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'Sense8' recap: 'Death Doesn't Let You Say Goodbye'

Posted on

Netflix

Sense8

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
seasons:
1
run date:
06/05/15
performer:
Daryl Hannah, Naveen Andrews, Jamie Clayton
broadcaster:
Netflix
genre:
Drama, Sci-fi

Much like the episode before it, “Death Doesn’t Let You Say Goodbye” feels very stagnant in terms of plot. It’s an exposition-heavy episode, one that has its fair share of great character moments, but never really uses them to propel the story of the sensates forward.

As great as it is to get some backstory in this episode, to see Jonas again and to get an idea of how the sensates have been living generation after generation, it largely feels like the show’s establishing a holding pattern rather than moving forward. The backstory of the sensates and BPO, some of which is revealed to Riley in a conversation with an older sensate named Yrsa, fills in a few of the holes in the mystery of the sensates, but its placement within the season, coming off an episode that was also very meditative and slow moving, means that much of it doesn’t feel consequential.

Essentially, “Death Doesn’t Let You Say Goodbye” is an episode that’s designed to give a lot of information to the audience and that doesn’t usually make for compelling television. There’s still a lot of great thematic work in this episode, much of it dealing with love, death, and responsibility, but those moments are overwhelmed by a flurry of exposition and lengthy conversations. There’s no relief, no change of pace, and that leaves the episode feeling rather dull.

Most of the episode revolves around two different conversations: one between Nomi and Lito and one between Will and Riley. The two visitations serve two different purposes. Where the former conversation is a moment of reckoning for the two characters and represents a turning point in their lives, the latter is one that’s meant to deepen the story of BPO and the sensates.

The latter, despite being more mysterious, is the least interesting one. Before Will visits Riley she’s seen wandering through a cave on the shores of Iceland. While there she encounters a woman, one she seems to have known her whole life. Her name is Yrsa and it turns out that she’s a sensate who perhaps worked for BPO back in the day, but tried to save the lives of the sensates once she realized what was going on (or so she says—it’s hard to trust anyone’s motives here).

Yrsa saved Riley many years ago, not only removing her from the hospital when her tests came through as showing sensate proclivities, but also at a later date when, presumably, Riley’s mother died while on a mountain. It’s all a little abstract, and only so much of what happened to Riley and her mother is revealed, but it does cement BPO as a substantial threat whose power seems far-reaching.

More interestingly, Yrsa reacts to the knowledge that Will is talking to Jonas. Yrsa pulls Riley away from the visitation, telling her that she can’t trust Jonas. She says that him and Angel work for BPO, that they give birth to clusters in order to help BPO track more sensates down. It’s a compelling twist, but one that doesn’t have any immediate implications. We’ll have to wait and see what truth is revealed in the season’s final three episodes.

NEXT: What we work for and what we live for[pagebreak]

The visit that Nomi and Lito have is much more compelling because it doesn’t feel like exposition meant to update the audience on the history of BPO, but rather just another one of those great character-driven moments that Sense8 seems to excel at. Reeling from his breakup, Lito heads to the Diego Rivera Museum, the site of his and Hernando’s first date.

There, along with Nomi, he reminisces about the connection they shared and the religious experience he had when he first got sexually involved with Hernando in the museum’s bathroom. Tears well up in his eyes as he realizes that that was his true self and that he’s been denying it for so long, putting his career before his life.

Nomi tells him the same. She recounts a horrifying story of bullying and not being comfortable in her own skin. She talks about how she hated showering in the boy’s locker room, and how one day a group of kids held her under hot running water, the second degree burns still on her skin to this day.

Lito screams and calls the kids monsters, Nomi’s past pain mixing with Lito’s current. The camera patiently glides back and forth between Nomi and Lito, suggesting that they share similar experiences and perspectives. Lito has never felt more alone in his life, more like a fraud and a liar, but at least Nomi is there to comfort him. The two share a bond beyond being sensates, and it’s beautiful to watch.

And yet Lito ends the episode with a gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger, only to find out it’s a fake gun, a prop lighter. There’s still hope that he will pull out of his tailspin and find his way back to Hernando, perhaps correcting his personal failure from before and helping Daniela escape from Joaquin. Until then though, he’s left with remorse and regret.

What’s wonderful about that conversation between Lito and Nomi, and the subsequent one between Riley and Capheus, where it’s revealed that Riley had a husband and a baby who died in Iceland before she ever left and Capheus’ mom gave his younger sister to a group of nuns, is that it continues to push a positive worldview.

There’s no cynicism in these conversations, no irony and scolding. Rather, each conversation is filled with empathy and understanding. The fact that the sensates are “superhuman” brings an intriguing thematic idea to light. The show seems to suggest that in our current culture, you have to be superhuman to be truly empathetic and understanding.

That doesn’t mean Sense8 is saying we’re all doomed because humans can’t be empathetic, but rather that we live in an age of cynicism and oppression, where knee-jerk reactions and selfishness is promoted. We live in an age where we’re told to only care about ourselves, that we can’t rely on anybody for anything.

Through conversations of life and death, faith and science, and love and lust, Sense8 says that we need true compassion and connection more than ever. We need people, interactions, experience, and representation to combat that pervasive cynicism. A world of individuals, no matter how many of them, is a lonely place to be. But a cluster or people who truly understand us, no matter our race, religion, or sexual identity? That sounds like home.

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