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From the Heart

8 May, 2017 (23:39) | Sense8 | By: Ian Burdon

Sense8 season 2 poster

Sense8 Season 2

This is my second attempt at thoughts on Sense8 season 2. My first was written after I binge-watched the new season on 5 May; this is (re-)written after a second viewing of the complete season.

I make no attempt to avoid spoilers, so if you haven’t yet watched season 2, but plan to, go and make up your own mind first.

You can find my earlier posts via the Sense8 tag above or in the right hand column.

When Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released, I put on my 3d-specs and went into the cinema with mental fingers crossed, a voice in my head saying Please, please don’t fuck this up. And they didn’t. So, knowing that, I could watch it again and soak in the detail.

It was the same with Sense8; I connected with season 1 so much (and increasingly after repeated watching) that I was nervous season 2 would go haywire. I’m delighted to dispel that immediately; season 2 is fantastic. I liked it on my first watch, I really liked it on my second watch.

We are straight into both the characters’ stories and the overall arc. The techno-babble hand waving about the underlying McGuffin move forward, without ever dominating.The characters are now more comfortable with the link they share and with visiting each other, and are beginning to let their significant non-sensate others know what’s going on.

And it looks gorgeous: it seems redundant to draw attention to it, but I appreciate that every scene is beautifully framed, properly lit and exposed, and dynamic. Likewise the soundscape. I watched on my laptop with headphones and it all slotted together beautifully.

Reflecting, one of the things I most like about season 1, and why I think the show hit such a sweet spot with me, was that the underlying metaphor was played out in the character interactions in a pure ‘show, don’t tell’ way. There was relatively little direct exposition and most of that came from Jonas who, we now know, is a less-than-reliable narrator. When you add in the McGuffin–homo sensorium, epigenetic factors triggering a latent pre-disposition, etc–what one is dealing with is definitely science fiction, but closer to literary SF in its treatment of the material, notwithstanding the (excellent) action sequences.

Also, and this is a relatively recent understanding that made me slap my forehead with my palm that it hadn’t crystalised for me before, at the core of the show is a set of very powerful love stories–Riley and Will, Nomi and Amanita (can’t wait to see when Nomi and Amanita’s parents meet at the wedding…), Lito, Hernando and Dani, and Kala and Wolfgang. What just crystalised for me is that the love is never put in peril. There is a tired, lazy trope, that introduces the peril into a drama by undermining the roots of love; in Sense8 the characters are tested, severely, but it is more often than not the bonds of love that sustain them through the trials.

So Sense8 season 2: fantastic, and about the only thing on TV that puts pressure behind these old eyes one second and a great big grin on my face the next.

Some random thoughts I jotted down on my second viewing. A couple are niggles, but not important ones.

  1. There isn’t a lot of sex in season 2. Despite received wisdom, there isn’t that much sex in Sense8 as a whole, it’s just that it’s memorable when it does happen. More often than not, Wolfie’s hook-ups excepted, the sex is relationship driven; it’s erotic and celebratory rather than pornographic and exploitative.
  2. Professor Kolovi talks in his lecture about Homo Sapiens wiping out neanderthal and denisovian man. AFAIK, the most recent genetic evidence is of extensive interbreeding.
  3. An organisation with BPO’s resources not tracking Riley’s dad when he leaves Iceland? Not entirely plausible.
  4. What’s so special about Sarah Patrell?
  5. “Dr Mathieson” and the Chicago Group: dodgy photoshop on the group pic.!
  6. Global interconnectedness of finance/money-laundering: season 1 theme ticking along and an echo of the sensate state.
  7. McGuffin: genetic disposition triggered by as yet unspecified epigenetic factors.
  8. “Hope is undiscovered disappointment”. That’s bleak.
  9. Neat tip of the hat to V for Vendetta and Jupiter Ascending.
  10. Use of 4-Non-Blondes links to a defining and iconic moment in S01E04 when the cluster first realises its potential. It’s reappearance here is no accident.
  11. Sylvester McCoy chugging blockers with Irn Bru! When I heard he’d been cast, I hoped Sylvester might dial back the brogue a bit, but he dialled it up to 11 and risked being a caricature in service of the plot rather than a rounded character. I thought it worked better the second time I watched it. However, while I accept the possibilities of stovies, mushy peas aren’t that common in Scotland being more of an English thing (alas). Deep-fried Mars Bars are a joke for tourists that’s gone too far 🙂
  12. Croome said everything began to go out of control after 9/11; Hoy says he’s been hiding for 30 years, ie since the mid-eighties.
  13. The ‘immigrant food’ conversation could as easily have been overheard on the Babylon 5 Zocolo.
  14. Croome’s death follows the cluster giving his name to Jonas.
  15. Ajay Kapoor’s business in Seoul–with the Baks?
  16. Visit on flight from Bhodi; who is she? what is being set up here for later seasons?
  17. Bug “pregnant pause-y”; this formulation (adjectival? adverbial?) could be lifted straight from Buffy-speak (You’re all bad-mood-y)
  18. Burt Lancaster, described by Hernando as ‘heteronormative’; er…
  19. Rajan’s call to ‘old client in America’; Who?
  20. “Lito, you’re crying snot.”
  21. Who is it who manifests to warn Puck? And why is he so startled to see her?
  22. Any sensate can give birth to a new cluster at any time. Hmmm.
  23. Jonas has no scar on his forehead at the end of the final episode; therefore the earlier scene of the start of his operation was a deliberate and elaborate fake designed specifically to mislead. What deeper game is Jonas playing by enabling Whispers? Yrsa aluded to this in S01
  24. What to do with Whispers and Jonas? Ethical dilemma. Other clusters will want to kill/rescue them.
  25. Kala’s night of mental passion with Wolfie apparently coincided with physical passion with Rajan; it would complicate matters were she to find herself pregnant with Rajan’s child.
  26. I didn’t think the appearance then disappearance of Dani’s parents and Joaquim was well handled; it seemed perfunctory.
  27. I know the show is an ensemble piece dealing with multiple story lines, and I enjoyed the Nairobi storyline, but I also think the excellent Kenyan cast have more depth to offer than they were given this season.
  28. I’m surprised Capheus didn’t follow up on the outdated pharmaceuticals dumped by Rajan.
  29. Kala’s analysis of the trading records where she discovers they’ve been falsified: Kala is a scientist and well capable of analysing complex data in her own right, but this does echo Sun’s analysis of Bak accounts early in season 1. It was unstated, but I wonder if there is an implied sensate interaction there. Sun is a lot more than just a bad-ass kick boxer.
  30. All SF depends on the willing suspension of disbelief. I’m prepared to go with the set up of this show so long as it follows the logic it has set up for itself. However a Matatu driver from Kibera obtaining a passport, and a UK Visa, which he would need, and getting through the UK Border Force at Heathrow all within 24 hours strains credulity too far 🙂

Two final things:

I noticed in season 1 that Riley’s birth as a sensate coincided with her trying DMT which seemed to accelerate her connection. I mentioned it at point 2 here. Buried in season 2 is the offhand line that ‘blockers’ inhibit entactogens and thus act as a ‘reverse DMT.’ It follows that if all the sensates everywhere, or even just the cluster, took a DMT trip at the same time, then weirdness would ensue. Goody 🙂

Secondly, this may be wishful thinking, but it seems to me that the final couple of episodes only really make sense if the writers assume, or know, the threads will be picked up in an as yet unannounced Season 3. If the fate of the show was uncertain, I’m sure this season would have had a much neater, more structured, ending than it did, rather like Babylon 5 season 4 before season 5 was confirmed..

A third binge-watch? Undoubtedly, but I’ll give it a bit of time before diving in again. Meantime, this is from the soundtrack: