Sense8 S02E02: Who Am I?
Directors: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
Writers: J. Michael Straczynski, Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
Starring: Doona Bae, Jamie Clayton, Miguel Ángel Silvestre, Max Riemelt, Tina Desai, Toby Onwumere, Tuppence Middleton, Brian J. Smith
A review by Samantha Pearson
Sense8 is back! Hell yes! The full second season is streaming on Netflix now, including the two-hour holiday special released in December. Rather than rehashing the special (which was amazing, and double the length of a normal episode!), I opted to dive right into episode two, titled Who Am I?
Last time we saw our favorite cluster of homo sensorium, the sensates were doing everything in their power to hide from Whispers, a government-backed sensate who’s turned against his own kind and now hunts them down. In the meantime, the cluster were all dealing with the fallout from season one, and from what happened over the holidays.
At the start of this episode, Lito attends a movie premiere with Hernando for the first time and finds that the red carpet is significantly less packed than before he was outed to the press. He is accosted by a reporter about “lying to his fans” and answers her with aplomb, his words mirroring those of Capheus as he is similarly accosted by a reporter for idolizing a white man.
Though it’s one of Lito’s only scenes, it stands out for two reasons. Miguel Ángel Silvestre’s performance is incredibly nuanced, something that also stood out in the first season. Silvestre does a great job at playing out the conflict between Lito’s career and personal life, which came to a head in the holiday special. His body language and expressions are subtle but powerful, especially once the other sensates get involved and he has backup from his cluster as well as his family. His performance always blows me away.
Seeing Capheus (Toby Onwumere) tackle the issue of race in this same scene shines light on the myriad social issues that are at the forefront of Sense8. I was, admittedly, nervous about the recasting of Capheus, but Onwumere won me over in the holiday special and continues to shine in Who Am I?. I anticipate seeing where he goes this season and how this first scene sets up his arc.
In a familiar move, Who Am I? introduces us to the current whereabouts of each sensate during this exchange between Lito, Capheus, and their respective reporters. We see Wolfgang (and his friend Felix) at a mob-controlled club, Kala showing her family around her beautiful new home, Sun in prison, Nomi (and Amanita) interviewing college professors for more information about Whispers’ identity, and Will and Riley hiding out in a new place while he tries to simultaneously hide from Whispers and track him down.
The scene also serves as a “previously on” sequence and reveals the bigger meaning behind the episode title. Who Am I? seems like such an innocuous question, but it’s incredibly layered for the characters of Sense8. Their individual lives and experiences meld together every time they need each other, and those experiences all inform each other. It’s a unique TV experience as a viewer, because the characters are literally telepathically connected. As is pointed out in the episode, there’s no lying in a connection like that.
Who Am I? is a wild ride, as full of tension as the season one finale and the holiday special. The focus is on finding Whispers, which means much of the episode centers around Will and Riley — but also Kala, who’s pharmaceutical knowledge allows her to help him dope up “safely”. We see a lot of Nomi and Amanita as well, because they’re running around the country trying to find out as much about Whispers as they can.
Aside from the first few scenes, we don’t see much of Lito or Capheus. We also don’t see much of Sun or Wolfgang, though there is a touching scene with them at the zoo. And all of the sensates come together at the end to help Will, in what was the most heart-stopping scene of the episode.
Despite not seeing all of my faves (which is hard, on a show that has eight main characters and only an hour per episode), I was so drawn into the tension between Will and Whispers that I hardly noticed. The push-and-pull between hiding from him and hunting him is fascinating, because the cluster — though incredibly smart individually and damn-near unstoppable as a unit — don’t have nearly as many resources as Whispers.
That’s a point Whispers makes over and over, reminding Will (and the others) that he’s always going to be one step closer to finding them than they’ll be to finding him.
At least, he thinks so.
Brian J. Smith’s performance as Will has amped up tenfold since season one. He’s been given significantly more material, now that he and Riley (Tuppence Middleton) are in the same physical space, which is awesome. Smith plays a reluctant addict well, digging deep into Will’s motivations for going after Whispers and giving everything that’s happening a full range of emotion. There’s desperation, horror, and an ever-present anger that undercuts everything else he does so that by the time Where Am I? concludes, it’s evident that Will is going to tear Whispers apart. No matter what it takes.
This episode brought to light more information about Will’s past, which was unexpectedly fascinating, and also introduced significantly more information about Whispers. When the academic approach doesn’t work, Nomi and Amanita interview someone outside of the university setting, and it becomes rapidly clear that Will doesn’t just want Whispers because he’s after Riley and the rest of the cluster. He wants Whispers because the man has been just around the corner for Will’s whole life, picking off other sensates for years.
The information isn’t shocking, because the audience knows Whispers has been hunting sensates since before the current cluster was born, but it is shocking to realize just how close he’s been to the current sensates since well before they were reborn. I’m fascinated by the turns this series has taken and cannot wait to see how the rest of the season unfolds.
Diving into Who Am I? after so many months of anticipation felt amazing. The incredible locations from the first season have been expanded in this episode, with sets and cinematography that literally make the actors look like they’re glowing in some scenes. It’s this lighting and framing that makes Sense8 so visually beautiful, and it made me feel warm all over to see that it hadn’t changed, even as the stakes have increased and the pacing has increased in tandem.
I’m committed to watching one episode of Sense8 per week and recapping/reviewing accordingly, because I watched the whole first season in a day and then pined for it the whole time it was gone. Doing things this way will give me something to look forward to each week, but after the last scene in Who Am I? — it’s going to be tough.
WATCH SENSE8! Start with season one if you haven’t seen it yet, then dive right into season two now that it’s available on Netflix. I fully encourage you to watch the entire show; I’m dragging it out, not because I don’t love it, but because I love it too much! This series is beautifully made and incredibly well-acted. It’s got a super diverse cast and tension-packed plots that make every episode into a rush of feeling.
Who Am I? felt like diving back into the show after a year without it, no holds barred, and I loved it. I highly encourage everyone to support and watch Sense8!