Just about every episode of Sense8 has had some sort of thematic throughline. That’s especially true of the last few episodes as the show has settled into its pace and built its world, allowing character moments to establish those thematic connective threads. “W.W.N. Double D?” (also known as “What would Nancy Drew Do?”) has a thematic throughline that explores privilege and power, especially sexual, in intriguing and compelling ways while the narrative continues to gain speed.
The first instance of power that we see is when Sun is transferred to prison at the beginning of the episode. She’s put in a cell with three other inmates and at first it seems like she’s in for some trouble. “You’re the one who embezzled money from investors and shamed your brother and father” they say before pausing and concluding with, “well done.”
All of these women have rebelled against their male counterparts (be it husbands or fathers), killing them because they couldn’t take the abuse anymore. One of the inmates mentions that in South Korea, the only place to find a brave and honest woman is in prison. It’s a powerful statement, one that speaks to the imbalance of power in terms of gender in the country, but also gives a new perspective to Sun’s decision to take the fall for her brother and father.
Sun isn’t the only one who’s taken the fall though. Nomi, who’s ready to get back to her days as a political hacktivist, contacts Bug, an old hacker friend of hers that she once took the fall for. She did it because she was a minor with rich parents and knew she’d have no problem getting a lesser punishment. Bug shows up and meets Nomi for the first time, having only known her as Mike before.
While Bug clearly is on Nomi’s side and helps her by giving her some hacking equipment, he also sexualizes her immediately. He talks about how hot she is now, how he would “totally bang” her, but like, not in a degrading way, but as a compliment. Nomi shrugs this off and it’s indicative of not only the “trans body as public property” idea that I mentioned in a previous recap, but also a case of the way casual misogyny pervades society.
Bug isn’t trying to be a misogynistic asshole, but he is, and Nomi sees no choice but to shrug off the disgusting comments. If that’s not an obvious replication of the way women have to deal with catcalling and sexual harassment in their workplaces, on the street, and at home, then I don’t know what is.
Nomi and Amanita take their gear and use it to track Dr. Metzger’s phone, which leads them to a conversation with “Dr. Matheson,” the strange bearded man that came after Angel in the first episode. While Nomi and Amanita raid Metzger’s apartment and copy his hard drive, “Dr Matheson” shows up on the form of a lobotomized patient of Metzger’s. Jonas warns Nomi just in time, telling her that “Dr. Matheson” is actually named Whispers, and clearly anyone with that name is a dangerous man.
NEXT: Baba O’Riley and I Will Always Love You[pagebreak]
It’s interesting the way that privilege works in many of these story lines; it’s constant in this episode. Not only does Nomi mention that she had rich parents and so could afford to take the fall for Bug when she was young, but Riley also mentions her privilege when she’s on a plane back to Iceland.
Capheus is there with her, overjoyed to be flying above the clouds. He’s marveling at the fact that Riley gets to ride on planes and travel the world. “You’re very lucky,” he says. “Privileged, not lucky,” she replies. It’s a wonderful moment of connection between the two, but also a bigger statement in terms of the show’s worldview.
Sense8 is a show that’s progressive in a number of ways, from its structure and storytelling to its philosophy. It’s refreshing to see a show that boasts a complex trans character, a narrative that doesn’t just involve the lone, white, male hero, and a cast of characters that acknowledge their privilege, all while reckoning with the beauty and absurdity of life.
Sense8 makes me smile, and while that may sound like a simplistic reason for loving a show, I see it as the show making a bold choice to be optimistic. In a television landscape where dramas are increasingly gritty and violent (e.g.: Game Of Thrones, Daredevil), Sense8 dares to be jubilant and celebratory.
That’s not to say that the sensates aren’t enduring their fair share of hardships; this episode is full of them. Nomi and Amanita barely escape from Whispers; Lito and Hernando may end up being blackmailed after Daniela’s ex stole her phone and found pictures of the couple having sex; Sun is stuck in prison; Riley is being haunted by a figure from her past; Capheus watches as the man who used to have his job has his hands chopped off by Silas; Felix is killed in a drive-by shooting, the consequences of his and Wolfgang’s diamond heist still lingering over them.
Through all of this though, the sensates persist and connect, coming together to ward off evil. They have each other and the people in their lives. That means that Riley can still connect with her father, who charmingly plays “Baba O’Riley” for her on the ukulele when she shows up at the airport; Kala and Wolfgang can almost share a kiss while debating faith and science; Lito and Hernando can enjoy a romantic dinner out with Daniela, and Hernando can fulfill all of his bodyguard fantasies. “I’m feeling very Whitney Houston right now,” says Lito in a moment of pure glee.
That feeling of pure glee is not as common on TV as one would hope. Dramas are often dark and gritty, which often equates to being “realistic.” Sense8 is ambitious and confident enough to be a different kind of realistic. It’s the kind of realistic that acknowledges power imbalances in the world while tackling privilege, racism, and sexism, and yet suggests that personal connection can still trump all.
We don’t know yet if the sensates will be able to come together and overcome their obstacles, whether Nomi can get rid of Whispers, or Will can find out more about Angel, or if Lito and Hernando can survive a scandal. For now though, it’s enough to have each other, fighting against every other power that hopes to oppress them.