Looks like things are starting to pick up some steam.
Let’s bitch it out…
I’ve complained over the last two episodes that certain characters have been basically non-existent. That’s still the case in episode three, but at least we get to learn more about the two characters that have been most noticeably absent – Sun Bak (Doona Bae) and Capheus (Aml Ameen). And their stories culminate in a really kickass final scene to the episode, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Sense8 is a show that is committed to character interactions as much as it is to big plot movements. The writing may not be as sharp as on other (better) shows, but the effort is there, and that’s something. Episode three focuses a lot on backstory, featuring a number of flashbacks to characters in their youth. Capheus dreams of being a zebra, and we explore the bond between him and his mother, and why he is so driven to help her now that she’s taken ill. Will (Brian J. Gorski), unless I misread his scenes, is having flashback dreams about a missing girl that he apparently met in the lair of a serial killer? And our favourite DJ, Riley (Tuppence Middleton), misses her piano-playing father,which prompts her to give a blind piano player in the London Underground a rather impressive tip in the form of the cash she stole last episode. All of these efforts may pay off down the road, as the characters develop, but it’s always hard to say whether it’s time well spent in the moment. I worry that all these flashbacks really do is open up more questions that need to be answered later. The show is already so cluttered as it is.
There’s also a lot of groundwork being laid in the new three-way relationship between Lito (Miguel Angel Silvestre), his partner Fernando (Alfonso Herrera), and his new fake partner, Daniela (Erendira Ibarra). Right now Lito’s beard looks like she’s more trouble than she’s worth. I assume that Lito is worried that she’ll spill the beans about his big secret if he doesn’t go along with her gay besties dream / pretending to be in a relationship with a hot actor. Sounds like her father is part of a drug cartel, and she has some crazy ex-lover who knows just the right way to kill people without making a mess. That is a lot of drama.
The real meat of the episode takes place, as noted above, with Capheus and Sun. In episode one, we saw a strained business relationship between Sun and her brother. Apparently, their father is still the one in charge, and that relationship is just as strained. There’s some bad stuff going down with the company, given the phone calls that Sun keeps getting, and she can’t get her father’s attention, for whatever reason. There’s obviously a cultural element in how business dealings are being conducted solely by men in Seoul. And since Sun is having trouble fitting into one world dominated by men, she likes to spend her leisure time diving into another world dominated by men – a Korean underground MMA fighting league. Surprising no one in the audience, she kicks serious ass. At the same time in Nairobi, Capheus and his buddy do a little song and dance to get a good deal on some AIDS medicine for his dying mother, only to have it stolen when the Van Damn is held up in a bad part of town. This confluence of story lines leads us to the real meat of Sense8’s fundamental concept.
For three episodes now, we’ve been watching characters jump around into one another’s heads, finding themselves lost and disoriented as they appear in a foreign location and situation from where they were moments before. Most of the time these jumps don’t lead to anything substantial, just a flicker and then back again. In a few instances, like Will and Riley’s interaction back in the first episode, it was more than that. Sun and Capheus’ cross-over here delivers for the first time on what the show has been teasing for a while: that these eight people are all linked together in some way (Thanks, Darryl Hannah?) and that they can access one another’s skills. Given that Sun has some badass kung fu skills, and Will can shoot a gun pretty well, all of a sudden Capheus has a whole host of abilities available to him when he takes on the street thugs. It’s a pretty cool scene to watch, as the editing cuts from character to character – Sun in the fighting ring, Will in the shooting range, and Capheus actually fighting for his life. It was unclear whether he actually gets his drugs back, since the main thug takes off, but it is a fun ride for us viewers. If Sense8 can build on this link between characters, then I’m hopeful that it can fulfill its potential.
Now all we need is an actual plot.
- Lobotomies have been a pretty constant presence in the show so far. Dr. Metzger (Adam Shapiro) wants to lobotomize Nomi (Jamie Clayton). Will sees a guy in his dream cutting into the little girl’s skull, revealing the brain. Someone even randomly mentions lobotomy in conversation in this episode. Given that the show focuses on a connection between the minds/brains of eight people, maybe the idea of lobotomy will be central to the concept. Who knows, maybe these people all have chunks of one another’s brains inside of their own?
- We check in only briefly with Nomi and Kala (Tina Desai) this episode. Nomi’s situation is looking pretty grim, and I agree with her assessment of her imprisonment behind locked doors – how can that possibly be legal? Her mother signs a form and she’s basically imprisoned in the hospital for some wacky brain experiments? At least there’s some hope, in that Amanita (Freema Agyeman) seemingly lives up to her threat of burning the place down, thereby delaying Nomi’s surgery. She’s bought some time, but not much.
- Episode two ended abruptly when Will and Jonas (an unseen Naveen Andrews) crashed. ‘Smart Money Is On The Skinny Bitch’ reveals that Jonas was taken into custody and that Will is being credited with his capture. We don’t see Jonas, but given how he’s already infiltrated Nomi’s locked and guarded hospital room, I don’t imagine the feds can hold Jonas prisoner if he wants to leave.
- I’m still trying to decide if I like the way that the mind-jumping scenes are filmed. I get that it adds to the understanding of the scene if Sun shows up in the dusty lot where Capheus is getting his ass kicked (she looks appropriately confused and what not). I do think, however, that it would be cooler if we saw Capheus doing the martial arts in his location, and Sun in hers. I almost feel like these mind/body take-overs have been dumbed down so that even the most inattentive audience member will be able to follow what’s going on. I guess the current approach saves on having to find eight actors who can do all of the acting and the kung fu. It’s not like Sense8 can just upload kung fu skills into people, after all.
Your turn: was the Sun/Capheus fight the highlight of the episode for you? Do you like the way these mind/body swaps are filmed? Are the flashbacks adding to an already stuffed narrative? Do you feel disconnected from characters like Kala who get less attention? Sound off below, but please refrain from addressing future episodes.
Sense8 is available in its entirety on Netflix. Come back next week as we tackle episode 4 (on Tuesday) and episode 5 (on Thursday).