Sense8 premiere recap: 'Who Am I?'
It’s been almost two years since Will, Sun, Capheus, Kala, Nomi, Lito, and Wolfgang all teamed up up to save Riley from a BPO research facility in Iceland. Two years we’ve had to wait to reconnect with these beautiful characters and the uplifting (if challenging) show that is Sense8. Sure, a Christmas special sated our hunger for a little while, but that was just a tease, an appetizer when we were looking for a full meal. Sense8 is back now, and the second season is already making sure the stakes are high.
The episode kicks off with Will having flashes where he sees Whispers running some sort of early experiment. Angelica, looking distraught, watches from the stairs as a man gets up out of a bed, seemingly under the mind control of Whispers, and slits another man’s throat. It’s gruesome, seemingly a rebuke to the idea that Whispers is trying to make people “less afraid” of their kind. The violence is a reminder that Whispers is truly a villain, and it makes the episode’s climactic final scene all the more satisfying.
Before we get to that stirring scene though, we need to catch up with each character. While Riley is still helping Will track down Whispers while trying to stay hidden — a tricky balance to pull off considering the whole mind connectivity thing — Nomi and Amanita are researching telepathy and “homo sensorium,” a branch of the human species that can communicate without language. At the same time, Lito is going through the struggles of coming out in public, Wolfgang is perhaps getting deeper into a turf war, and Kala and Sun are adapting to new lives that leave them feeling trapped in very different ways.
Lito’s brief story line here may just be the episode’s emotional highlight. After he and Dani convince Hernando to attend the movie premiere, the three show up at the red carpet and, of course, Lito is bombarded. There are two very different interactions here. On the one hand, Lito is greeted by a young fan with a gigantic heart balloon, a small but touching gesture. On the other hand, a reporter confronts Lito, wanting him to confirm that he’s gay and comment on the leaked photos that show him with Hernando.
That reporter ends up really pushing Lito, accusing him of lying to his fans while saying she’s just trying to understand who he is. It’s in that moment that a beautiful thing happens. Nomi jumps in and says that “labels are the opposite of understanding,” and from there Lito, Nomi, Capheus, and really all the sensates team up to deliver their inspiring message. They muse on identity and fantasy and suggest that one’s identity and sense of self can’t be summed up in a word. Homosexual or heterosexual or any other term can’t encompass one’s dreams, goals, desires, and flaws. There’s too much individual human experience there.
The speech leaves two reporters shook — the one questioning Lito and the other pushing Capheus on his love for the “white savior” narrative in Van Damme movies — and it’s a moment that embodies the strengths of Sense8. Yes, the speech is very on the nose, as the show has a tendency to lay out its themes rather bluntly. But in no way does that dull the genuine emotional impact. That moment lands, and then the episode builds from there, pulling in various story lines about humanity, evolution, identity, and what it means to be human, in all its messy glory.
If there’s one disappointing thing about the season premiere of Sense8, it’s that it’s not particularly action packed. The plot just kind of meanders as we spend our time checking in on each character and getting a sense of what their life is like post-Iceland. That doesn’t make for a bad episode by any means, but it’s also not the peak version of the show.
With no real action, the episode has plenty of time for more meditative moments. For instance, Capheus has a lovely scene halfway through the episode, after his stirring speech about humanity has landed him a date with the reporter who was grilling him about Van Damme. Their intimate conversation sees Capheus taking the optimistic view of humanity versus Zakia’s more cynical view. She says she’s been hardened by what she’s seen in the world; Capheus believes that while social progress remains slow, it is still happening, and that it’s something to be grateful for.
Riley also shares a sweet moment with her father in Amsterdam. After it’s revealed that Whispers has been purposely misleading Will with fake clues as to his whereabouts, Riley sets out to get supplies from her father. That’s when we get yet another reveal: In turn, Riley and Will have been tricking Whispers. While Whispers is convinced he can hear the birds that tell him they’re still in Iceland, it turns out that it’s just an audio recording meant to throw him off their scent. In fact, Riley and Will are in Amsterdam, surviving on the food and medicine that Riley’s father brings in every now and again. I love watching Riley and her father interact, as they share a special bond that’s supportive and loving.
If there’s a more structured plot here, it’s the search for Whispers. Will knows he’s close, and the sensates get even closer when Nomi and Amanita visit the mother of the young girl who disappeared when Will was young, the one whose case his father took on. He’s always been able to see the young girl, Sarah; this meeting, years later, confirms that some of the BPO folks visited her. In fact, the sensates’ search for a “Dr. Matheson” leads them directly to Sarah. “Dr. Matheson” apparently tutored Sarah, as she was a gifted student. When Nomi and Amanita show the mother pictures though, it becomes clear something is very wrong. The man she identifies as “Dr. Matheson”? It’s Whispers.
That leads to the climactic, oh-so-satisfying final scene. The whole sensate team descends on Whispers, who is answering to his boss at BPO, a man named Croome. Whsipers is taken aback. He can’t believe they actually managed to track him down. He tries to hurry out of the office, but Will stops him. He gets right in his face and lays it all out: “We’re coming for you.” The hunt is on in season 2, and the stakes are already high.