The cluster takes a break from BPO to face tragedies and triumphs at home.
After watching “All I Want Right Now Is One More Bullet,” I still couldn’t really make any sense of what happened. Fortunately, it seems Wachowski HQ knew they were throwing us for a loop with that last episode and wisely gave us “What Family Actually Means,” a sweeter, slower chapter that gave the sensates the chance to shed tears rather than spill blood. Will and Nomi, the original best bros of the series, get the most spotlight here, but there’s plenty of scene stealing to be had for Dani and Amanita.
But before we get to the weddings, deathbeds, and Hollywood deals, let’s go over the developments in the BPO storyline. Riley and Diego finally clock the identity of her mysterious Archipelago informant: Carol Cumberland. Diego — still cute and still very necessary as a balance for the seriousness of this X-Files story line — can’t help but come along with Riley to visit Carol’s house. They find a basement lab with a hidden room that would make even Harry Potter squirm for air. Apparently, Whispers and Angelica brought Raoul here for zombification, and it seems that neither she nor Carol could live with what they did. Carol takes her life (after an unexplained visit from Jonas), and Riley and Diego find her in the bathtub.
In light of the last paragraph, this may seem in bad taste, but can we talk about how good Daryl Hannah looks in actual clothes? After a season and a Christmas special spent in that raggedy nightie, Ms. Thing is back, rocking some JFK Jr.-era knitwear and a fly rose satin dress. I’ll sit through any number of grim flashbacks to see Angelica serving it as an evil ecologist.
In San Francisco, Nomi has to face her family at her sister Tegan’s rehearsal dinner. Her hilariously brittle mother suggests it would be best if Nomi “had one of your mysterious headaches and left early.” It’s on. She takes the mic and shares the story of how Tegan didn’t tell their parents about Nomi’s transition (even after Nomi forged her mother’s signature to authorize surgery) and how Tegan’s was the first face Nomi saw when she woke up from the operation. As always, Nomi tends to talk about herself a bit too much, but in the end she speaks volumes for how vital support from biological family can be to a queer person.
Of course, by the time the wedding rolls around, we know she’s not going to get this lucky twice in a row. Like clockwork, Agent Bendix waits outside the chapel, ready to pounce. Nomi walks down the aisle with a douche groomsman, who has the nerve to crack at her: “That’s a nice wrack for a dude.” Sun shows up, just when we need her, to support her sister. “Do you want me to hurt him?” And with a crack of a finger, the queer family scores another small victory.
But before the big ceremony can go off without a hitch, Bendix busts in, stops the whole show, and calls for Nomi to step down and face the law. And here’s when Freema Agyeman reminds us that she’s the best. Just as Nomi steps down to leave with Bendix, Neets and a surprisingly dapper Bug run up to the aisle to shut it down. “Good citizens of San Francisco’s upper tax bracket!” she proclaims, injecting this WASP wedding with her irresistible joie de vivre. “This man, Agent Jeffrey Bendix, has stormed into the middle of this sacred ceremony, violating this important moment for absolutely no reason than the gratification of his male ego!” Get it, lady.
Neets challenges Bendix to pull up his warrant, which, thanks to Bug and the V for Vendetta dude, doesn’t exist. And from here, we’re treated to the kind of rich reconciliation fantasy that most queer viewers would say is contrived — but that we totally cry over anyway. Nomi’s dad steps up to the agent and gives the classic shutdown: “Get your hands off my daughter.” It’s perfect, Neets is perfect, and, despite all the moralistic obstacles and awkwardness of family, love somehow does win, and not in the way any of the Marks clan expected it to.
In a delicious reversal, Kala — the show’s original paragon of propriety and heteronormative rites of passage — is kind of over it all. While buying gifts for her pregnant friend, she rants about her choice to leave her career behind to “change diapers.” “She has a husband she loves,” Kala’s mom objects, “and both of them are making a family together, which is the most natural thing in the world.”
“Let us remember that cancer’s also natural,” Kala responds, and for a few seconds there, she’s nearly unrecognizable. In terms of evolution, Kala and Capheus have changed by leaps this season, and we’ve really gotten to see Kala’s intelligence shine through as she’s finally given in to her deviance. Hopefully, this streak will only continue. Who knew that Tina Desai would be such an ace with passive aggression?
Unfortunately, she doesn’t keep her wits about her long enough to smell a trap. Ajay visits with a belated wedding present that he wants her to open when Rajan is in the room. This would be a really good time for Wolfgang to step in and tell her it’s a bomb. Maybe he should book that trip to India after all?
Capheus is also in trouble, but he at least knows it. After being trailed by goons at the market, he visits his old frenemy Silas Kabaka at his mansion. Silas drops a few revelations: There’s a growing bounty on Van Damme’s head, and Silas has eyes looking out for him. But most shocking of all? He’s planning on proposing to Capheus’ mother. Yikes.
Meanwhile, in the Mexico City sex condo, a wilted Lito watches The Graduate in the dark. Hernando enters with berries and coffee. “I just wanted you to know that I love you, and that you aren’t alone,” he says to his soulmate. I can buy the global psychic connections and government shadow organizations of this show, but I find it hard to believe that anyone could resist breakfast in bed served by Alfonso Herrera. But there’s no time for Lito to mope: Dani’s found a script that’s perfect for him. It’s called Iberian Dreams, and it’s got a gay romantic lead with Lito’s name all over it. But it’s a Hollywood film, and even Hernando agrees that Javier Bardem would be better for it. Lito doesn’t stand a chance. That is, until Dani takes over.
As much as I wish Dani would focus on her own career — and love life — I hope Eréndira Ibarra sticks around forever. “Just give me 58 minutes,” she says, matching Amanita’s high-energy confidence. She makes two phone calls to L.A. under the identity of Daniela Velasquez of the Velasquez Talent Agency. Lito and Hernando marvel as she hustles a producer’s assistant and a Variety reporter to arrange a meeting for him in Hollywood — without them even knowing it. She sweet-talks like a champ, and within minutes, they’ve got first class tickets to California. Dani assures Lito that all the reward she needs is a good performance from him, but I’d say she’s earned her ticket to the next psychic orgy.
While Nomi and Lito experience great joys with their biological and chosen families, Will has to face loss in his. Diego informs Riley that Will’s dad is dying, which means that she’ll have to act as his proxy when visiting Michael (Matrix vet Joe Pantoliano) in the hospital. Michael calls out for Will, but within moments he sees him through Riley. Brian J. Smith looks so shattered that you just want to reach into the screen and give him a hug, and when his father recognizes him with a gentle “my boy,” it’s crushing. It’s a nearly perfect scene, but I wish that we’d get to see more of Tuppence Middleton channeling Will. As the empathic source of the cluster, Riley has to bear a lot for the group, and this is perhaps her most difficult burden yet. It seemed like a missed opportunity for such a skillful actress.
And with that, it’s likely that we’ll be diving deep back into the seedy doings of BPO in the next episode. This edition wasn’t just a nice breather, but a chance for our homo sensoriums to face some very homo sapiens issues. I didn’t want this episode to end, and can only hope that we can hold on to the rich exchanges as the action ramps up.