Sense8: Obligate Mutualisms

“We forget so much more than we remember.”

This episode started out great. In fact, I was ready to call it the best of the series so far, but the second half was more usual business and lost some of the impact. Not that it was bad. "Obligate Mutualisms" continued this season’s trend to offer more coherent and well-paced episodes.

I liked a lot that the episode kicked off with Will sealing the sensates’ win against Whispers. They even toasted to it and Will was finally able to go outside. It was a beautiful scene, with the sensates sharing Will’s moment of freedom. I can’t get enough of those moments, they are so gorgeously shot.

From freedom to prison, we dive right into Sun’s final moments as an inmate, and boy, are they intense. There is no questioning that Lana Wachowski is a talented director, but, wow, major props to her. It was one of the best action sequences I have watched on television. It’s safe to assume that the eight main sensates won’t die so soon, but that notion went out of my mind when the guards tried to kill Sun. The situation was so despairing that she used the rope around her neck as leverage! Those are some brutal fighting skills right there. Still, she lost. They hung her, she was going to die. The images of the various sensates either hung in the prison’s room or choking at their respective locations were powerful, very powerful.

Thankfully, Min-jung came to the rescue, killing the rope-holding guard and saving Sun’s life. After that, there was no other choice for Sun than to leave prison and Min-jung followed her on what turned out to be an easy jailbreak, thanks to Bug. The duo found shelter in the house of a friend of Min-jung’s, a former inmate, who also went to prison due to a problematic man in her life. I haven’t rewatched season one yet, but did Sun meet any prisoner who didn’t fit that pattern?

Excited by the cluster’s first victory against Whispers, Lito is all happiness when he meets his agents, but they cut his joy short with the news that he is no longer part of a movie he was looking forward to. The reason? A “morals clause”. Ugh, I can’t deal with the hypocrisy and homophobia. The agents have many other scripts for Lito to take a look at, but the damage is done. It dawns on Lito that he is no longer the indispensable movie star he once was. But there is still some denial, a resistance to accept his new status. When he goes apartment hunting with Hernando and Daniela, the place he likes costs twice what he can afford. He still wants it anyway. Will he be able to step down from the pedestal? The faster he accepts where he’s at, the easier it will be for him to fight back and build his career on his own terms.

As for the apartment, Daniela comes to the rescue by offering to live with Lito and Hernando. The bathtub is big enough for the three of them, she says, but quickly realizes the implication of her proposal and backs away. Hernando likes her idea, and not just because of the financial aspect. There is a place for her in the bathtub. This is the first time the trio discusses, even if indirectly, Daniela’s role in their relationship, and the shift from homosexual couple to peculiar triple is finally winning me over. Daniela is part of the unit and they won’t cast her aside.

Wolfgang and Felix’s visit to Sebastian took an unexpected turn, didn’t it? We met Sebastian’s right hand, Lila Facchini, who also happened to be a sensate and immediately sensate-seduced Wolfgang. It was discomforting at first, but as Wolfgang conceded, it became part hot, part hilarious. Felix and Sebastian were oblivious to Wolfgang and Lila having mind-sex right there during the meeting. When will Riley and Will discover that power? Wolfie barely paid attention to what was said – Sebastian wants his and Felix’s help to keep the gangs at peace – as he tried to keep his poker face while making out with Lila. I hope there is more to her than being a femme fatale or a reason to make Kala jealous.

Will continued to carry the main story and he had two important meetings. The first one was with Jonas, and I have to commend the writers on that scene. They dumped seventeen thousand different bits of information on us and yet the scene was gracious and beautiful. We learned that Angelica gave birth to a cluster that didn’t embrace their sensateness like Will’s. One of the sensates even wanted to be cured of his condition. I see what you are doing there, writers. Another one, however, a Mexican reporter named Raoul Pasquale, was very much like Angelica, a sensate with a pure, joyful heart. And Lito met him! I like that. It’s a neat way to put Lito into the sensate game more directly.

Then there was Croome in another scene that could’ve been purely info dump, but its setting and how the dialogue was constructed around Rembrandt’s The Night Watch elevated the moment. Croome reveals that BPO believed sensorium and sapiens depended on one another for survival, but that things changed after 9/11. While I agree that that was a game changer for the world, I don’t see how that would change BPO’s view of sensates. The potential risks that the sensates’ existence creates are not limited to our times. From what Croome said, they would be a big problem during the Cold War, too. Or during any time of human’s history. So his explanation of why there are two factions inside BPO is faulty. Nevertheless, Croome offered his friendship to Will. Yay. Victory. The sensates will no longer be persecuted. Right? Right? Wrong.

Croome is out, Whispers is back. Croome’s death was shocking, but, honestly, it was also a little disappointing. Whispers returning later in the season probably would’ve had more impact. As it is, Croome was nothing more than a plot device to give Will some intel and a few black pills. The writers made their toys dance a little bit and returned them to square one.

“How we see changes”

Appreciating art is subjective, therefore the way you perceive Sense8 will undoubtedly be influenced by your backstory and world view, by other shows and movies you have watched or books you have read and so on. But as I wrote this review, I realized I was being bitter about a couple of things that weren’t Sense8’s fault. Even though I could just claim subjectivity and call it a day, I decided to write about those issues in a separate section, so here you have it.

The first one is that this episode reminded me a lot of Orphan Black. For some reason the Homo Sensorium theory reminds me of Neolution, even though the concepts are different. Sensates and clones are persecuted by a shadowy organization that wants to either eliminate or control them. And when Croome mentioned there was an internal fight inside BPO I rolled my eyes, because Orphan Black totally ruined that kind of plot for me. Let’s hope Sense8 does it better.

There is a very annoying telenovela trope in Brazil. Before the telenovela premieres, they announce there will be a homosexual romance. It usually involves guys that have not come to terms with their sexuality yet. But halfway through, the story changes and they end up forming a triple with a woman. It’s a cop out, with barely any exploration of either homo or bisexuality.

That is why I had some resistance to Daniela becoming a part of Lito and Hernando’s relationship. Sense8’s approach is completely different, though, and it’s in no way a cop out. They are not hiding or denying Lito’s and Hernando’s sexualities, they are expanding the possibilities a relationship entails. Much like within the cluster the sensates’ sexual orientations explode and they experience pansexuality. It’s about that pure human connection we achieve through sex, it’s bigger than orientation.

It was a friend of mine that brought to my attention, around the time the Christmas Special was released, that Lito, Hernando and Daniela had become a triple. While I liked her, I previously saw her as an intruder in their relationship. But the guys have embraced her, and she has found in them the emotional connection she needs and the sexual fulfillment – through voyeurism – that she wants. Like I said before, she is part of the unit.

Last and kind of least, another thing that can alter our perception of a TV show is a little bastard called spoiler. I saw a photo of Sun, Min-jung and the sensates inside the bus before watching this episode. I took my eyes off the picture immediately, so I didn’t notice that the bunch of people in the bus were the sensates, I thought they were other inmates, that Sun would lead a major prison break. When that didn’t happen, I was a little underwhelmed. But that reaction comes from a biased expectation. I respect the quieter way the writers chose to set Sun free to a new spectrum of stories.

Bits and Pieces

- Drinking water has become more expensive in Nairobi because of taxes. Is Sense8 going to tackle the issues of social inequality and government’s exploration of poor people? If so, I’m in for the ride.

- Nomi and Amanita were going out for dinner when Sun asked for Nomi’s help. Amanita didn’t even blink when deciding they should stay and help her. Amanita is the best. I hope they went out for dinner afterwards.

- I didn’t care much about Lito’s struggle to find an apartment. It’s a “rich people’s problems” situation. I wanted Capheus to pop up and tell him that the first apartment was good enough.

- Donna Bae was excellent.

- Great visual gag: Sun takes the cigarette from the guard’s mouth, knocks him unconscious and takes a drag. That reminded me of a similar badass move by Angelus in "Innocence."

- Kala was bleeding after Sun nearly died. Did she cut herself with those glasses or was she pregnant and lost the baby? Am I reaching?

- Nice bit of mythology: any sensate, regardless of gender or age, can give birth to a new cluster. There are thousands to tens of thousands of sensates across the world, and the population is growing.

- Cancer is a rarity for sensates. Jonas’ father died of it, surrounded by his eighty plus children.

- My biggest issue with the Homo sensorium concept is that that species, with the abilities it has, would have erased Homo sapiens from the face of the Earth.

- Jonas and Will met at a Frankfurt train station. Does anyone know which? I looked it up and it could be Station Hauptbahnhof. What about the one that appeared in the flashbacks?


- The Powers That Be clearly love setting a scene in a museum, with two characters contemplating an art piece, don’t they? Is that going to be a one per season event, like the orgy?

- Was it me or were the writers being apologetic when Croome said people dismissed Rembrandt’s painting as a mess?

- Requiem in D Minor, K. 626, by Mozart, played during the final credits.

- Now that Sun is free, can she reunite with her dog? Please?

Quotes

Lito’s manager: “The project was shit. The director? Shit. Screenplay? Total shit.”
LOL.

Nomi: “How is the alarm system override?”
Bug: “I own this thing. I can make it sing Born Free if you want.”

Lady: “Where did a banker’s daughter learn to be a car thief?”
Sun: “Other lives.”
Bae’s stoic delivery is hilarious.

Jonas: “It felt fucking biblical.”

Another good episode, with a terrific, nail-biting near-death action sequence. I’m a little unsure about some developments, but overall, three out of four slashed paintings.
--
Lamounier

3 comments:

magritte said...

Thanks for the detailed review of a fascinating episode. I hadn't really thought about the Orphan Black parallel, but it seems to me that every organization has factions. Exploiting divisions in the enemy is almost an inevitable strategy in taking on a stronger opponent.

I don't like the way they're handling the Homo Sensorium concept because you can't be a different species than your siblings. The Sensates have a characteristic derived from another species, but they are Homo Sapiens. And do all Homo Sapiens have the "switch" that can make them part of a sensate cluster or only some? The latter makes more sense, but puts a ceiling on how much their numbers can grow, particularly if it's a recessive trait. What's the probability that Will and Riley's kids would carry the trait enabling sensatehood?

Also, I think there are other advantages of language over empathic communication besides lying. Homo Sensorium wouldn't have a need for writing, and without writing, would they develop mathematics? It could stifle their technological development. Besides, without lies you have no fiction. Homo Sensorium's empathy might have made them more vulnerable to coercion. If you torture one of them, you torture all of them. If you think of war as a chess game, would Homo Sensorium lose the game by trying too hard to protect all their pieces instead of seeing the big picture?

Billie Doux said...

What a wonderful review, Lamounier.

I liked this episode, too. I had the same reaction to Lito's apartment situation (rich peoples' problems), but I am also okay with Lito and Hernando with Daniela. She's become a big part of their lives already and it feels like the love is already there.

Sun's jailbreak was indeed tense. The noose around her neck and everyone else's neck was upsetting. I really, really hope Sun is out for good now. I hated her being closed off in prison, even though she was still able to experience things as a sensate. Nice parallel with Will also finally free from his prison, too. Or as he referred to it, the longest stake-out of his life. :)

Lamounier said...

magritte, you offered a great counterpoint to my assertion of sensorium erasing sapiens out of existence. Are the sensates sapiens, though? Biology is not my forte, but I guess they should be, although the show is approaching the topic as if they weren’t. I’m a little confused.

Billie, I think Sun is out for good. It just wouldn’t be a clever writing choice to have her return to prison.