Welcome to the sense8 Binge-Watch and Blog-Along Part Two! This blog post will cover episodes 4-6 of the new Netflix series. You can find reviews of the first three episodes in Part One. Let’s jump right on in, shall we?
Episode 4 – What’s Going On?
This was the first episode not directed by the Wachowskis. Instead, the siblings handed the reins over to their Cloud Atlas co-director, Tom Tykwer. A lot happened in this episode, and I think it may be my favorite of the series thus far. First, and most importantly, we learned a bit more about the sensates from Jonas. Our main eight characters (Will, Nomi, Riley, Capheus, Kala, Lito, Sun, and Wolfgang) are all part of a cluster. They can inherently “visit” one another as well as share abilities. Sensates from other clusters, such as Jonas, can visit only if they have first had visual eye contact with one another (the exception being, I assume, the sensate who “births” a new cluster can visit their progeny à la Angel in the first episode). This new information allowed Will to help free Nomi — which delighted me to no end. Chekov’s handcuff escape trick! It should be interesting to find out whether Nomi’s condition is real, or a ruse by Dr. Metzger and his associates.
Wolfgang spent the episode celebrating with his best friend and fellow thief, Felix. But spending ridiculous amounts of money and going dancing with a group of girls didn’t thrill him as much as singing with Kala. It is pretty obvious now that they are going for a relationship between these two characters. Kala’s fiancé and his father are supposedly using their money to buy corrupt politicians who would outlaw traditional worship. Whether this development is true or hearsay is yet to be determined. Capheus had an encounter with an apparent crime lord named Silas, who offered Capheus the medicine his mother desperately needs in exchange for the safe delivery of a backpack. Elsewhere, Sun broke the news to her father that her brother has been embezzling company funds.
I have just noticed the importance of drugs in a few of the main character’s storylines. Kala works for a pharmaceutical company, and scene of hers in an earlier episode took place in a meeting where a man in the background was talking about how people can’t tell the difference between real pills and counterfeits. This is directly related to Capheus’ situation. The counterfeit pill problem was stressed both when he went to buy medicine for his mother in an earlier episode, and in his conversation with Silas in this episode. Meanwhile, Sun’s company directly works with certain pharmaceutical companies (from whom her brother was skimming money); and both Wolfgang’s family and Daniela’s (Lito’s “live-in beard”) ex-boyfriend Joaquin and father are seemingly involved with organized crime. My theory is that certain drugs, in tandem with rogue brain operations, were how the first sensates were created. The doctors kept pushing pills on to Nomi while she was being held against her will by those who wished to lobotomize her, and Will had a dream (featuring Sarah Patrell, I assume?) about a sketchy, backroom brain surgery.
Episode 5 – Art is Like Religion
This episode was directed by James McTeigue, who directed the Wachowski-penned film adaptation of V for Vendetta. There was not a lot of new information nor plot development in this episode. It mainly focused on the interconnectedness of the cluster of eight, and how most of them are accepting what is happening. There was some humor as Lito dealt with the emotions and menstrual pains originating from Sun. Capheus had the most impactful moments with two other sensates. He had a nice chat with Riley and an even more emotional one with Sun as he helped her talk about her big decision. Wolfgang also appeared (naked) to Kala during her wedding ceremony, causing her to faint in the middle of her vows.
One of sense8‘s biggest problems is pacing. It was certainly evident in the first episode, improved over the following few, and returned in this episode. Because a big part of the show is about discovering the truth behind the sensates and their strange abilities, the show often relies on that overarching mystery in lieu of practical story beats. We, as an audience, are discovering more about the sensates as they do. This becomes problematic when we have a character like Will, who comparatively has a lot of knowledge about the sensates over someone like Lito, who has only had a few “visits” from others and is still questioning their reality. To be fair, this episode did a great job of showing Riley, Sun, and Capheus (and to a slightly lesser extent, Wolfgang and Kala) figuring out the rules of these “visitations” for themselves. On the other hand, it makes me anxious during scenes with Lito and Nomi, who seem to be ignorant of, or at the most have a fairly tenuous grasp on what is happening. It just makes it feel like they are holding back the forward momentum of the series’ plot.
Directorially speaking, it’s great that the Wachowskis and Co. can take advantage of the freedoms that a streaming service like Netflix can provide over a more traditional television or film format. However, I feel like this freedom has been abused in certain instances where the directors favor form over function. That is to say, there have been certain sequences that, while aesthetically and cinematographically beautiful or interesting, could have been cut down to allow for the actual progression of story. For example, in episode three, there is a scene that cuts between Sun and Will as they look over some paperwork (financial reports and Sarah Patrell’s file, respectively). While the sequence did a fine job of highlighting the parallels between the two characters, it ran a bit longer than felt necessary. The show obviously puts a large emphasis on the emotional connectivity of the cluster (and rightfully so). But sometimes this is translated into long scenes of intercut shots of each of our characters looking pensive. After awhile, it gets kind of same-y and unmoving. We’re on the fifth hour of the show now, sense8 — let’s get something new happening!
This episode had some good moments, but all in all, it felt weighed down by the intrinsic problems of the series itself. Hopefully the sixth episode will help to pick things back up again…
Episode 6 – Demons
While this episode felt a bit more substantial than the previous one, it was still mainly about developing the inter-cluster relationships. Wolfgang and Kala did some flirting, Will and Riley confirmed that they were real through a quick phone exchange (Are they being coupled up as well? Or are they close simply by being each others’ first sensate meeting?), and Sun and Riley bonded over their troubles and fear. There was also an extended sex scene involving Lito, his boyfriend Hernando, Nomi, her girlfriend Amanita, Will, and Wolfgang. I know cable and streaming television shows like to push the boundaries and offer up titillating scenes, but again, this felt like a sequence that could’ve easily been cut down. Meanwhile, crime lord Silas instructed Capheus to transport his daughter to a special facility for leukemia treatments. This storyline took an interesting, unexpected turn, and I’m curious to see how they develop it. Likewise, it looks like Sun’s and Riley’s plot lines will shift dramatically as one goes to prison and the other is seemingly about to travel to Iceland.
We are officially at the halfway point of the series. There have been a lot of interesting story elements and character development, but also a lot of pacing issues. I expect that we’ll be diving deeper into the show’s mythology and main arc as we move into the latter half of the season. Should be an interesting ride!
Thanks for joining me in Part Two of the sense8 Binge-Watch and Blog-Along! Coming soon: reviews and reactions to episodes 7-9.
‘Til next time, I say, “Hey-eyeyeyey, hey-eyey…” I said, “Hey, what’s goin’ on?”
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