Operation: Rescue Riley, commencing now.
Let’s bitch it out…
So we’ve reached the end of Sense8‘s first season, and while there’s quite a bit of action and intensity, I’m not sure how I feel about the conclusion. It is interesting, in that all eight characters had some role to play in saving Riley (Tuppence Middleton) from the clutches of the evil BPO and Mr. Whispers (Terrence Mann). Each of them uses their particular skill set to overcome an obstacle, and it is the culmination of all the teases we saw early in the season concerning how each member of the cluster could tap into one another’s skills. So ‘I Can’t Leave Her’ definitely has some excitement, which is a good thing, in general.
The bulk of the episode focuses on Will (Brian J. Smith), who travels to Iceland to rescue Riley. He’s being helped primarily by Nomi (Jamie Clayton), whose elite hacking skills give him access to a whole bunch of stuff he otherwise wouldn’t have access to – like a pretty sweet Porsche, a fake identity to access the BPO facility, and an escape route to help get Riley out. It’s a pretty straight-forward plot in that sense. Sun (Doona Bae) uses her kung fu to help Will take out some guards; Lito (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) using his acting skills to help Will get information out of a nurse; Capehus (Aml Ameen) uses his car-related skills to hot-wire the ambulance; Kala (Tina Desai) uses her chemistry/medicine skills to help wake Riley up; and Wolfgang (Max Riemelt) uses his badass skills to play chicken with a helicopter – and win. I like the way that everything comes together on the character front. Even earlier in the episode, when Yrsa (Lilja Þórisdóttir), the crazy Iceland woman tells Riley to kill herself, all of the characters appear in Riley’s moment of need to support her and Will talks her out of it.
My main issue with the episode (and the underlying mechanics of the season) are the same thing that I’ve spent the last two or three reviews claiming that I’m going to try to ignore – how these sensate abilities actually work which now includes questions about Whispers. Whispers’ abilities seem to differ from the sensates, and a while back Jonas (Naveen Andrews) tried to explain them in a very simple way – something along the lines of “Whispers knows Jonas, and Jonas knows Will, so if Whispers captures Jonas, he’ll be able to know things about Will”. The new twist is that if Whispers looks a person in the eye, then he enters their mind and can sense where they are. It’s all very confusing. And while I was trying to ignore it and roll with it, Whispers’ abilities are too big a part a plot of the finale to just ignore. So now I’m forced to complain about it.
At one point during Riley’s escape, Whispers sees Will pass by in the (convenient) glass elevator. They make eye contact. This is, apparently, so devastating a turn of events, that Jonas tells Will that his only recourse to save the other seven members of his cluster is to kill himself – ie: the same thing Yrsa told Riley earlier in the episode. If Will doesn’t do this, then Whispers will know everywhere that Will goes, and eventually Whispers will find him and use Will to find the others. This seems like really, really bad news – I mean, if Jonas is telling Will to kill himself, this has to be bad, right? But, wait! Will decides, instead, to just use some random drugs to knock himself unconscious! And…that’s basically it. He wakes up on a boat, with Riley, and everyone appears, and there’s some happy music playing, and they (literally) sail off into the sunset. Isn’t that a little too easy? Once Will wakes up, won’t Whispers know where he is? Or does unconsciousness somehow break the mysterious link that eye contact creates? And if it’s that easy to break the connection, then why the hell did Jonas tell him to kill himself? That’s a little extreme.
Now, I’m sure there could possibly be reasons to explain this. Maybe Jonas is a bad guy. Maybe Yrsa is a bad guy. Maybe they’re both not even real people, and are manifestations created by Whispers to trick the sensates into giving up their positions. Who knows? The writers don’t tell us. But based on the information at hand, this is all very confusing, and really detracts from my personal enjoyment of the episode, despite my conscious effort to try and ignore the sensate/cluster/whatever mechanics.
At least the episode still had a solid B plot, as Wolfgang decides to take out Sergei, his crime lord uncle. I really liked Wolfgang in the first few episodes of the show when he was pulling off the diamond heist. Then his character went into a rut for a while, with brooding scenes with Kala and what not. Thankfully Wolfgang really returned to form in these final episodes of the season. Between helping Lito win his BF and third wheel back and blowing up cars with rocket launchers, and his one-man assault on an organized crime stronghold, Wolfgang has really cemented himself as the biggest badass on the show, which is impressive considering Sense8 also features a Korean fighter who kicks some serious ass.
Speaking of Kala, I liked that she actually did some useful stuff this episode instead of just brooding over her wedding, or running off to the temple to pray. She seems quite confident and bold in constructing a bomb out of random kitchen supplies. And Riemelt and Desai’s acting is pretty strong in the final scene of the assault when Wolfgang shoots Sergei around 17 times in the face. Wolfgang explains “My father was a monster; you’re a monster; and I’m a monster.” He then glances up at Kala. “That’s why you have to marry Rajan.” That’s a badass for you.
The emotional lynchpin of the episode is supposed to be Riley’s flitting back to the night a car crash claimed her husband and baby’s lives. This might have worked better for me if I wasn’t cringing and turning away from the screen at the sight of yet another baby-stretched vagina. What is up with that?! Does this really add anything to the scene? It certainly doesn’t add any emotional heft that I can see. Some people will shrug like it’s nothing but squeamish people like me are going to be turned off. What gain is there in turning off some people, when the addition of those shots don’t really add much at all to what’s going on? Shock value for the sake of shock value is meaningless and detracts from the mood. I was pulled out of that scene because of it, and I couldn’t really find that emotional connection with Riley every time we flashed back to her past after that.
All in all, I did enjoy season one of the show. It’s a solid effort from Netflix, and I find myself liking more and more of their original series. If the execs can keep pushing out original content like this with great production values and a solid cast, I’ll be very happy.. At times Sense8‘s writing was a little spotty, particularly with dialogue choices, but the character development was pretty good and the plot really picked up towards the end. I can say that I’m looking forward to season two (assuming there will be one).
- So let me get this straight: Whispers flies past Will in his orange Porsche and presumably informs his guards to be on the lookout (as we are told numerous times that Whispers knows Will is coming), and the best solution our heroes can come up with is to slice the oil line in order to create a big billow of smoke? Shouldn’t this make it even more noticeable than an orange Porsche otherwise would be? And this plan somehow works, as Will exits the smoking orange Porsche without anyone seeing him, and sneaks between a couple vans to get into the building? That’s some good writing. And by good, I mean bad.
- It made me cry a little inside when Capheus said that the Van Damn gets stolen all the time.
- I got a good laugh out of the following exchange between Lito and Will: “Do I know you?” “We had sex.” I’m not sure why Will wouldn’t have remembered that, but I was still rolling with it at that point, and it was a funny line.
- It really is a shame to ruin such a beautiful car. Amanita (Freema Agyeman) and Nomi are right about how much that hurts.
Your turn: how do you feel about the series now that it’s reached the end of the season? Is Wolfgang the biggest badass on the show? Were you frustrated by how Whispers’ abilities work? Did you emotionally connect with Riley’s sad past? And where will a (hopeful) S2 go? Sound off below!
Sense8 is available in its entirety on Netflix. At this time a second season has yet to be ordered.