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(This post contains mild spoilers for the April 10 episode of “Legion” on FX)
FX’s “Legion” Season 2 is still messing with viewers’ minds when it comes to what’s real, what isn’t, and what that means for the story of telepathic “X-Men”-adjacent mutants the show features.
In the second episode of Season 2, “Chapter 10,” the show makes a lengthy point about the nature of reality. Midway through the episode, “Legion” introduces what it calls “Chapter 4” of Season 2, titled, “Umwelt.” In ethology, the study of animal behavior, that word refers to how animals perceive the world around them through their senses. Narrator Jon Hamm digs into the concept, starting with a quote.
“A wise man once said, ‘Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away,'” Hamm states. That wise man was science fiction writer and futurist Philip K. Dick.
“Legion” goes on to make a point about the fact that while we think of reality as a solid, unwavering thing, perception of reality can alter it significantly. Along the way, the show lays out some interesting facts about how two animals perceive the world. But are all those animal facts true? Turns out, the writers of “Legion” have done their homework.
The episode starts by talking about how ticks largely interact with the world through their biological need to feed. “For a tick, reality is a product of temperature, and butyric acid,” Hamm explains. He’s right: Ticks seek out prey by detecting temperature and things like sweat and body odors. Butyric acid (as well as lactic acid) secreted from animals’ skin attract ticks to a meal.
As the discussion about ticks continues in the episode, “Legion” overlays a few other interesting tick facts on the screen, and they’re all true. Ticks really are arachnids, like spiders, and not insects. They eat blood and need it to survive, and they really do remain attached for days to eat — as many as seven or more.
Next, “Legion” moves on to a discussion of interesting things about the Bloodhound, one possible source of food for a tick. “The bloodhound has 200 million scent receptors,” Hamm narrates. “Its perception of the world is based fundamentally on smell.”
That’s accurate as well. In fact, scientists estimate bloodhounds have more than 230 million olfactory cells, or “scent receptors,” in their noses. That’s about 40 times more than humans have. The difference means that the bloodhound’s sense of smells is about 1,000 times better than a person’s.
As the episode continues, “Legion” notes a few other points: First, that the bloodhound breed is over 1,000 years old. They’re believed to be descended from dogs that were kept at the Abbey of Saint-Hubert in Belgium. That’s true: Bloodhounds were first bred around 1,000 A.D. And they really can track a scent trail up to 300 hours after whatever created that scent trail has moved on from the area.
“Legion” goes on to discuss how human perception of reality can be variable. That might or might not be true, but at the very least, what the show says about how animals perceive reality is the real deal.