Through its first four episodes, Sense8 has been pretty heavy. Sure, there’s a celebration of the human spirit at the show’s core, as I mentioned in the previous recap, but much of the plot has dealt with angst. Mortality, oppression, robberies, loveless marriages, inner-city poverty; Sense8 has spent four episodes putting its characters through the ringer, showing us where they come from and the dire circumstances they’re all in.
In contrast to those first four episodes, the fifth, “Art Is Like Religion,” is the most joyous and jubilant episode so far. It’s not just the action scenes, which director James McTeigue (who was an assistant director on the Wachowskis The Matrix) shoots with unhinged glee, but also the current of liveliness that runs through the entire episode.
Sense8 has been on a steady build from its first episode, taking its time establishing its narrative and vision. That patience has lead to a narrative that’s reliant on character building, since there’s very little plot in the first few episodes. Now, with the characters firmly established, Sense8 can let loose. Everything from here on out is firmly grounded in these characters. It makes the increasing amount of “visiting” in each episode a thrill to watch, the viewer left wondering what pairing will appear next and how each of them can help one another.
“Art Is Like Religion” sees the sensates visiting each other in more natural and obvious ways. Nobody, other than perhaps Will, really understands what’s happening to them, but they all seem to be aware that whatever’s happening, it’s part of a bigger plan, something beyond them. They’re starting to embrace their powers and explore what they mean.
It’s a welcome change of pace; so many pieces of fiction about humans gaining supernatural powers spend a lot of time showing the characters at first resisting their new powers, or angrily struggling to understand what’s happened to them. The Wachowskis have no time for that, instead barreling forward, the sensates showing wonderment, not skepticism, with their newfound visiting abilities.
If there’s one person struggling with their visiting in this episode, it’s Lito, who’s part of the episode’s most outwardly comedic story line. Early in the episode he experiences Sun’s period cramps and hormonal changes. When he gets to the set of his latest film, he’s meant to seductively stare down a woman as she descends the stairs. Lito breaks down crying though, telling the director that in the moment he realized the fleeting nature of beauty.
“I’m just feeling a little emotional today,” he says before freaking out on his drive home, where Sun joins him in the front seat while he screams at everyone in traffic, all while Hernando tries to calm him down over the phone. The whole scene is played for laughs, and while a man going through hormonal swings brought on by a period could be very base humor, it works here, mostly due to how evocative and unhinged Miguel Ángel Silvestre’s performance is.
Later, Lito’s visiting actually pays off, as he and Will essentially join forces to be badass gunslingers. Will’s chasing down a young kid while Lito is working through the climactic shootout of the film. He goes full-on Neo in The Matrix, flying, diving, and bending backward to dodge bullets while he guns down one assailant after another. It’s a thrilling scene, partly because it’s wonderfully meta. We’re watching a choreographed television fight scene of a choreographed fight scene for film; we even see the cameras and the wires attached to Lito. There’s that, and then the fact that it’s just a beautifully shot sequence. Scenes like this show that Sense8 is also willing to have a lot of fun alongside it’s more complex thematic explorations.
NEXT: The Spirit of Jean Claude Korean Lady