For as wacky and artsy and amazing as FX’s Legion can be, there’s no denying that it’s also managing to tie itself inextricably to the bigger world of the X-Men even while avoiding the X-Men themselves for the most part. And last night’s episode, “Chapter 10,” kept that approach going with a brief namedrop that opens up the world of the show immensely: The Shi’ar.
Obviously, spoilers follow for Legion up through the second episode of Season 2.
The moment came early on when Cary (Bill Irwin) was studying the mysterious orb that had captured David Haller in the first-season finale. He comments on how advanced the technology is, and notes that his first thought was that it must be Shi’ar in nature. The conversation (with his inner-sister-self — yes, this is Legion after all) then moves on to other things, since the orb is actually from the future and apparently was created by a future version of Cary himself. But nevertheless, with that one line of dialogue we now know that the Shi’ar exist in the Legion universe. But who are the Shi’ar anyway?
Well, comics fans will recall that the Shi’ar are an alien species as well as a great space empire composed of other alien worlds. First appearing in X-Men #97 in 1976, they were created by X-Men legends Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum and are tied to the X-Men in several soap operatic ways, not the least of which is that the Shi’ar Empire’s Majestrix, or Empress, is Lilandra — the great love of Professor Charles Xavier’s life!
Of course, Professor X has already been tied closely to Legion as it has been established, just as in the comics, that he is David/Legion’s father. Who knows? Perhaps the reason Charles hasn’t been around to help his son out all these years is because he’s off in space with Lilandra and the Shi’ar, as he’s wont to do in the comics.
You can read more about her in our Lilandra Explained feature, but rumors have pegged actress Jessica Chastain as possibly playing the character in the upcoming film X-Men: Dark Phoenix. Time will tell if that comes to be. But in the comics, the bird-like Shi’ar have a fair amount of Game of Thrones-style intrigue, it seems, with Lilandra seeking the X-Men for help in overthrowing her evil brother, who also happened to be the Shi’ar emperor D’Ken. Which of course left the throne open for Lilandra to claim for herself!
Lilandra and the Shi’ar also figured in the famed Dark Phoenix storyline, as well as many other more cosmic Marvel tales. The same goes for the Starjammers, the space pirates who first popped up in Uncanny X-Men #107 (1977) and were created by Cockrum. This collection of space misfits is Guardians of the Galaxy-esque, and have worked with Lilandra at times. But once again getting to the soapy nature of comics, it turns out Corsair, the leader of the Starjammers, is actually X-Men Cyclops and Havok’s long-lost father, Christopher Summers. Comics! You can read more about this group in our Corsair and the Starjammers Explained piece.
Will any of this ultimately matter in the world of FX’s Legion? It’s hard to say. Just when last year’s Season 1 seemed to be avoiding the X-Men best it could, the show dropped that crazy chalkboard animation depicting Professor X facing off against the Shadow King. Just because Legion showrunner Noah Hawley is preoccupied with bringing us the most original superhero show on TV in perhaps ever, that doesn’t mean that he’s not also thinking about how to relate back to David Haller’s comic-book roots. We may yet get bird-humanoid aliens on Legion, and that wouldn’t even be the craziest thing the show has done.
Talk to Executive Editor Scott Collura on Twitter at @ScottCollura, where he’s tweeting every shot from The Empire Strikes Back for some reason. Or listen to his Star Trek podcast, Transporter Room 3. Or do both!