Ah, welcome to another gloriously overwhelming season of Sense8! Not for the faint of heart, this show fires on all the sensory cylinders. The colors are saturated, the dialogue is bombastic, and at any point, one of the characters is emitting a shocked gasp. It's a old Hindenberg of a show: big, round, and destined for combustion. The thing is, it never really implodes, courtesy of pace, and pure, lurid prettiness.
Sense8 was never meant to be sensible. It's about eight people who exchange sensory capabilities — somewhere in this premise, there is a parable about global empathy. The show is absurd by definition, and the more you give into its freewheeling tomfoolery, the more the ride is worth your time. So, let's dig our knuckles into the mishmash.
The first season introduced us to the eight sensates: Sun in Korea, Kala in Mumbai, Riley in London, Wolfgang in Berlin, Lito in Mexico City, Capheus in Kenya, Nomi in San Francisco, and Will in Chicago. Those 12 episodes devoted themselves to the careful exposition of the premise. Like the sensates themselves, we had to puzzle this befuddling bonanza out. The sensates discovered that, hey, these weird people were visiting them! Sorta. Sometimes. (The rules for how sensates "visit" one another still aren't entirely clear. Let us bow our heads and see how season 2 works to mend that.)
All the various, dramatic "visiting" drummed up to a harrowing season finale in Iceland, where Riley and Will finally met. This is also where Whispers (Terrence Mann) successfully made his way into Will's brain. In the Christmas special, we saw that this had a pretty damaging effect. Will must be kept sedated so that Whispers cannot plow through the contents of his mind. This episode is also where Toby Onwumere replaced Aml Ameen as Capheus, the optimistic bus driver. ("Faces change but hearts stay the same," Capheus said in the show's Christmas special, a wink at the casting change.)
A few other things that happened in the Christmas special: Lito came out to his mother, Cala lost her virginity, and Wolfgang's chipper sidekick Felix kicked up from a coma. Netflix considers this 90-minute release the first episode of season 2, so for today, we begin at episode 2. (It's confusing. So is Sense8. Make like Sheryl Sandberg and lean in.)
Without further ado, let's dive into season 2.
Episode 2: Who Am I?
Angelica (Daryl Hannah) has always seemed tangential to the events of Sense8. In the first season, she felt like a framing device: a nervous blonde character just there to amp up the drama and introduce the series. But here she is again, and unfortunately it looks like she's more relevant this season.
"Will," she whispers at the beginning of episode 2. Will (Brian J. Smith) is entangled in Riley (Tuppence Middleton) in a hidey-hole far away from Whispers. Angelica's whisper brings us to a moment in the past — presumably. Somehow, Will's access to Whispers is swinging us through time and space, because Will then visits with Whispers and Angelica in a lab.
"It's all my fault," past-Angelica hisses at Will. Call me crazy, but this seems to be an indication that Angelica the Cluster-Mom isn't as innocent as the sensates once thought. Meanwhile, present-Angelica goes in for a smooch with Whispers. Let that sink in. Previously, they were on opposite sides. Right? Whispers was the evil kill-the-sensates man and Angelica was the ethereal woman who appeared in fuzzy flashbacks to remind the sensates of their origin. Past-Angelica worries that the "neurograft" won't work. (I looked up neurograft for us all, and here's what I can surmise: This has something to do with fusing one brain atop another brain. Presumably, this operation could make a non-sensate into a sensate, or vice versa.) Alas, it seems it did work, because there's a zombie-like man with a scar on his head walking toward another anonymous lab member. Zombie man slaughters him with a cleaver; Whispers crows with delight. My understanding of this is that Zombie Man is actually just a pleb who's been served with sensate powers so that Whispers can use him as, well, a Zombie Man.
Unfortunately for our favorite Chicago cop, all this Whispers-in-the-head nonsense makes Will's storyline a tad difficult to parse. The big reveal in this opening scene is that Will appears to be the sensate operating Zombie Man. I have no idea what that means.
The others seem to have a better sensate life-regular life balance, with the grand exception of Nomi (Jamie Clayton), who is buried in research. Lito (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) attends a movie premiere, where he grapples with the recent photo leak. Capheus (Toby Onwumere) meets a skeptical lady reporter named Zakia who is prepped and ready to be a love interest this season. Wolfgang (Max Riemelt) and Felix (Max Muaff) somehow acquire a club in Germany from a shady-looking club owner, and Kala (Tina Desai) dines with her new extended family on a glamorous rooftop. Sun (Doona Bae) is painting a mural with her fellow prison mates and dreaming of the food she'll eat when she leaves the place.
Sense8 loves an opportunity to allow the sensates to exchange skills, like when Lito at his premiere is confronted with the question: "Are you gay?" At the same time, plucky lady reporter Zakia asks Capheus just why he finds Jean-Claude Van Damme so delightful. As the two sensates stutter over their responses, Nomi and Sun rise to the occasion, taking the mic for Capheus and Lito. Somehow, the two respective answers morph to form one, sensible answer. Here we segue into a bit of cinematic poetry as the eight sensates form a group mind and answer the two questions. Yes, Will, Riley, Kala, and Wolfgang also join the fun.
"Who am I?" each sensate asks themselves over the slow hum of Generic Inspiring Music. I asked myself the same question while watching this scene.
Will, meanwhile, drifts back into Whispers' mind. Weird: Whispers has a girlfriend? At least he does based on the very loaded interactions in this scene. These visits grow more than a little tedious; why are we stuck listening to Whispers again? Nomi reminds us: We need info on Whispers. As of now, the sensates don't really know who he is. They know he works with BPO, which has so far been a menace to the sensates. In the third visit, Whispers reveals that he's in control.
"This is a costume," he says of his grey suit. "And this is a war."
The room Will sees is a mirage. Everything is a lie. Nothing is true. As a viewer, it is very hard to grasp the base reality at this point.
"Does she realize she's protecting you to death?" Whispers says of a harried Riley. (Riley and Will have been scurrying around the world, hiding from Whispers. As of the premiere, they are tucked away in Amsterdam.)
Nomi, though, is digging for reality, and I'm not sure I prefer this option. She and her girlfriend Amanita (Freema Agyeman) are on the academic hunt for the meaning of "sensate." You may recall that last season they were dubbed "homo sensorium," a precursor to the human race that has all but been wiped out. The two track down a professor who might have ideas on the subject — he refers to the loss of homo sensorium as a "mass genocide," which is a lot. He also quotes Ludwig Wittgenstein, an Austrian-British philosopher who is very real. There are times I prefer my science-fiction not to dabble in reality. This is one of those times. Sense8 does not belong in a lecture hall.
Nevertheless, it's always good to see Nomi rattling off facts and explaining everything. That's largely her role: Nomi makes sure we know what's going on. She's tracking down Whispers by talking to his former colleagues, who seem to have an idea of what a "sensate" might be.
I want to remind everyone of a little girl named Sara Patrell. Sara was important in the very first episodes of season 1. Will had a suspicion that Sara's murder had something to do with Jonas (Naveen Andrews) and Whispers. As a police officer, he'd had visions of a young Sara being lobotomized by Whispers. Sara was the first to warn Will not to look at Whispers, lest he enter Will's mind.
Now Nomi and Amanita make it to Sara's home, where they interrogate the girl's mother. Turns out, Sarah's home is a bit of hotbed for sensates and sensate hunters. We find out that Whispers once went by "Dr. Mathison," and he tutored Sara. Will reminds us of the theory that Whispers killed Sara. (We still don't know why, but it seems clear that she was a sensate.)
All of this research culminates in the episode's grand finale: Will discovers where Whispers is. In a moment when the "doctor" isn't being vigilant, Will slips into his mind and does more than a little poking around. The sensates as a team discover that Richard Wilson Croome, a confused-looking redheaded man, is Whispers' superior at BPO.
"We're coming for you," Will whispers to a very panicked villain. ("There's been a breach!" Whispers hollers, presumably talking about his brain.)
Episode 3: Obligate Mutualisms
There’s been a breach! Read: Big success for the central eight characters we care about. This means that Will can get inside the Whispers’ brain just as easily as the villain can get inside Will’s brain. Episode 3 begins with Will and Whispers, just having a little chat. In Will’s real world, he’s hanging with his cluster, all of them sipping at beers and celebrating their recent success.
“That was the longest stakeout of my life,” Will sighs. Us, too, y’all. And it only lasted for a 90-minute special plus a whole episode! The cluster, knowing they’re in control, lay down their needs: They want to meet with BPO. More specifically, they want to meet with Richard Wilson Croome, the man who’s in charge of BPO (later in the episode, Will explains that he wanted to get to a higher-up at the organization. “I know what manhunts cost,” he says. “I knew someone would be holding Whispers accountable.” It’s not a terrible idea — see someone do a bad thing, look for the one person who can reprimand them.)
Through some of Nomi’s magic, the sensates send a text to Croome: “Jonas.” They want Jonas Maliki (Naveen Andrews) to be alive. Last we saw, he was captured by BPO and maybe not doing so well.
The Big Event of this episode — something that was foreshadowed in the trailer for this season — is that Sun finds her way out of prison. It’s one of those sequences where Sense8 flaunts what it does best. The idea behind this whole shebang is that eight people working together can defeat almost anything. (It’s a metaphor! It is!) When the sensates swap “skills” as it were, they become a badass superhero who enjoys lengthy action sequences and a healthy amount of badassery.
“I’m in trouble,” Sun tells Nomi, who’s about to head out for a night on the town with Amanita. (Being a sensate is hard work! You never get to have any fun.)
Sun doesn’t mean to escape from prison — she’s too upright for that. But her comrades make quick work of it in a truly head-spinning escape.
“We just helped someone break out of prison,” Nomi says in awe after the whole ordeal.
This is a welcome relief, really: This means that Sun will have actual stuff to do this season! She won’t be hanging out in prison, painting murals! She runs to a safe house with her friend, where, I can assure you, she is probably not safe.
The other Big News is that Wolfgang meets another sensate. Not someone in his cluster. No, this woman is Lila Facchini, a slinky Italian woman in a halter top who clambers atop Wolfgang during his meeting with that weird club owner from last episode. (The club mystery is going to be one for the ages, I fear. Unless this club owner is secretly also a sensate, which could be interesting.) Turns out, Lila isn’t really giving Wolfgang a little third-base action in public. She’s doing it through their sensate connection.
“Wanna play?” she asks Wolfgang, rubbing his neck during dinner. Wolfgang subsequently learns how to “visit” a sensate from another cluster. (“You have to really want it!” he exclaims as he kisses her neck. On behalf of Kala, I am very mad at Wolfgang for this hanky-panky. Take your halter top elsewhere, Lila. I have a couple to ‘ship!)
In other sensate realms, trouble is brewing. Lito leases a new apartment with Hernando (Alfonso Herrera) and invites Daniela (Erendira Ibarra) to move in. In Nairobi, water prices are rising due to a local election. (Mark my words: Capheus is going to run for office or something like that. Otherwise, why mention it?)
Alas, the episode ends with what may be Netflix’s biggest info dump. First, Will meets with Jonas at a train station where he learns the following:
— Angelica used to be involved with BPO.
— Homo sensorium is genetically encoded — but we’re not sure which gene does the work here.
— Jonas is the last of his cluster.
— Angelica gave birth to another cluster. In this cluster, there was a man named Todd who went rogue. He is shown whispering to Angelica, “They can make us normal.” Presumably, he’s talking about a version of BPO.
— Sensates rarely get cancer. (“Cancer. A rarity for us.”)
Next, Will meets with Croome, aforementioned befuddled man and head of BPO. They meet at an art museum in front Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch.” Wilson gives a prolonged metaphor about the original intention of the piece being mutilated by modern presentation. The math here is: “The Night Watch” = BPO. Rembrandt = Wilson. Here’s what he divulges:
— BPO was founded on the notion that homo sensorium and homo sapien sapien need each other — it’s a symbiotic relationship.
— What changed this healthy interdependency? “The same thing that changed everything else. 9/11.” (Picture a confused blonde woman slamming her notebook onto a desk. That is me hearing that line.)
— Basically, Wilson blames BPO’s villainy on the fact that sensates are “a threat to secrecy and sovereignty.”
— He wants to help Will. He wants time and trust from the sensates. To prove it, he gives Will “blockers” so that our policeman protagonist can keep Whispers from his head. Big win!
Poor guy, he’s not going to get that time. Not because the sensates don’t trust him — he dies almost immediately after begging Will to help BPO. This is how we know that Croome was a good guy: He dies.
Whispers killed him, through one of his zombie-fied sensates. Naturally.
Episode 4: Polyphony
Sense8 would make my life a lot easier if it got rid of its set-to-slow-music montages. I imagine you’re supposed to watch these sequences in a romantic haze, drowning in the sights and sounds and swaying slightly side to side. These were poignant in the first season, but with all the action of season 2, I tire of them. (The crown is heavy. I watch television for a living.)
Nevertheless, it’s always fun to watch Sun do her thing, so when she stretches her limbs in newfound freedom, it’s pretty liberating. For a moment there, it’s like everything is okay for the sensates: Will has the blockers, Sun is free, and Wolfgang has a new sex partner who’s not Kala. (I’m mad about it. The sooner we say “bye, Lila,” the happier I’ll be.)
She has slick cars, cool clothes, and acts super-jaded about this whole “sensate” thing. Like the Danny Zuko of homo sensoriums.
“BPO. How do you avoid them?” Wolfgang asks her.
“You don’t,” she responds, blowing smoke out the window. She’s got some deal with them because she’s cool; we get it. I still don’t like her and now I certainly don’t trust her, especially because she effectively drove Kala away earlier in the episode.
You guys, Kala was about to kiss Wolfgang! We were about to have our cathartic release when two characters performed a long-awaited kiss! I crowed. I screamed. Lila appeared. I screamed at Lila. Kala left and hobbled back to her sad life with Rajan, where I guess they both need body guards.
The second musical sequence in this episode — yup, that makes two — is a mash-up of a riot in Nairobi, a protest in India, and, er, a panic attack in San Francisco. Nomi’s not feeling so great about being cooped up in Bug’s house, and she breaks down when Amanita leaves.
“You are having a major bad day,” says Amanita, in a poorly worded understatement. The riot/protest/panic, despite being set to slow, romantic music, hints at revving action, though. There’s unrest in sensate-land. Capheus in Kenya will certainly have to contend with the water crisis somehow — meaning he will run for office. This is a fact I know because he keeps doing inspiring things like saving kids from a water riot. I know it especially because he goes on television to discuss “grassroots activism” as a favor to his lady reporter friend.
Also lady reporter friend is a goddamn delight. Let’s hope she returns. I’m in this for the great television, but mainly for the fabulous relationships on this show. More Kala and Wolfgang! More Riley and Will! More of Capheus and his lady friend!
Speaking of Will, he’s just delightful when he’s jealous. Riley encounters an old flame when they investigate the chemical nature of the “blockers” he was given. Riley has a past, remember? Before she was shepherding a konked-out Will through Amsterdam, she was a DJ with all these “cool” friends who wear beanies. One such friend named Puck returns just to analyze the pills. They’re not very helpful. However, this is a fun moment because Lito visits and Will gets jealous. Lito is an untapped resource for humor on this show. When one truly hipster drug expert calls Lito’s movie “cheesy,” our sensitive actor gives a wounded look. It almost makes up for all the montages in this episode. And Will, well. Anytime Will bristles on behalf of Riley, his platinum-haired love, I hollar.
Oh hey! Remember that Mexican reporter Raoul from the Angelica’s first cluster? He met Lito once upon a time. (Everyone on this show has already met each other, which I think is a rule for writing somewhere.) The two had a brief fling before he disappeared. Lito’s visit to the Raoul’s home functions a lot like that visit to Sarah’s home in the first episode. The sensates do some digging, and eventually find video proof of Zombieland! Zombieland is how I will now refer to BPO.
Here’s what I think happened: Angelica’s original cluster decided to collaborate with a cool new organization called Biological Preservation Organization. BPO was fun and nice for a minute while everyone tried to figure out this “obligate mutualism” thing. They tried to turn humans into sensates! It was all fun and good until Whispers came along and decided to use the sensate power for bad.
Lastly, let’s talk about Detective Mun. Hello, Detective Mun. You are the only character I’ve seen best Sun in a fight. (Well, you almost bested her.) You chased her to a roof, where you fought her in the rain. I know you’re chasing Sun and ostensibly this means you are a villain, but I like you.
“You’re her,” Mun says when he knocks out his opponent What does that mean? Is she the love of your life? Is she the one you’ve been waiting for? (Excuse my love-mongering.)
Sun escapes, which is a good thing. But I want Detective Mun to stick around.
Of course, right as it seems most things are going well for the cluster, Jonas’s life takes a turn for the worse. In the next episodes, I expect we’ll see a Jonas-zombie. I am not looking forward to it.
Episode 5: Fear Never Fixed Anything
It’s easy to forget that our fairly confident main characters are all actually fugitives of a sort. Sun is an escaped convict, Nomi is a former hacker who keeps breaking the law, and Will and Riley will forever be mole people, it seems, hiding away in safe houses in Amsterdam. Even Lito, the movie star, is held captive by his precious career. The fifth episode marks the moment when the sensates stop being “fugitives” and start pushing back. As Nomi says, “Your life is either defined by the system or by the way that you defy the system.” Defiant sensates are far more fun that skittish sensates.
It helps that three of the eight protagonists earn a sort of genuine release this episode. Sun is staying with her teacher in Seoul. She’s imbibing all the hedonistic pleasures of freedom like bowls of noodle soup and a scene-stealing puppy. (Want me to watch your show? Give me a slow-motion puppy hug set to music.) She’s not totally free — she’s still a fugitive — but the sunlit home of her mentor is a far cry from the gloom of prison.
Sun’s revelry is set to “The Sharing Song” by Jack Johnson, a hollered allegory for the fact that these sensates are sharing an awful lot with each other. Also in this montage: dear Capheus, who goes in search of plucky reporter Zakia, who, it turns out, has a reputation at her office: She’s known for having dated a woman while she was in college. Capheus discovers this courtesy of a few nasty coworkers who advise him to stay away from Zakia. I assure you, he won’t.
Meanwhile, Nomi dies — on the internet. Bug suggests that she perform “e-death,” which is like email but the internet thinks you’re dead. There’s a cheeky self-awareness present in this episode, such as when Amanita says, “Can we stop with the whole pregnant pause-y thing?” This is in part due to the fact that Bug learns about sensates in this episode. His mind, like mine when I watch this show, is blown.
Somewhere in the pregnant pauses, though, Nomi does actually get that e-death, and she disappears from the internet. She’s no longer traceable! Freedom (sorta) for Nomi!
For Lito, freedom means accepting his role as an openly gay movie star. The photos are out there; the public knows of his relationship with Hernando. Lito is convinced his career is dead, and in truth it probably is — his career as he knew it cannot continue. (I love that as we see Lito losing confidence in his work, Bug declares open adoration for the actor’s movies. Bug even gets to meet Lito via Nomi — he stans. It’s lovely.) Lito leans into a new career when he decides to be the grand marshal of the Sao Paulo Pride Parade. He isn’t going to be a fugitive from the Mexican media. He’s going to be a fucking icon.
I’m curious — why is Lila still around, trying to seduce Wolfgang? I refuse to acknowledge her and also I think she’s evil. This time, she’s naked and slippery and I would very much like her to die. I feel similarly about Rajan, Kala’s useless husband whose preening father is Bombay’s cockiest politician. (Kala’s father, by contrast, is the sweetest man on the planet. He’s portrayed by Anupam Kher, quite possibly one of India’s most famous actors.) There’s simmering conflict between the two fathers that presents itself at weekly family dinners.
“Best part of the week!” Kala exclaims during one such awkward meal. Kala is trying very hard to be amenable. (We would say she’s running from her need to be polite and/or perfect. That could also be said of women everywhere.)
The actual best part of the episode is the return of Detective Mun, who comes looking for Sun. The highlight of his return is that he admits he believes Sun is innocent. He senses something fishy about Sun’s escape. (What, like, eight people helped her do it and a hacker in San Francisco magically unlocked the entire prison? You mean that didn’t fly under the radar?)
The music in this show, like the show itself, is ambitious. Most of the time, it’s used to groan-worthy effect — see “The Sharing Song.” This episode redeems itself with the return of “What’s Up,” the anthem from the first season. Aside from being a perfect song, it’s the karaoke number that first unites the sensates. In this episode, the sensates devise a plan to “lure” more sensates (like Lila) out of hiding, the idea being that if this is a war, they need an army. Riley Blue dyes her hair blue again and takes to the stage in Amsterdam to DJ. What song does she remix? Why, “What’s Up,” of course. In the show’s most perfect sequence to date, the cluster dances on stage together at a club in Amsterdam. Other sensates, sensing the presence of an out-and-about cluster, drop by for a visit.
“This was careless, Will,” Whispers says. He’s a self-righteous villain these days, moaning about the “necessary externalities” of improving humanity. Remember: Croome is dead, so I guess this means that Whispers is now the head of BPO. This does not bode well. (“The Black Plague revealed vulnerabilities and terrified people,” he tells Will in a cute London visit. Great observation, sir. What’s with all the historical references this season? First 9/11, now the Black Plague.)
“No, this was amazing,” Will responds as he and Riley run from the authorities. They’re fugitives again. Sort of.
Episode 6: Isolated Above, Connected Below
Sense8 has a sweeping narrative, so it’s easy to forget that there’s probably a world beyond that of the cluster we know and love. The characters we’ve met so far are but a slice of the sensate population. And, as Jonas told us earlier in the season, population estimates for homo sensorium range from the thousands to the tens of thousands. Episode 6, officially halfway through season 2, is all about the other sensates. (Lila is one of them. Sigh.) They’re all quirky know-it-alls who deliver much-needed info about homo sensorium life — info that both the main cluster and the audience need.
First, we meet the Old Man of Hoy, who prefers not to share his name with Riley and Will. He’s got a Scottish brogue, a pair of hiking boots, and an extensive knowledge of homo sensorium. Like every other new sensate, he doesn’t trust the protagonists.
“Life on beta blockers is no life at all,” he tells Will. Apparently, most sensates take beta blockers. This means most sensates are on the run from BPO.
Next, we meet Puck, the drug dealer who analyzed the beta blockers for Riley in episode 4. Turns out, he’s no sapien! Nah, he’s a cheeky sensate who’s got the hots for Riley.
“Well, this is some stomach-churning domesticity,” he says in reference to a sweet-talking Will. (He’s not wrong. Will and Riley have adopted a saccharine sweetness that doesn’t sit well with my stomach.)
He also doesn’t trust Will and Riley. According to Puck, most sensates are BPO collaborators. His advice: Make your own blockers, and run far away from other clusters. Puck licks Riley’s face and rides off on a motorcycle.
You remember Lila. She’s back, visiting Wolfgang in the shower. She has a gun. (Still don’t like her.) The good news is, she actually has information for us this time!
“The Cannibal,” she mutters when Wolfgang shows her a picture of Whispers. She adds helpfully, “Clustercide. Story is he ate his own.” Sorry. Whispers ate his sensate cluster? The mention of Whispers really spooks everyone in this episode. Only now we know he has a different, perhaps more accurate, name: the Cannibal.
Not to be outdone, Nomi and Amanita also serve up prime intel on their own. They visit the cabin where Angelica and her first cluster (including Todd and Raoul) performed research. Through a visit to past memories, Nomi discovers that Angelica’s research went horribly awry when she went to Chicago. Something happened, and two of Angelica’s cluster went bonkers. Jonas told us that Todd wanted to destroy his sensate-ness. In this episode, we see Raoul set the cabin aflame, destroying Angelica’s research.
So, who’s the bad guy in the situation? I’ve had a sense that Angelica, with all of her chumminess with Whispers, isn’t so great as we thought. In which case, is Raoul the good guy? Is Todd?
This is the episode where Sense8 really gets its groove back. All the important info aside, Capheus spends the night with Zakia! Wolfgang and Kala finally spend much-needed sexy time together, and Lito gives a rousing speech at the Pride Parade in Sao Paulo. I whooped! I cried! I laughed!
(It can’t be just me. This show is very much leaning into the humor. See: “I like sapiens. I mean, some of my best friends are sapiens.”)
In the final info dump of the episode, Old Man of Hoy takes Riley to the Highlands of Scotland. He trusts her now, at least enough to share some sensate history. As the lore goes: Spring of 1952 saw a conference with at the British airbase in Cyprus. All the head honchos of the world were in what seemed like the sensate version of the Constitutional convention. What emerged was the Biologic Preservation Organization, a group made to defend sensates. BPO is also meant to maintain the secrecy of homo sensorium. There’s a Harry Potter-like logic here of muggles vs. sensates, only in this case the sensates are being manhunted.
The conclusion of all this info is that Riley has to get to Chicago. Hoy, through a web of sensates that he calls “The Archipelago,” will arrange a meeting with a sensate insider at BPO. (Hoy compares the Archipelago to Google. I don’t really see the metaphor there.)
Chicago’s where it all went down — Angelica, Raoul, Todd, Whispers, and more. Alas, Riley has to go alone. Farewell to all of this Will-Riley time.
Episode 7: I Have No Room In My Heart For Hate
Sense8 is very much a fantasy series (as far as we know), but it takes care to make sure the events unravel with a certain realism. This episode features a mass shooting in New York City. The sensates find out about it because Riley, travelling to Chicago at the behest of Old Man Hoy, encounters very tight security during her flight. The TSA is nervous because of this recent attack. Amanita makes some comment about “mass shootings happening every day in America,” and she’s not wrong. Sense8 ties this shooting into the show’s reality, though — it is later revealed that Todd, the rogue sensate from Angelica’s first cluster, was the gunman.
Where previous episodes flirt with joyful freedom for the sensates, who are discovering the landscape of the homo sensorium community, this one delivers harsh reality. First, there’s that shooting. Then, Daniela’s parents come to forcibly remove her from Lito’s friendship. Joaquin, her abusive boyfriend from the first season, makes his not-so-triumphant return — lucky for Dani, Lito is surging on the high of self-acceptance, and he successfully shoos away the evils. (My notes on this scene: “Oh my god! Suitcase fight! Pink suitcase princess tiara fight!” In fact, the altercation is anything but violent. It’s Lito-esque in that way.)
Kala has to contend with reality via Rajan’s pharmaceutical company. She discovers as Rajan’s employee that it’s selling expired drugs as a lower price.
“Those drugs are sent to faraway places,” Rajan explains. “We would never sell them to our own people.”
Places like… Kenya? Because that’s where Capheus lives, and if you’ll recall, his mother has a chronic virus (presumably HIV) that requires medication. Handsome Rajan has always been a bit snooze-worthy. Previously, his main offense was that he’s not Wolfgang. Now, he’s looking more and more like a bona fide villain. He’s Big Pharma.
Rajan’s corruption does some good, though: It spurs Capheus to run for office in Nairobi! Who called it? I called it. Capheus the matatu driver will be a politician. Zakia is delighted; his mother is not, as his father died fighting for justice.
Lito, back in Mexico after his dalliance with Sao Paulo, returns to his agency to discover that he no longer has representation. They fired him. Freedom is fun, but it ain’t always easy.
In a scene that’s less about the harsh slap of reality, Sun encounters Detective Mun at her mother’s grave. Detective Mun, are you stalking our kickboxing heroine? He most certainly is. Mun, you see, fought Sun many years ago when they were children. Obviously, Sun won.
Sun’s fight scenes are almost always the highlight of this show. I applaud this particular duel for having Sun wear a black strappy jumpsuit that’s probably from Anthropologie. May we all be as fierce as Sun Bak wearing a halter jumpsuit with culotte legs while also kickboxing.
What’s that particularly sophomoric phrase we learned in junior high? “Spooning leads to forking”? Well, in Sun and Mun’s case, fighting leads to, well, forking. (Or rather, kissing with implied forking.) This doesn’t change the fact that he’s a detective and Sun is an escaped convict, though. Please, Mun, don’t turn her in.
The main event of the episode finds Riley in Chicago — she’s meeting with BPO! With some help from a confused Diego, she finds herself at the church where Angelica birthed all the sensates. After taking a blocker so that none of her cluster can help her, Riley finds herself utterly alone with an anonymous BPO insider. This gal is basically another informant.
Here’s what she divulges, based on my interpretation:
— BPO is largely divided.
— Angelica was, up until the birth of this recent cluster, working with BPO.
— “Whispers” is an affectionate nickname for Milton Bailey Brandt. Why “whispers”? Because the voice in your head that tells you to jump from a ledge never screams. It whispers. Egads.
— This is a direct quote: “A neural graft mimics the connection of a cluster, overriding the consciousness of one sensorium over another.” This was Angelica’s project.
Really, though, we just want to know where Whispers (Brandt?) is. And now we do! He lives at 37 Milkwood, and the sensates are going to go get that fucker.
Fast as a bullet, or just a homo sensorium cluster that’s really good at finding places, all the sensates are at Whispers’ place of residence.
“Do you really think you can kill a man in cold blood?” says a voice behind Will.
It’s Jonas. Remember when I said he was going to be a zombie soon? Yeah.
Episode 8: All I Really Want Right Now Is One More Bullet
Update: Jonas isn’t dead. Or a zombie. Nah, he’s living the good life in a penthouse owned by BPO, as you do. Nomi does the math here and literally spells it out, but I’m still not sure I’ve grasped why he’s alive.
Here goes: The Chairman needs Whispers. But the Chairman fears Whispers. So, he keeps Jonas around to keep his villainous protégé in in check. “I made a deal with the devil,” Jonas says, taking a sip of whiskey. He’s looking remarkably relaxed for a man who’s usually in dire straights.
I thought that this would be the episode when we saw a showdown at Whispers’ home, 37 Milkwood. Well, I thought wrong. Whispers is a speedy little devil who escapes in a helicopter. Convenient for him, not so fun for the sensates.
However, this episode does give us a showdown of epic proportions. Oh, it delivers. Lila Facchini, slinky lady with the cool earrings, is back, and she’s not doing very good things. Lila’s hubby — the club owner with the unfortunate mushroom hairstyle — is convinced that she’s going to cheat on him. Dude, hate to break to you but she’s already cheating on you. Slick Lila turns the table on this conversation by telling her spouse that Wolfgang is out to get him. Why is it that in this universe people tend to take things at face value?
“It’s Wolfgang!” she pants. At that, little sad hubby is convinced. (I will take this moment to acknowledge that Lila’s femme fatale portrayal is perhaps problematic. But I am too irked with her character to fully analyze the situation right now.)
“This is just my way of telling you that I have a crush on you,” she purrs at Wolfgang. Sorry, Lila, I still don’t like you! Neither do the rest of this main cluster.
The showdown occurs when Lila and Wolfgang meet for what is supposed to be an innocent dinner. Our Berliner is a quiet fellow, especially in comparison to his exuberant sensorium counterparts. In his scenes, usually Kala or Felix, his omnipresent sidekick, do the talking. This episode reminds us that the sensate cluster loves each other, but they don’t know each other that well just yet. Wolfgang goes for a walk, and finds himself visiting all of his cluster.
“Why is Wolfgang here?” Amanita asks Nomi.
“He didn’t say, but he doesn’t talk much anyway.” Perceptive. Despite his silence, the sensates figure out that he’s meeting Lila, and this is a trap. (Where’s Admiral Ackbar when you need him?) Consequently, our main cluster faces off with Lila’s cluster in a duel, and it’s epic. Epic in that both Wolfgang and Lila kill multiple restaurant patrons. Epic in that we see an entire cluster that is not our protagonists. They’re almost as badass. Lila’s pack has a sort of Magneto from X-Men ethos: They want to live in a world of only homo sensorium. Lila wants sensates to take over the city — when Wolfgang says he’s not interested in wiping out homo sapiens, they duel! I wish I weren’t so enthused by this event — people died, you know — but it’s just so satisfying to see the whole cluster getting busy.
(Nomi, our internet expert, is absent from the proceedings because she trips and falls. And gets a concussion. Okay.)
The sensates are generally confident folk. They’re imperiled, but calm. It’s impressive. So it’s nice to see them be pathetic once in a while, like when Lito moons about in a blue onesie. Right now Lito is mourning his career — he’s in dire straights. Despondent Lito is my favorite Lito. He’s visiting his cluster without realizing it, knocking over pots in Nomi’s kitchen and crying into Sun’s pillows. Also funny: The sensates are slightly annoyed by their plaintive buddy. We have, like, serious stuff to deal with, Lito. (A perturbed Sun is particularly enjoyable.)
In Sun’s world, she’s prepping to go to her family’s annual gala, where she can finally face her brother and clear her name. Nomi discovers she can get Sun in through a “back door” that is actually just...a back door. Sun’s going to have to pretend to be a waiter, though.
“Do you know anything about tending bar?” Nomi asks. Sun shakes her head. “Shit.”
Oh, but wait — who’s shuffling a cocktail shaker about, mixing himself a margarita in Nomi’s kitchen? Lito, still in his pajamas. He explains that he learned to tend bar for the movie Bloodstained Tequila. Please, Sense8, let us watch this movie.
The episode ends with Wolfgang fleeing the scene of the duel, bloody homo sapien wreckage at his feet. This will have consequences, but it was cool while it lasted.
Episode 9: What Family Actually Means
The theme of this episode is parents. The find-Whispers-at-all-costs mission is still at the center of the show, but here Sense8 takes a moment to fill in a few personal narratives at the cost of momentum. This is a rapid-fire show, though, so the stillness is a welcome relief.
For Nomi, there is a wedding: her sister’s. The wedding has very little to do with the events of season 2 and it introduces more than a few characters we probably don’t need to care about. But this is more about Nomi’s journey as a transgender woman in 2017 — something this season has neglected to address thus far. Nomi’s parents, we find out, don’t speak with her much, and aren’t pleased that she’ll be at the wedding. They call her “Michael” and they insist that she’s an attention whore. To her credit, Nomi still attends her sister’s wedding and makes a toast to her sister. (The toast is largely about Nomi, but isn’t that how most toasts work? At the very least, the toast is a nice opportunity for us, the viewers, to learn about Nomi.)
I have written in my notes: “Shit will go down at this wedding.” Sure enough, it does just as the vows are getting started. The police come to arrest Nomi, declaring her a fugitive from the law. But wait a minute — Nomi’s dead, at least to the internet. When Amanita makes a scene and demands to see a warrant, the police come up empty-handed. To boot, Nomi’s father bristles and says, “Step away from my daughter.” It’s the first time Mr. Marks has used that word to refer to Nomi.
It’s been awhile since we visited Will’s father, an aging alcoholic living in a boathouse in Chicago. Diego here reminds us that he exists, and he’s still not doing so well. In fact, he’s dying. As Riley hovers near the elder Gorski’s bedside, Will, visiting Riley from Amsterdam, wails for his father. But oh, the power of homo sensorium! Just as he draws his final breath, Will’s father recognizes Will himself in the room, not Riley.
“Willie?” he asks. If you’ll excuse me, I have some onions to chop.
In Kenya, poor Capheus is dealing with the dangers of running against Mandiba, his powerful and corrupt opponent.
“What have you gotten me into?” he asks a photo of Van-Damme. All that courage will lead you to dangerous places, Capheus.
He finds out from Silas, the billionaire villain of last season, that there’s a bounty on his head. (“It’s somewhere between a beating and a kidnapping,” Silas says.) The parenthood theme comes swinging from left field when Silas admits he’s going to marry Capheus’ mother. As if Capheus didn’t have enough to deal with, now he has a billionaire stepfather. He looks mildly perturbed, but in the grand scheme this is probably a good thing: Silas can protect him.
As for the ever-prolonged hunt for Whispers, Riley and Diego track down the anonymous woman from BPO who met with Riley in the church. Her name is Carol Cumberland, and her house is very spooky. Do not go into that house, says Diego, the wisest of all the characters. (In an earlier episode he pointed out rather cheekily that he knows he’s not essential to the plot. If anyone’s expendable, it’s Diego.) Still, Riley/Will break into the home, where they find three very plot-essential artifacts: Angelica’s old lab, a cot that once housed a semi-conscious Raoul, and Carol Cumberland’s dead body. Wrists slit, she’s lying prone in her bathtub. The voice that tells you to jump off a ledge or to slit your wrists never yells. It Whispers.
It seems that this was the house where Angelica performed an experiment on Raoul — an experiment that went awry, based on his vegetable-like state in the memories Riley and Will witness.
“They’re trying to sterilize us!” Raoul yells in one such flashback. This is a new development. Here, I thought BPO/Brandt/Whispers wanted to weaponize the sensates. But sterilize? Is this really just a mass genocide aimed at the homo sensorium? Is this the war Whispers mentioned at the beginning of the season?
The other sensates are also facing troubles, mostly parent-free. Kala is spooked by a friend of Rajan delivering a very late wedding present that I am positive is a bomb of some sort. Wolfgang is downing vodka and worry about the consequences of last episode’s epic showdown, and Lito is working desperately to get back into the business. (Dani, usually a fluff character, proves her merit in this episode by taking on the role of Lito’s agent. In a small win, Lito gets an audition for a Hollywood movie called Iberian Dreams.)
Sun, by contrast, is doing pretty well. Aside from helping Nomi crack a few fingers at the wedding, she spends the episode getting ready for her brother’s gala. Let’s hope we see that next.
Episode 10: If All The World’s A Stage, Identity Is Nothing But A Costume
Penultimate episodes tend to be a little like treading water — at least when you’re bingeing television that is. At this point, we’re keenly aware that the final episode will involve Sun attending the Bak gala. It will probably also involve a showdown between Whispers and Will, something like the Iceland incident last year.
All the events in this episode, then, are either foundation for the future, or resolutions for story lines that won’t be addressed in the finale.
As far as resolutions go, there’s nothing as satisfying as watching Kala and Wolfgang come to a decision about their relationship status. Kala’s been waffling about her German love interest since the show began — she’s too “good” to cheat on her husband Rajan, even though he’s an evil businessman who sells bum pills to sick people in Kenya. A bizarre late-night phone call in this episode seems to indicate that Rajan is even worse that an evil businessman. (Perhaps this is fodder for next season? But I digress.)
“Enough,” Wolfgang tells Kala. I feel the same way, Wolfgang. Enough of this hanky-panky! Kala decides they will both run away to a new city, where they can engage in all the hedonistic pleasures sensate life affords. However, she notes that she will “tell Rajan when he gets home.” For some reason, I think Rajan won’t come home.
Meanwhile, Will is in a stupor, grappling with his father’s death. It’s drug-induced — he’s been struggling with a quiet heroin addiction all season. (Before he had blockers, heroin was the answer to keeping Whispers away. It hasn’t done him any good.) The stupor is a problem because the sensates have a battle coming, and they know it.
“We are getting closer and closer, Will,” Whispers says during a cute visit to our Chicago cop.
In other resolutions, Lito gets his job: Iberian Dreams, directed by a man named Kit (who, in the most bizarre plot twist to date, is played by Andy Dick). Of course, Sun helps out with the audition — sensates can’t do anything incredible alone. This cluster likes a group effort. But Lito brings tears to Kit’s (Andy Dick) eyes, and — voila! — our guy has a role in a Hollywood film. Hollywood according to Sense8 is like Hollywood according to every other film. The parties are glamorous, the people are obsequious, and there’s a surplus of pool floaties and fluorescent drinks. The characters all wear scarves and say things like, “Oh, you simply must meet Lito.”
All the stars are at the party, including a man in a newsboy cap and a scarf who is supposedly Johnny Depp. (It is not Johnny Depp.)
“Look who it is!” Daniela gasps. (Sorry, Dani. That’s just a man in a scarf.)
Lito’s fictional co-star is Blake Huntington, every bit the handsome humble actor. He flirts with Dani. Good for Dani!
Capheus’ race is far from resolved — it’s revving. Our bus driver gives his big speech. For a minute, it is the inspiring rally we knew Capheus would have. Alas, Mandiba’s men arrive and throw a bomb in the crowd, creating a mass panic.
This may be the first time we see a sensate fail at something, or do harm to another of the cluster. Will, drug-addled and stumbling around, attempts to help a panicked Capheus when a stranger tries to knife his belly. But Will is too high to handle it, and Capheus is slashed. Sun steps in to save the day, but it’s clear that Will isn’t doing well.
Capheus finds a friend outside the cluster, too — Superpower, one of Mandiba’s henchmen who has more than a few face tattoos. Superpower thinks that he and the bus driver are symbiotic, like homo sapien and homo sensorium. “Separate, we are okay. Together, we are legendary.”
Elsewhere, the cluster hosts an “intervention” for Will, gathering in Amsterdam to set the record straight. “Capheus needed you,” Riley chastises. Luckily, she returns to Amsterdam shortly, where she reunites with her cluster-boyfriend. (“The sex is... I can’t describe it,” she tells Kala earlier in the episode. Kala, like any person would, wants to know what sex with another sensate is like.)
Sun’s the one getting ready for the real event. Clad in a pink wig and an absurd waitress outfit, she tries her hand at bartending. (Lito, Mr. “I learned this for a movie,” helps out.) She unfurls a photo of her brother and takes a hard look. Mr. Bak, you aren’t going to survive the finale of this show.
Episode 11: You Want A War?
Remember way back in the second episode when Whispers reminded Will that “this is a war”? That seemed prophetic at the time: Eventually, in this season, we would see a showdown of sorts. And it wouldn’t be like the harrowing events in Iceland of the first season, when the sensates were prey, running from Whispers’ grasp. (Remember: Other sensates refer to him as “The Cannibal.” He’s a hunter.)
This time around, the cluster is suited up and ready to fight back. You wanted a war? Well, you’ve got one.
The first of the finale’s epic scenes takes place at the Bak Gala, where Sun’s brother Joong-Ki is really putting on a show. He takes the stage to mourn his father. I will take this moment to remind everyone that Joong-Ki killed his father and framed his sister for the murder. Family, am I right?
Detective Mun makes his not-so-triumphant return here. It’s all a little too convenient at first — Mun arrives at this huge gala shindig with an arrest warrant in hand. Sun gasps, and it seems that her potential future paramour might actually save her from having to do anything crazy. Like, maybe the system will work in her favor?
But nah. This is Sense8! Nothing works in favor of the cluster. Detective Mun is shot — please don’t die! — and Joong-Ki puts up a fight. After a series of blasts, Sun removes her waitress disguise. It’s the long-lost sister/convict who murdered her dad! (Each of the sensates’ story lines could really be its own show.) What commences is an epic chase scene through the streets of Korea. Sun, clad in just a brassiere and a pair of luminous panties, is on a motorcycle and her brother is tucked in a car.
With each episode of Sense8, I grow more baffled at Nomi’s ability to dig her internet fingers into, well, everything. I respect her talent as a hacker. It’s just that sometimes her handiness seems a little too handy. In this episode, she hacks into the security system in the building where the gala takes place. As Joong-Ki takes his leave of the event, Nomi halts him in his place.
“Confess to murdering your father and framing your sister. Then you’ll be free to go,” she says over an intercom. Lo and behold, he does, but that doesn’t mean Sun is any less in danger.
The idea of a “war” also implies that there are alliances and pacts in the mix — wars are not fought alone. All season, it seems, the sensates have been amassing allies in the form of other clusters. So far, nearly every cluster has had a not-so-great reaction to our main sensates. Puck didn’t trust them. Lila certainly didn’t either. That Buddhist monk who met Riley on the plane wants to be as far from this war as possible.
Still, we had to know that the other sensates would return to help out. When Sun is left destitute amidst the car chase, who comes to her rescue? Why, Puck, the slimy Australian with the hots for Riley.
With Sun tucked safely away in Korea for now, the rest of the sensates could take a moment to address their personal lives. Unsurprisingly, Amanita and Nomi get engaged, each one revealing a hidden ring in their bedroom in San Francisco. I’d like to put in a formal request for a sensate wedding next season.
In other lovely lands, Kala and Wolfgang confess they love each other. This is wonderful and not at all unexpected. But let us remember that last season, just as Will and Riley started discovering their love for one another, Riley was captured by Whispers. Time is a flat circle, and just as Kala and Wolfgang look like they’re ready to call it a relationship, Lila shows up.
“I had no idea how badly the Cannibal wanted you,” she says before handing Wolfgang over to a few masked men. And, of course, Whispers shows up. This is the beginning of the real war: You take one sensate, the rest of the cluster isn’t going to react well. BPO does villainous things to Wolfgang — he’s strapped to a table and given electric shocks to the chest, which reverberate throughout the cluster. Wolfgang’s kidnapping incites the plan that Will seems to have been hatching all season long. All the sensates head to London, where they’ll actually hunker down and get to business. “Business,” in this case, is a very organized and Lara Croft-esque attack on Whispers.
Cinematically, it’s all very thrilling. I will happily watch Nomi Marks punch Jonas Maliki any day. Narratively, it’s a little confusing as to how the elements of Wolfgang’s rescue fall into place, but the events unfurl so swiftly they begin to feel inevitable. Will “visits” Whispers, this time for real. The visit is real enough that he can punch the Cannibal, knocking him out. Four of the main cluster break into BPO and, clad in hazmat suits, take the plastic-wrapped Whispers from the premises. Before you can ask how the team even obtained the suits, they’re in an ambulance, riding away into the sunset.
“You wanted a war?” Will asks an unconscious Whispers.
Thus concludes the second season of Sense8. But there’s only one thing: Where the eff is Wolfgang?
A Few Loose Ends That I Need To Address
— Capheus’s campaign seems to be going well, but other Kenyan sensates are not pleased. In a visit to our bus driver, a pack of sensates informs Capheus that no healthy sensate would ever run for office. It’s too dangerous. This seemed to imply that this new cluster is more brave or defiant than ones in the past. Every other homo sensorium has grown accustomed to hiding — not them.
— Detective Mun. Let’s talk. As commenters have pointed out, Mun and Sun have a history. In the Christmas special, Sun recounts a fight she endured as a teenager. After the fight, she slept with her opponent. This opponent was Detective Mun. So, the two are absolutely meant to be together. The real question is: Is he okay? After the gala, we saw a television reporter state that Mun was “injured.” When will he and Sun reunite?
— How are any of the sensates making money right now? It seems only Kala regularly attends work, although she’s also the only one who doesn’t have to.
— Clearly, we’re gearing up for a battle of BPO vs. homo sensorium. The rhetoric is reminiscent of the X-Men comics (as in mutants vs. humans). Now: When is season 3?