If these first three episodes are any indication, Season 2 of Legion isn’t planning on pulling any punches. Every week feels like it’s upping the ante in terms of how intricate the storytelling is, and how dense the mythology is becoming, as if openly challenging its viewers to keep up.
Perhaps in a gesture of good faith though, the show has also been seeding in scenes outside of the main narrative, breaking down some of the various psychological concepts at play via the sultry medium of Jon Hamm’s voice.
Chapter 11 opens with a fictional example of a very real, and very bizarre, phenomenon. We’re introduced to a cheerleader dealing with stress at home, who subsequently develops a strange muscle spasm. This symptom soon spreads to the other members of her cheer squad like an virus, despite no physical ailment being found.
This phenomenon is known as “mass hysteria.” The other examples the show cites did actually happen, and are among some of the most bizarre and inexplicable events in recorded history.
The first one to be name-dropped, and arguably the most famous example, is the so-called “dancing plague.” In 1518, a woman in the city of Strasbourg suddenly began dancing in the street. Within the week, dozens more had joined her. At the peak of the “outbreak,” around 400 people were feverishly dancing for no apparent reason. This behavior continued for weeks, with some of the afflicted even dancing themselves to death due to pure exhaustion. Doctors and priests alike were unable to figure out a cause or a cure.
In more recent times, the Tanganyika laughter epidemic began in 1962 when three students at a boarding school began laughing uncontrollably. This behavior eventually spread to a majority of the students at the school, with teachers and other adults strangely unaffected. Soon after, it spread to a nearby village, then another school, then another. All told, the outbreak lasted over six months and affected 14 schools and around 1,000 people.
From these incidents, the show outlines two concepts that seem particularly relevant to the narrative at hand. First is the idea of a contagious mental disorder. We’ve seen this in a very literal sense via the Catalyst, the psychological virus that causes people to freeze in place and chatter their teeth.
This episode finally gives us an explanation for this phenomenon. Following his apparent death, Amahl Farouk’s body was buried beneath a Mi-Go Order monastery. In the days that followed, an endless booming beat began reverberating through the compound, eventually driving the monks mad. Some killed themselves, while others developed the chattering teeth symptom we’ve seen so many times already. The monk hiding within Division 3 is apparently the only survivor of the this order, carrying with him the infectious mental disorder.
The second, and broader notion, is the psychological concept known as “conversion disorder,” in which physical symptoms manifest without an actual physical ailment causing them. In real life, recorded incidents of conversion disorder include symptoms ranging from small things like as nervous tics, to major ones such as paralysis and blindness
The show points to this phenomenon as an example of the mind being able to manipulate the physical world, effectively creating its own reality. It’s clear at this point that Legion wants us to be questioning the true nature of everything we’re seeing – it’s just not so clear yet what we’re supposed to be looking for.
The crisis with the monk reaches a peak as David returns from a meeting with the Shadow King to find that Division 3 has once again been ransacked. The monk has torn through the base, leaving devastation in his wake. Some are dead, many more have been afflicted with the Catalyst, including Ptonomy, Melanie, Kerry, and Syd. The monk has even found a way to gain control over the base’s child enforcers.
To rescue his friends from their psychosis, David enters their minds and steps into a visual motif that was introduced earlier in the season: the maze.
Each maze is different. Ptonomy’s is a tranquil garden, while Melanie’s is a surreal approximation of a text-based adventure game. In both cases though, the maze holds a fundamental desire that’s been hidden within their host’s mind. Melanie’s in particular hints towards some much bigger ideas, featuring a reappearance of the minotaur from earlier in the season.
It goes without saying that minotaurs and mazes go hand in hand, but what exactly is it? Perhaps it’s a representation of each person’s darkest impulses, lying deep within their maze. Or maybe it is a very literal monster taking root, in the same way that the Shadow King manifested himself in Season 1.
Regardless, both mazes and eggs seem to be the two prominent motifs this season, with each serving as sort of visual representations for the abstract concepts of the mind and ideas. We’re reminded again of the parasite-like creature that hatched from an egg, only to jump into Ptonomy’s ear, when David finds its black goop-like trail inside of Ptonomy’s maze. Likewise, Farouk’s coffin is distinctively egg shaped. How all of this will connects is still a mystery, but Legion really seems to be teeing something up.
Further complicating all of this is yet another twist. As David searches for the monk and Syd, he begins receiving messages from Future Syd, one letter at a time. Her message eventually spells out the word “HURRY,” but once again, we don’t have quite enough clues yet to figure out why.
As is probably clear by now, much of the season so far (and this episode in particular) feels like a lot of setup for some big reveals down the line. Thankfully though, at least one piece of the puzzle does get a bit of resolution, with the monk taking himself out of the picture in dramatic fashion.
With just one door shut however (and perhaps just temporarily), this episode introduces far, far more questions than answers. In all fairness, that’s just par for the course by now, and kudos to the show for how expertly it’s managed to toe the line between intrigue and frustration.