Sense8 recap: 'Isolated Above, Connected Below'
Remember that sensate visitor Riley and Will had in the previous episode during their triumphant DJ set? He was an older man, and he seemed completely shocked by what was happening. My assumption was that he was experiencing this for the first time, but clearly I was way off base. He’s here at the beginning of “Isolated Above, Connected Below,” talking to Will and Riley as they travel on a train. He refuses to give them his name, identifying himself as “The Old Man of Hoy.” He says that he hasn’t spent 30 years free as a sensate by going around giving his real name to people. So, yeah, this wasn’t his first sensate experience, and as a stirring scene at the end of the episode proves, he’s had quite the life intertwined with clusters and BPO.
There’s a whole lot to get to before we get to that big, revealing scene at the end of the episode though. First things first: Three of the sensates are on the move. There’s Sun, leaving the home of her teacher with a promise to come back one day. It’s a sweet, heartfelt goodbye that brought tears to my eyes, and that’s not the last time I’ll get misty with this episode.
Then there’s Lito, who’s decided that he will accept the invitation to be the Grand Marshal at the Pride Parade in São Paulo. Dani and Hernando are thrilled, and they’re only more excited when Lito receives a hero’s welcome at the airport. When you make an apology omelet for your boyfriend and your live-in partner/roommate/however Dani defines her relationship with Lito and Hernando, you follow through with a trip to São Paulo to stand up for what’s right; those are just the rules.
Then there’s Nomi and Amanita, finally returning to their own apartment after the previous episode’s e-death. It’s a lovely moment for the two of them; it feels like they’ve been on the run forever, and now they get to return to the place that means so much to them. These little pieces of freedom are what keep them going in the face of such danger.
You know what else keeps them going? Lots of sex. And really, who can blame them? What’s great about Sense8 is that it has no shame about nudity and sexuality. Every scene, while perhaps over-indulgent visually and with its music cues, is a celebration of intimacy. In “Isolated Above, Connected Below,” that celebration comes in the form of a lengthy sex scene that sees Capheus and Zakia, as well as Kala and Wolfgang, spending the night together.
The next morning, Capheus finds himself overwhelmed and overjoyed by the modernity of Zakia’s home, and Wolfgang is awakened by a kiss from Rajan. Well, not an actual kiss, mind you, but such is the sensate life. There seems to be some regret on Kala’s face, but Zakia and Capheus have no such reservations. In fact, while having breakfast, Zakia dives right into chastising Capheus for not meeting with the head of the Kenyan Democratic Reform Party. She’s convinced he’d be a great leader, and I think we’d all agree that she’s not wrong.
If the goal of the DJ set was to draw out more sensates, it’s working. Not only is “Mr. Hoy” around, but Puck is getting all creepy with Riley. As with every other sensate, mind-blocking pills are popular, but nobody is willing to give up who they get their supply from. Basically, the point of all of this is to show that the sensates don’t trust each other because, more often than not, they’re either already BPO collaborators or willing to hand over some information for their own safety. The world is not a safe place for them.
But this cluster trusts each other, and they revel in that trust as they all join in with Lito at the Pride Parade. He gives an emotional speech about fear and identity and hiding behind his characters before passionately shouting out that he’s a gay man — the first time he’s ever said those words. It’s freeing; you can see the relief on his face and the love in his eyes when he pulls Hernando to his side for a kiss in front of everyone. Suddenly I’m crying again.
After the sensates return to their lives, with Sun and Riley reflecting on the party and Nomi dealing with plans for her sister’s wedding and a father who doesn’t want her there, Will has a freaky vision. He wakes up in a home with Riley and kids. It looks like domestic bliss for a moment, but it quickly shifts to reveal that this is Whispers’ house. Will sees that Whispers is placing a call to someone called “The Secretary,” and that they’re both excited about the big day ahead of them. It’s all very vague but also very ominous. “Something is about to happen. Something bad,” says Will.
From there, the episode is all about revealing a lot more information about this world, BPO, Whispers, and sensoriums. First, there’s Wolfgang helping Lila out with a hit in order to earn her trust. She’s not quite there yet, but she does reveal that many people refer to Whispers as “The Cannibal,” the theory being that he devoured his whole cluster, which could explain why he’s so powerful.
Then, in the episode’s best scene, Riley visits with Mr. Hoy, and they slowly but surely learn to trust each other. When Riley shows him where she’s living with Will, taking him out onto the roof to prove that she’s not afraid of him giving them up to BPO, he returns the favor and welcomes her into his huge home in the Highlands of Scotland.
After she’s invited in, Mr. Hoy gives her an abbreviated history of BPO. He says that in 1952, a number of government organizations held a very covert conference to debate reality. That conference gave birth to BPO, or the Biologic Preservation Organization, and he knows this because he assisted Ruth Al-Sadaawi in the founding. Ruth wasn’t a sensorium, but her twin sister was, only to be stoned to death in Egypt for witchcraft after giving birth to her cluster.
From there, Ruth became an activist, and a charter was born to protect the sensates and keep them a secret from sapiens. As Mr. Hoy puts it, “sapiens are some of our best friends,” but they define themselves by being removed from otherness. He’s seen the atrocities humans inflict on one another as soon as they find difference; imagine what they’d do to an entirely different species like the sensoriums. He also says that Ruth would be disgusted by what BPO has become.
Mr. Hoy is terrified of Whispers, but he agrees to help Riley. He uses “sensorium Google” to put out a psychic BOLO on him and quickly tracks him down. The details are hazy, but Riley says she has to go to Chicago alone. Chicago seems to be central to all of this, but how exactly? Furthermore, Nomi and Amanita track down the remains of Angelica’s cabin, and when they travel there and find the burnt ruins, Nomi is able to tap into a number of memories clustered in the area.
She sees that Angelica was clearly involved with Whispers, believing in his work, and seemingly forced Raoul to burn himself alive along with everything else in the cabin. But why? Didn’t she love Jonas? Why was she so quick to take Whispers’ side? It’s a strange, beguiling scene, but it sets up a number of narrative threads heading into the back half of this season. We’re five episodes in and plenty has happened, but it feels like season 2 of Sense8 is just getting started.