Don’t Hold Your Breath For Noah Hawley’s ‘Doctor Doom&…How ‘Legion’ Uses Superpowers to Explore Mental Illness The second season of Legion aired its premiere last night, and it’s still the same surreal mind trip of a show it was last year. At the same time, it’s entirely different. David Haller is in a new place this season, both physically and mentally. He knows his strong telepathic abilities aren’t schizophrenia. After last season, he’s better able to control them. He’s not quite as consumed by sensory overload as he once was. As a result, the filming techniques had to change. Noah Hawley isn’t relying on the same tricks he was last season. Not only would that get boring, it wouldn’t make sense anymore. That’s not how David experiences the world.That’s not to say he’s entirely on solid ground. Right away in season two, there’s just as much disorienting him and us as there ever was. The Shadow King has escaped in the mind of Oliver Bird, and the pair have run off. Melanie Bird hasn’t taken that so well. She only just got her husband back before he was stolen away again. During her one brief scene of the episode, she seems out of it. She’s smoking Vapor, and rants at Syd about the men in their lives. About how they disappear with no notice. Absence, she says, is a form of control. She may have a point. While David was gone, we learn, Syd started holding her breath while boiling water for tea. If she could do it, she told herself, David was still alive. That’s what his absence forced him to do. And she can’t even be mad at him about it because he didn’t have a choice. He was taken.(Photo via FX)As the episode goes on, we start to feel like David is steering this ship much more than he’s letting on. When the episode begins, he’s unconscious, having just been found by his old Summerland friends. David thinks he’s only been gone for a day, when in reality, an entire year has passed. In that time, Summerland and Division 3 realized they have a common enemy in The Shadow King. They’ve since joined forces. Division 3 has realized that mutants are not the bad guys. Rather, this specific mutant is. Amahl Farouq, we learn, is searching for his own body that’s been hidden away ever since his battle with Professor Xavier. If he finds it, he’ll be unstoppable. Division three wants this to happen.Having been out of it for a year, David is immediately thrust in to an unfamiliar situation. That’s where Legion’s signature storytelling comes to the forefront. Much as it did in season one, the show constructs every scene to disorient you. But David isn’t so easily overwhelmed anymore. Instead, we’re introduced to confusing, nonsensical things that pass by without comment. We, like David, are forced to take it in, acknowledge the strangeness and move along. The head of Division 3 has some beehive-looking device permanently installed over his head. He speaks through mustachioed female (I think?) robots who speak in vocoded tones. Clark is a good guy now, and is largely presented in profile, with only the briefest shots of the burned half of his face. There’s a man in a pig mask that goes unremarked upon in Melanie’s room. Division 3 is a stranger place than Summerland ever was, and we, like David, are forced to just take it all in.Rachel Keller (Photo via FX)Division 3 is looking for Farouq, and they’ve linked him to something genuinely unsettling. There’s a virus going around called the Catalyst. It causes its victims to stand completely still, unmoving except for a constant chatter of teeth. I’ve been watching a ton of horror TV lately, and nothing has creeped me out quite like that image. Every time an outbreak strikes, it turns out Oliver and Farouq had been there moments before. I wish the episode had focused on it a little more. I want to know more about Division 3’s investigation, and how this virus works. Why is the Shadow King causing people to do this? I imagine we’ll get more of that as the season goes on. If the Catalyst virus turns out to be a slow burn mystery that unfolds over the entire season, that could be real fun and creepy. If that’s the case, I just wanted a little more set-up now. But hey, the episode is long as it is and it’s not a bad thing that the show left me wanting more.As we and David try to make sense of the world in season two, the show presents a couple of narrative breaks to remind us how futile that effort is. One tells a classic story of a young man dreaming of being a butterfly. When he wakes up, it occurs to him that he has no way of knowing whether or not he’s actually a butterfly dreaming of being a man. We tell ourselves whatever we need to to decide what reality is the real one. So what then, the second break asks, is a delusion? A delusion, it says, begins with an idea like any other. It uses eggs as a visual metaphor. One egg hatches a chick. That’s a normal idea. The other egg hatches a gooey black creature that Aubrey Plaza’s still-terrifying Shadow King picks up. A delusion, the narration says, is an idea that hangs around and takes hold of you. Later, when David and Syd lie in bed together, we see that creature crawl under David’s side.Aubrey Plaza (Photo: Screenshot via FX)So the question the episode raises becomes, what is the difference between a secret and a delusion? There may not be one. To keep a secret, you have to lie convincingly. To do that, on some level, you have to believe in the lie. You have to treat the lie as if it were true. And isn’t that the exact definition of a delusion? Division 3 spends the whole episode both catching David up and trying to figure out where he’s been for the past year. He insists he doesn’t remember, but when Ptonomy looks into his mind, we see that may not be entirely true. Though Ptonomy can’t find any evidence that David is lying, we do see images of David trapped in the sphere, among some trees on a city skyscraper’s rooftop, and in a club. He has some memory of where he’s been. Later, Carry puts David into a machine to try and see his memories. We get a scene of David in a club, running into Oliver and Lenny/Farouq. A wondrous, surreal interpretive dance scene breaks out. Even Carry starts doing it. It doesn’t tell us a whole lot, but like all of Legion’s dance scenes, that’s the point. It’s obscuring the truth. Making us question what is real and what isn’t.In the first season, we learned that David has remarkable control over his own mind. When he was being tormented by the Shadow King, he builds walls and barriers to escape. He created fake memories to hide things he wasn’t proud of from the people of Summerland. By the end of last night’s premiere, I got the feeling he could be doing it again. He has more memories of the past year than he’s letting on. After he got sucked into that strange orb, we learn, he met a version of Syd from the future. She tells him that The Shadow King is looking for his body. And for some reason, David must help him find it. It’s very important to future Syd that he do before time runs out. So David is working against Division 3 on some level. And it’s looking like he created a delusion for himself to keep that secret.Jemaine Clement (Photo: Screenshot via FX)It’s entirely possible that he’s being played too. As we saw from their reunion, David loves Syd and will do anything for her. Could the Shadow King be using that against him? Was that image of future Syd really just the Farouq trying to enlist David in the search for his body? Expect that question to be wrestled with for the next couple months as the season progresses. Right now though, I’m so happy Legion is back. No other superhero show is experimenting with the genre quite the way this one is. If last night’s episode is any indication, we have nine weeks of beautiful, terrifying, trippy, artistic stories ahead of us. And by changing how David reacts to disorienting stimuli, the show has given itself even more tools with which to tell, or hide, its story. I can’t wait to see what delusions it has in store for us. Stay on target Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.