Content warning for all the sads, plus homophobic language/violence. Riley meets another, older sensate, Lito falls apart after his breakup with Hernando. Wolfgang’s violent, criminal uncle stalks and threatens him. Kala copes with her future father-in-law’s attack. Nomi returns home. Sun’s father visits her in prison. Capheus comforts Riley.
Riley’s complicated relationship with the Icelandic Sensate is straight out of a fairy tale. Yrsa is an older sensate who works for BPO, the mysterious organization hell bent on removing Nomi’s brain from her head by any means necessary. This is the first time the audience is shown a sensate that is not related to the main cluster and the amount of exposition in this encounter is almost indigestible.
For most of Riley’s childhood, she believed that the voice she heard was an elf and not a cruel woman with telepathic powers. Although Yrsa claims that she was only watching out for Riley’s well-being, she also delivers a weird, suspicious warning about Jonas and about falling in love with another sensate, something that Yrsa claims is the worst form of narcissism.
Yrsa deeply damaged Riley and is almost directly responsible for the painful burden of guilt and sadness that Riley carries. In evil-stepmother fashion, Yrsa repeatedly told Riley that she was hexed and that she needed to leave her family. But Yrsa also rescued Riley when she was lost on an icy mountaintop. We still don’t know all of Riley’s backstory, but we are shown enough through flashbacks and in a revealing conversation with Capheus to know that Riley has suffered enormous personal loss and is still grieving. Riley sometimes appears to be the most fragile of the sensates, and it’s to the show’s credit that she’s allowed to be. A character that has suffered the trauma implied in this episode would be flimsy and poorly written if she was not allowed to be sad and complex.
FEMINIST MOMENT THAT MAKES THE EPISODE
Lito’s post-breakup meltdown is spectacular. When was the last time TV depicted a weeping dude eating ice cream in an empty bathtub while repeat drunk dialling his ex? Never, that’s when. Lito’s melodramatic behaviour is usually reserved for female characters, not for masculine, charming, leading men. Sense8 cleverly plays with gender stereotypes, like when Lito experienced Sun’s period (episode five, “Art is Like Religion“).
Nomi and Lito share their first conversation and it’s intimate, heartbreaking and crucial. When Nomi asks what went wrong between Lito and his boyfriend, Lito responds: “I play heroes all the time but in real life, I’m a coward.” Lito is afraid of coming out because he doesn’t want to lose his career. Nomi empathizes but says, “there’s a huge difference between what we work for and what we live for.”
He describes his first date with Hernando at the Diego Rivera Museum: “I went to my knees. I took him into my mouth like I was taking Holy Communion.” This description is just, like, whoa and also, no wonder Lito is so heartbroken. How rare is a sexual experience that is so intense it feels religious?
“My whole life all I’ve wanted to be an actor,” he says with tears in his eyes, “but you can’t be an actor and get the parts I want and be gay.”
Nomi shares an utterly horrific childhood memory with Lito. She was forced to join a swim team by her father in the hopes that it would get her away from playing with dolls. He told her that everything that made him the man he is today he learned in the swim club locker room. She hated the team and the locker room and was subjected to bullying torment so vile it left the scars of second-degree burns on her body.
“That locker room might have made my father the man he is, but it also made me the woman that I am.” Realizing that she was never going to be like her tormentors, nor did she want to be, she gave up trying to fit in.
“Their violence was petty and ignorant,” she says, “but ultimately it was true to who they were. The real violence, the violence that I realized was unforgivable, is the violence that we do to ourselves when we’re too afraid to be who we really are.”
In a few short scenes, these two queer characters discuss the dangers of coming out, the very real danger of trans*- and homophobia and the necessity of personal integrity. It’s a gorgeous, necessary dialogue that is impossible to watch without tearing up.
Nomi and Amanita eating cookie rings off each other’s fingers in bed is everything.
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Sun (Bae Doona), Seoul
Lito (Miguel Angel Silvestre), Mexico City
Riley (Tuppence Middleton), London
Nomi (Jamie Clayton), San Francisco
Capheus (Ami Ameen), Nairobi
Kala (Tina Desai), Mumbai
Wolfgang (Max Riemelt), Berlin
Will (Brian J. Smith), Chicago
Felix (Max Mauff)
Jela (Paul Ogola)
Gunnar (Kristján Kristjánsson)
Amanita (Freema Agyeman)
Hernando (Alfonso Herrera)
Daniela (Eréndira Ibarra)