So on top of the awesome Van Damme references, now we get Conan the Barbarian quotes, too? Sign me up.
Let’s bitch it out…
Things are starting to come together. More and more of the individual threads are merging, more of the characters are interacting, and the central conspiracy/mystery is slowly being revealed. I’m all for character development, as it’s in integral part of telling any long-term story. The problem is that sometimes the writing on this show is great, but a lot of the time it’s not. And when a show’s writing is hit or miss, there needs to be some strong forward plot momentum to compensate, and that hasn’t always been the case. Thankfully this episode definitely drives the plot forward, and as a result it is a lot of fun to watch.
That’s not to say that character moments were ignored. The episode starts with some Kala (Tina Desai) + Wolfgang (Max Riemelt) stuff. Not my favourite pairing, but I enjoyed the Wolfgang backstory, as cliché as it is. The bonding between Wolfgang and Felix (Max Mauff) is both touching and amusing. And watching them reel off Conan lines as they scatter their attackers is enough to sell me on their life-long friendship. When Felix got shot last episode, I didn’t feel any real emotional impact. Seeing Felix lying in the hospital bed, Wolfgang watching over him, telling his childhood memories to Kala is more emotional than him getting gunned down in the first place. Wolfgang claims that they were “Trying to change something that can’t be changed.” That’s an interesting idea, especially from a man speaking to a woman physically located in India – you’d think that the things Wolfgang has been experiencing would open his mind to the idea that anything is possible.
In the pure, selfish enjoyment department, I loved the prison scene where Sun (Doona Bae) gives the sewing bully her comeuppance. I figured this scene was coming, because apparently the Wachowskis just don’t do subtle, but it was still fun to watch. First she gives the woman a little trip in the sewing room, and then Sun kicks ass in the prison yard. Beyond just the fight, though, I find Sun’s story one of the most compelling story lines on the show. She’s a person who is completely alone. When asked if she misses her family, Sun says no, only that she misses her dog. She’s a very sympathetic character, given that it doesn’t appear that anyone loves her, aside from maybe her Miyagi-like teacher. And yet Sun still has a good heart. She could have easily been a bully, given her skills and apparent loneliness (not to mention any bitterness for taking the fall for something she didn’t do), and yet Sun maintains her integrity and good heart. It makes her one of the more compelling characters. Plus, she kicks ass. And that’s awesome.
Lito (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) gets caught up in lots of drama this episode. Daniela (Erendira Ibarra) goes back to her crazy ex, Joaquin, to appease him so that he doesn’t out Lito as a closet homosexual and potentially ruin his career in a macho, homophobic country. Daniela says that “We make choices, and life has a way of making us pay for them.” She’s talking about herself, and her choice to have had a relationship with a crazy psycho, but the line can just as easily be applied to Lito. He made the choice to hide who he really is and he must have realized that the more fame he gained as an actor, the harder it would be to keep his secret. Instead of being honest and true to himself, Lito made the choice to hide it and further his career. Now that choice is biting him. Hernando (Alfonso Herrera) leaves him, because he can’t be with someone who places his career over helping someone in need. I expect that Lito will try to right this, but for the moment he’s in a bit of a quandary.
The idea of bad choices carries through many of the other storylines, including Capheus’ (Aml Ameen). This story line actually progressed faster than I thought it would – wasn’t it only a few episodes ago that he agreed to help Silas (Peter King Nzioki) in exchange for the medicine? And, just like that, now he wants to jump ship and go back to driving the VanDamn van? I guess seeing someone’s hand get cut off will spook most people, but I would have expected Capheus to have the opposite reaction (wouldn’t you be afraid that backing out would cost you a hand or worse?). To escalate the situation, Githu (Lwanda Jawar) and his thugs want revenge, and Capheus is stuck in the middle. I don’t see any way that he could possibly turn over Silas’ daughter to the gang, but what else can he do to get out of this?
The meat of the episode involves Will (Brian J. Smith) and Nomi (Jamie Clayton). Will get some nice scenes early on with Riley (Tuppence Middleton), culminating in a great moment where his partner walks in on him making out with the air. Will and Riley seem like a nice pairing, and I’m actually curious to see where their relationship goes, unlike Wolfgang and Kala who just seem forced together.
Will and Nomi are both investigating the bigger issues at play. There’s a really great scene where they’re figuring stuff out together, having a conversation while in two different places. At this point, I don’t know how Will’s partner can’t be convinced he’s nuts (it’s also interesting to see how easily Freeya Agyeman’s Amanita believes Nomi). It seems like some information the sensates just kind of inherently know, while other information they have to communicate to one another. Will says “No one gave me a rulebook here, I’m just trying to go with it.” Will and Nomi discover that some big, shady corporation called BPO is in the business of advancing the human genome. Maybe that’s a cover, or maybe they’re responsible for all the crazy mind-hopping stuff that’s going on. Either way Mr. Whispers (Terrence Mann) shows up at Nomi’s door, so she and Will must be on the right track.
This culminates in a great chase scene. Nomi gets cornered, and calls out for someone to help her. That someone ends up being Sun, and I really like how the characters’ skills are advancing. Despite the fact that Nomi and Sun have had little – if any – interaction, Sun is the one summoned when Nomi needs someone to fight her out of a jam. Between Sun’s kung fu and Will’s strength and guidance, they’re able to help Nomi get away. After she steals a car, she sits there, realizing she can’t drive. Cue Capheus, who leads her on a pretty daring escape (complete with more Van Damme references!) I think this is the first time we’ve had more than two individual characters use their skills together, which potentially teases a big finale where all eight sensates have to come together to overcome an obstacle. In any case, this is the scene that really spells out the show’s potential to me. This was what I signed up for when I started watching Sense8, and it’s just the first step. I’m eager to see how more of these characters can begin pitching in to help each other out.
- Nomi’s escape is really the climax of the show for me, yet ‘We Will All Be Judged By The Courage Of Our Hearts’ tacks on a scene where Kala is confronted by Rajan’s father, Manendra (Darshan Jariwala). He’s a smart guy, so he knows that Kala doesn’t really love his son, and offers her an out. Before the scene can play out, though, he is stabbed by a group of masked men. I assume this is related to his atheism and interest in moving Indian culture away from tradition, but this is such an out-of-left-field moment. I don’t care about Menendra at all (I don’t even know his name before this review!). This seems like a really weird choice to end the episode on.
- I liked Wolfgang’s line about how he and Felix were brothers “Not by something as accidental as blood.” It plays nicely into the ‘choice’ theme that runs throughout the episode.
Your turn: is Nomi’s escape scene a series highlight so far? Is Sun the most compelling character? Did you enjoy learning more about Felix and Wolfgang? How will Capheus get out of his situation? And does Will’s partner undoubtedly think he’s crazy? Sound off below, but please refrain from posting about upcoming episodes.
Sense8 is available in its entirety on Netflix. Check back Thursday for our review of episode 9.