Saturday, May 13, 2017

Sense8, Season Two, Episode Nine: What Family Actually Means

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This is a rough episode for out merry band of homo sensoriums.  As much as BPO is a threat, real world issues take precedence.  Lito's career continues to be a concern, Nomi has a speech to give, Kala is once again feeling closed in by the narrow life marriage to Rajan presents and Will experiences a loss that breaks his heart. 

After some research, Riley and Diego figure out that the woman who gave up Whispers is named Carol Cumberland.  With few leads, they decide to check out Carol's house. When Riley and Diego don't get an answer at the front door, they go around back and Will breaks a window so that they can get in. Diego snarks about doing a BE while being a cop. There's still food on the table and it looks like someone left in the middle of a meal.  Riley and Diego head into the basement where they find a lab and a hidden room. This is where Raoul was taken to be experimented on. It's suitably creepy and sad to think that this is where Raoul ended up. In flashes, we see Carol getting a visit from Jonas.  When Riley and Diego head upstairs, they find Carol floating in the tub having died from slitting her wrist. Was it Jonas who whispered in Carol's ear this time? 

The speech cannot be avoided any further, if Nomi wants to be a part of her sister Tegan's wedding, she has to face her family at the rehearsal dinner. Nomi's parents clearly aren't pleased that she even attended and Janet, Nomi's mother, snarks that Nomi should have the grace to leave with one of her headaches.  This is just the challenge that Nomi needs to find the courage to give a speech. Nomi's speech is far more about her than it is about her sister Tegan. Nomi talks about forging her mother's signature to get her gender reassignment surgery and how Tegan learned about it and though the siblings argued, Tegan didn't rat her out. When Nomi awoke after the surgery, the first face that she saw smiling at her was Tegan's. Nomi talks about Tegan's kindness but she also brings up how her parents wanted her to be more like Tegan and less difficult. In the end, Nomi does get around to wishing the couple happiness and threatening to hurt her future brother in-law, courtesy of Wolfie if he breaks Tegan's heart. 

The next day is the wedding and Nomi arrives just on time and is trailed by Bug and Amanita. Bug actually cleans up pretty well.  As they walk down the aisle, the groomsman that Nomi is pared with cannot resist being a transphobic asshole and commenting that Nomi has nice breasts for a man. Cue the arrival of Sun, who asks Nomi if she wants to hurt the guy. When Nomi says yes, Sun twists the asshole's finger. I so approve of that.  The wedding is just about to start when Agent Bendix storms into the church. He's waited a long time but he thinks that he's finally got Nomi cornered.  Agent Bendix announces that he is taking Nomi into custody in front of a shocked audience.  

No one is more stunned than Amanita and Bugs, who know that this should not be happening because of the e-death.  It takes a moment but Amanita realises that Bendix still there because he didn't check on his warrant first. Bugs and Amanita rush down the isle and Amanita declares that Bendix is only there to gratify his male ego. When Bendix threatens to take in Amanita as well, she demands to see a warrant.  Bendix pulls out his phone and of course he cannot find a warrant because one no longer exists.  Bendix is certain that since Nomi is a hacker that she must have done something but he can no longer prove it. Nomi's father demands that Bendix unhand his daughter and threatens that if he does not, he'll have to deal with the full weight of his law firm. A frustrated Bendix is forced to give up and leave.  Amanita checks in on Nomi, who is clearly flustered and Nomi explains that she's emotional because this is the first time that her father has called her his daughter. 

Kala is shopping for a gift for a pregnant friend with her mother. Kala is not pleased that this is her friend's third pregnancy. Kala is not impressed that her friend left her job to change diapers and questions what the point was of her friend getting an education. Priya however believes that the young couple is just doing what comes naturally and that making a family is the most natural thing in the world. Kala is quick to retort that cancer is also natural. This is one of he most explicitly feminist scenes in Sense8 thus far and I love that it's Kala's scene. 

Later, at home, Ajay, Rajan's friend drops by with a gift for the newlyweds.  Kala invites him up but it's clear that she has some reservation about doing so. Ajay tells Kala to wait until Rajan gets home to open the gift because it's something they should share together. At this point, my brain is screaming that this is a bomb because Ajay sets by spidey senses tingling. Kala fiddles with the present but she doesn't open it. 

Lito is at home and he's still deep in depression. Lito is lying in bed watching The Graduate (great flick btw), when Hernando enters the room with a peace offering of berries and coffee. Hernando has finally clued into just how much Lito is hurting and he says that he wants Lito to know that he's not alone and that he's loved. Daniela The Fetishist calls out in an excited voice from the other room that she's found the perfect script for Lito.  The only problem is that it's a Hollywood movie and both Lito and Hernando feel that it would be better suited for Javier Bardem, even though it has a gay male lead. Lito also points out that since he no longer has an agent that he's got no way to arrange an audition.

Daniela The Fetishist goes into overdrive and gets Hernando to set the timer for 58 minutes. Daniela The Fetishist grabs two phones and taking on the identity of Daniela Velasquez, of the Velasquez Talent Agency, cons an assistant producer and a reporter from Variety into getting Lito an audition for the lead. It's the first time we've seen Daniela The Fetishist in action and she's clearly very good at what she does.  Before you know it, Daniela The Fetishist has arranged for three first class tickets to California and informs Lito that all she wants in return is for him to do his best at the audition. 

At the station, Diego gets word that Michael, Will's father is dying. Will is in Europe so the only way to be there is to visit with Riley but this means that Michael won't be able to see him. When Riley and Diego enter Michael's room, Michael's friends aren't impressed to see her because they don't know who she is. Diego has to smooth things over to allow Riley to sit at Michael's bedside. Will calls out to his father but of course, Michael only sees Riley and not Will. We get a flashback of Will and Michael playing ball on their front lawn when Will was just a little boy.  Nearing death, Michael finally recognises Will and calls him, "my boy". It's a heartbreaking moment, especially when it's followed by Michael talking about wanting his son back. In the flashback, Michael tells young Will hat he has to go now and Will begs him to stay. In the present, Michael is dying and Will starts to cry and ask his father to stay. Michael is too far gone and he dies, leaving Will absolutely gutted. The acting in this scene is so powerful that it is just heartbreaking to watch. Brian J Smith, absolutely killed this scene because never for a moment did I doubt his pain or his grief. It made me want to reach through the screen and hug him.

What Family actually Means feels like the calm before the storm, especially because of how high action the previous episode was. In Nomi's speech the message is that though family members often disagree with each other, what matter is if they are there for each when it counts. That was the point of Nomi telling the story of her transition.  Family is meant to be the bulwark in the storm and to stand behind you, just in case you fall.  This is something that Tegan has supposedly repeatedly done for Nomi.

The concern for the Marks family is that Nomi would make Tegan's wedding all about her. In some ways, that's a reasonable response given Nomi's self involved speech. When Bendix arrives at the church, the Marks, as well as everyone in the church were ready to think the worst of Nomi but her chosen family (read: Bug and Amanita) came through for her with shining colours. The big moment came when Nomi's father referred to her as his daughter and I for one just didn't buy it. Nomi's parents have been misgendering her for years, so I don't see why Nomi being almost falsely arrested would suddenly change their position. Hell, when Janet thought that Nomi was dying last season, she still called Nomi Michael. When there's this kind of the break down in the family, no magical moment happens to fix it, it takes work and dedication and none of that happened in this scene. What happened with the Marks is a fairytale.

I really found it interesting that Tegan's wedding was juxtaposed to Kala shopping for baby items and hating it. The Marks were super entrenched in a heterosexual right of passage and then you have Kala eschewing gender roles and deciding that it's foolish for women to throw away their careers.  In some ways this felt very out of character for Kala given how traditional she has been since season one. It's clearly a result of her boundaries widening thanks to her sensorium abilities and of course, her relationship with Wolfie. As aforementioned, it's also the most explicitly feminist conversation in the show to date. I love Kala's retort about cancer being natural in response to Priya suggesting getting married and having babies is natural.  It's a reminder that what we call natural, is often times following a script or living out the expectations as others. There's a lot of social conditioning that goes into our so-called natural decisions and I am glad that Kala can see that. It feels like a lot of growth for her character.

In this episode, we once again go to see Angelica's complicity with Whispers in terms of the murder and torture of Raoul.  The sensates while not biologically related to each other, are certainly a form of family within their cluster because they are all born of the same mother or father. This ties them together in much the same way that a biological family is tied together. Will's cluster may be close and dependent upon each other but Angelica's cluster shows us that ties that bind are also capable of hurting.  Within families, people can be cruel, cold and callous and though these ties exist, they aren't necessarily the best thing for us. It's a cold but necessary lesson. 

Speaking of Angelica, I really want to know her reason for casting aside her family and actively harming them to side with Whispers. What she did to Raoul was absolutely awful and yet it's without explanation.  We've gotten a lot about the history of BPO so far and learned a few of the key movers and shakers but the motivation of the sensoriums who collaborate is largely unknown at this point. Normally, collaboration happens in the hopes of being treated differently from the rest of the out group but I don't think that's the case with Whispers and Angelica.