Friday, May 5, 2017

Courage And Control Dominate Sense8 Season 2!

The Good: Good performances, Interesting characters
The Bad: Weaker plot and pacing
The Basics: Sense8 returns and unravels more of the world where eight individuals are able to share experiences and bodies and are on the run from a sinister corporation.

There are few shows I have been anticipating the return of like Sense8. When it first aired, I feel in love with the first season of Sense8 (reviewed here!) for its complexity and its strong beginning of a character-driven story. Given where the first season ended, Sense8 had a lot of potential difficulty with sustaining that narrative, which was a theory very clearly revealed when Sense8 released its second season premiere (reviewed here!) at Christmastime. Where the first season of Sense8 was preoccupied with stating the premise of the show - that there exists alongside homo sapiens a virtually identical species who has the ability to share minds, memories, experiences and swap bodies psychically - the second season of Sense8 is remarkably simple.

Sense8 Season 2 is largely a hunt for the characters who are intimately aware of B.P.O. and the characters who are farther away struggling to find their courage to rise up in their own personal conflicts. The result is a season where characters work toward resolution with the aspects of their lives from before they learned they were sensates split with characters desperately trying to hunt their hunters and understand the nature of the organization that is hunting the sensates.

And the second season of Sense8 eases into being complex and smart the way the first season was, but it takes a while to get there. For those who loved the first season of Sense8, the change in tone in the second season is noticeable. The second season of Sense8 trades the sex and nudity for more graphic violence, which is disappointing (for such an international show, it seems like a very American sell-out). On the plus side, the episodes feature a great deal of social commentary, though many of the most politically-astute lines are also the most clumsy - sounding like random social statements on gun violence, political activism, international economics, etc. But when it hits its stride, Sense8 continues to engage viewers by being smart and getting viewers to invest in all of the characters.

Opening with the sensate cluster struggling with their new realities, the hunt for Whispers and B.P.O. (the Biological Protection Organization) begins in earnest. While Lito struggles with coming out, Sun deals with being in prison, Nomi lays low, Wolfgang finds himself dealing with the gangster leaders in Berlin, Kala adapts to married life, Caphaeus rises up as a local hero and Riley keeps Will on heroin in order to keep him off Whispers's radar. Whispers and Will get into a race to discover where the other is and Riley keeps Will safe as best she can. In the process, Will is able to divine clues and tap into the B.P.O. hunters mind to win the race. With Nomi and Riley's help, Will is able to get access to the person who is pulling Whispers's strings. But when Whispers is sidelined, the danger actually escalates for the Sensates.

Wolfgang finds himself approached by a sensate from another cluster, one who works as an assassin and wants Berlin for her own purposes. Kala is promoted at work by her new husband, who expects her to fall in line with his corrupt business dealings. Capheus becomes a local hero after giving a great interview, fighting against the water rationing in his village, and is encouraged to run for public office to fight the corruption. Lito loses everything by coming out and after acting as the grand marshall in a Gay Pride Parade, he is dropped by his agents and struggles to find purpose and work again. Sun's brother puts out another hit on her life, which leads her to break out of jail and go on the run to stop him once and for all. Finding newfound life, Will begins to hunt Whispers, while Nomi is erased from public records and Riley is able to learn more about B.P.O. and its history through a mysterious new sensate. Riley discovers that B.P.O. began with far less sinister motives and she and Will begin to investigate the factions of B.P.O. But even the internal power struggle for B.P.O. is not enough to keep Will, Wolfgang, Nomi and Riley safe from the villainous company and their allied clusters!

The second season of Sense8 gets off to a much faster start than the first season, but it drags a bit more in the middle. The season more effectively uses flashbacks as Angelica's role at B.P.O. is explored more thoroughly. The mother of the cluster is seen working with Whispers in the past and the flashbacks give a sense of just how B.P.O. turned after its guiding influence was gone. The episodes also explain better how Whispers is able to use Sensates to achieve his goals.

Like the first season, the second season of Sense8 is packed with details, intended for a detail-oriented viewer. That occasionally works against the show in the second season, as moments that are build-ups to "shocks" are robbed of their intensity because of the details put into them. Most notable of these is one where Will is dreaming or in the head of an adversary and sees through his eyes the enemy's wife and child. Because the viewers have seen those characters before, the revelation of whose eyes Will is seeing through comes as far less of a shock than the music would have viewers believe.

That said, most of the important actions in the second season are driven by the characters. The key characters in the second season of Sense8 are:

Will Gorski - Disgraced as a cop for disappearing to rescue Riley from Iceland, he is kept on heroin to keep Whispers from seeing through his eyes. He uses his brief glimpses into Whispers to try to find his location and his mundane identity outside a hunter for the B.P.O. He is in love with Riley and finally gets his chance to express that in their day to day life. He gets nervous when Riley is enticed to go to Chicago . . . alone,

Riley Blue - Managing to keep Will safe by effectively disguising the location of their safe space, she soon finds herself fearless about her nature as a Sensate. But when she lures members of other clusters out into the open, she finds a mysterious new ally who knows most of B.P.O.'s checkered history. In the search for the true name of Whispers, she is able to locate leaders of the good faction in B.P.O., but in the process puts her and Will's partner at incredible risk,

Lito - Having lost everything, he becomes despondent. He and Hernando start to look for an apartment and they discover the only way they can afford their ideal one is by keeping Daniela in their lives. He takes the Grand Marshall position at the Sao Paolo Pride Parade and that brings his fans out after his latest movie flops. After getting depressed, he is rescued by an unlikely person,

Hernando - Having been loving and supportive of Lito, he falls in love with a new apartment for the pair. He consents to the move when Daniela is able to help the pair with rent. His compassion is balanced with Daniela's pragmatism,

Daniela - Having to be rescued by Lito and Hernando once again - this time from both her ex-husband and her parents - she feels indebted to the couple. When Lito hits rock bottom, she tries to inspire him back into action,

Sun Bak - Acclimating surprisingly well to prison life, she survives multiple attempts on her life funded by her brother. On the run on the outside, she is pursued by a detective with whom she has a past. She continues to come to the aid of others in her cluster when they need help kicking ass, but finds herself largely on the outside as she attempts to take back her family's business empire,

Nomi Marks - Pursued with Amanita by the F.B.I., she seeks refuge with Bug on Bug's boat. As the conflict with the F.B.I. and B.P.O. escalates, Bug presents her with an incredible option, the chance to disappear completely from the internet. With their identities erased, Nomi feels free enough to attend her sister's wedding and she has to rely upon Amanita to once again save her,

Wolfgang - Now one of the most powerful people in the Berlin underground, he finds himself balancing his love for Kala and the seduction offered by a new sensate from a different cluster. But as his love for Kala finds some expression, he is able to see through his new contact's lies. The result puts him in the crosshairs of traitors to the sensates and in almost constant danger from the thugs who work for rival gangs,

Kala - Married and miserable about it, she still pines for Wolfgang. She essentially forgives Wolfgang for his violent past (distant and recent) and is willing to "cheat" with him over the great distances that separate them. She debates coming clean to her husband about her true nature, but then discovers the corrupt nature of the pharmaceutical business he runs. She uses her medical knowledge to attempt to replicate the psi blockers that Will was given by B.P.O. to protect Riley and the rest of the cluster,

Capheus - Having stood up to the gangs, he starts driving his new bus when he is approached by a reporter. When the interview he gives leads to a follow-up, that allows him to rise in action against water pirates, he gains the attention of local political organizers . . . who want him to run for President. When his mother and the gangster he once worked for fall in love and he learns the corrupt nature of the company Kala works for, he is inspire to rise against the worst elements in Nairobi,

and Whispers - Hunting Will from inside the sensate's head, he is B.P.O.'s most reliable hunter. But when Will makes a power play, he finds himself on the outs with the company. To make up for his failure, he stages a brutal series of maneuvers against his enemies, including Jonas. When Will's father's health takes a turn for the worse, he finds a new way to torment Will.

The acting and direction in the second season of Sense8 is homogeneously good. But while the characters are interesting and the performances are wonderful, hell even Andy Dick gives an uncharacteristically good performance late in the season, the second season of Sense8 fills in some gaps, but lacks the spark of the first season. The result is an eleven-episode season that continues the story of the sensates but is not the essential and original show that the first season was.

For other works from the 2016 – 2017 television season, please check out my reviews of:
Dear White People - Season 1
"Thin Ice" - Doctor Who
The Walking Dead - Season 7
Thirteen Reasons Why - Season 1
Grace And Frankie - Season 3
Iron Fist - Season 1
Love - Season 2
Santa Clarita Diet - Season 1
A Series Of Unfortunate Events - Season 1
One Day At A Time - Season 1
Travelers - Season 1
The OA - Season 1
Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life
"Invasion!" - Arrow
"Farewell, Cruel World!" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
"I Know Who You Are" - The Flash
"Aruba" - Legends Of Tomorrow
"Alex" - Supergirl
Luke Cage - Season 1
Stranger Things - Season 1


For other television and movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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