strangely enough, I see a lot of similarities. It’s more ‘let the poetry come to you, and just let the images and everything come to you’ rather than attempting to understand everything. Because you might end up very frustrated.”

3. The Showrunner Hires Directors Who Bring Personality

Look at other work by the episode directors to help you understand what you’re watching. And be aware that each individual episode may have its own independent feel.

“Noah pushes you to put your own personality into it and give your own point of view,” says Mielants. “Because he likes to have a subjective point of view from the director in approaching the material. [Reading the script for the first time], I always start crying for a while because it’s so difficult. Am I going to pull it off? But if you just work on it step by step and you keep on collecting ideas, and try differing things out and go back into film history, you always come up with a solution — and that’s always very rewarding.”

4. Put the Marvel Comics Aside and Watch Buñuel Films

You may find more to help you unpack Legion in the films of Luis Buñuel than in comic books.

You may well find yourself more in tune with what’s going on if you look to surrealism.

Mielants says, “From a personal point of view, I’m a director who loves surreal cinema. I’m a big Buñuel fan and I’m a guy who really loves European surrealism, and [artist] René Magritte and [director] André Delvaux. When Noah asked me to do the show, I told him I have no Marvel experience; I know nothing about comic worlds. He said, ‘I just like the crossover from surrealism to the American world and that’s all very interesting, this exploration’.

“The first thing I do is I go into movie history and I steal the hell out of it. Really steal, literally. And then you combine your own ideas and you come to a result, for better or worse. But that’s the way I have approached every episode of Legion so far.”

5. Gen Up on the Works of David Lynch

Twin Peaks - Fire Walk With Me
The work of David Lynch holds the key to getting to grips with Legion.

Mielants says there’s a definite Lynchian influence apparent in Legion. “I’m a kid from the 80s so you can’t be indifferent from watching [David Lynch’s work]. It sticks with you forever. So it’s there always, whatever I do. And I know it’s the same for Noah. He loves David Lynch.”

So there you go. The next episode of Legion should be a cinch to decode. Cheers, Tim.

Legion continues Tuesdays at 9pm on FOX.

Kim Taylor-Foster
Kim Taylor-Foster is Entertainment Editor for Fandom in the UK. She was raised on an unsteady diet of video nasties and violent action flicks.