And now we have our villain.
Sense8 gave us this mysterious figure at the beginning of the season, a faintly Germanic gent who tried to convince Angelica, the birth mother of this new cluster of sensates, to not take her own life. We just didn’t know how he tied in with all of this.
That mystery, at least, is over as we learned that you can call him Dr. Jacobson or you can call him Whispers. He works for a scary-sounding company called The Biologic Preservation Organization that aims to develop “positive and consequential mutations.” So not only do we have a villain, but he’s a mad scientist doing some evil X-Men-style shit.
Unfortunately for the sensates, he’s closing in on them. Taking control of a catatonic patient, he guns down Dr. Metzger, the weedy surgeon that was about to turn Nomi into a vegetable. The next day, he arrives at Amanita’s home, looking to nab Nomi and looking as sinister as can be. He’s like a mixture of The Smoking Man from The X-Files and the Nazi dentist who tortures Dustin Hoffman in Marathon Man. I’m sure Terrence Mann is a fine character actor, but his face in this show just oozes pure malice.
At this point, that’s all the information we really have about the larger forces that have brought these eight people together. And really it’s only Nomi and Will who are doing any of the digging, as the rest of the cluster has their own drama to contend with. Kala was wrestling with her emotions for Wolfgang, but now has to deal with her future father-in-law getting stabbed to death by a crazy gang of devout Hindus. Wolfgang, on the other hand, is sitting in a hospital looking after Felix after his buddy took a shotgun blast to the guts. An attempted murder administered by the rival crime gang.
For Capheus, he finally wised up to the fact that his association with the crime kingpin Kabata will only earn him an early death. But when he tries to break off his arrangement, a rival gang bursts into his mother’s home and demands that he deliver Kabata’s daughter to them. Lito’s problems, in comparison don’t seem that terrible, even if his choices might have led to Daniela returning to an abusive relationship. Hard as it was to watch, Hernando was right to break up with him. Lito should not put his reputation as an actor above the safety of their friend, even if it means coming out to the world.
By this token, Sun has it easy. That is, as easy as someone beating up a load of angry inmates and landing in solitary confinement can have it. That’s prison life for you, though. You try to maintain some semblance of your own humanity but the other prisoners want to keep you from it. You’d slap them down too. Really the only main character that is in some kind of calm state is Riley. She’s returned to Iceland to be there for her father’s piano recital and is settling back in, even as she tries to push aside her worries that something bad is going to happen. Thankfully, Will is there to help cheer her up. The two get closer than ever, as well, having a cross-continent make-out session that only has to stop when Will’s police partner drops in and finds his buddy smooching the air.
It’s worth noting that the directors of these two episodes—James McTeigue and Dan Glass—moved the action along at a much faster pace. They cut back and forth between the various worlds of the sensates in manner that felt much quicker than in the previous six installments. That served at least the big moment when Whispers arrives on Amanita’s doorstep and Nomi has to make a dramatic escape that involves her linking up with Will, Sun, and Capheus. And both directors knew when to slow down during the pleasant “getting to know you” scenes between Will and Riley, and Wolfgang and Kala. The feel that charged the rest of these two hours was one that we were being hurtled toward a few denouements that will settle the accounts for a number of characters, while revealing just enough to get us desperate for Season Two.
I’m also enjoying how much more blatant the show is with its feminist intent with these two hours. The Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski (I didn’t forget you this time) are revealing a lot of the disappointing sexual politics of the world, and creating female characters that push back against the norms. The women that Sun bunks with in prison are all there for murdering abusive men in their lives. The toughest hackers in San Francisco for a few days were Nomi and Amanita. And in a flashback, we see Capheus’s mother taking a stand and cursing the tribal system in Kenya as she protects her child from ostracization.
That has me excited for what’s in store for Kala and Riley. The former may be devastated by watching her future father-in-law get killed, but it was leading her to a path of independence. Maybe then she doesn’t have to quit her pharmaceutical job to help be the broodmare for her husband. Riley has yet to unveil her true strengths yet… other than being able to rock a party with her DJ skills. Sense8 is setting a great precedent for the many women within its borders, so it seems only a matter of time before she breaks out of this cocoon she’s wrapped tightly in and takes off in a big way. If not, I guess she’ll just stick around to show us how two sensates have sex when they’re not even in the same country.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.