Sense8 S02E06: Isolated Above, Connected Below
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 has launched into the main plot of the season with no holds barred! Isolated Above, Connected Below is an episode that takes several turns as it introduces us to members from other clusters. All of them connected with Riley at her DJ set in the previous episode.
The characters go through huge shifts in Isolated Above, Connected Below — emotionally as well as geographically. As some members of the cluster become more comfortable, others become less. There’s an overarching theme of Big Change with each of them, which is more terrifying in some instances than others.
One thing remains the same. No matter what happens, these homo sensorium are as prepared to celebrate each other’s successes as they are to fight off the evil corporation BPO. Whispers wants them dead. And their cluster mother’s history with him seems to play a big part in that.
The cluster’s decision to stop hiding in Fear Never Fixed Anything is immediately impactful in Isolated Above, Connected Below. Will and Riley are once again on the run, only this time they’re equipped with blockers rather than heroin to keep Whispers off their trail. Sun leaves her mentor’s house (which is especially devastating because she has to leave her dog again). Lito decides to dive into life as an out gay actor by taking the offer to Grand Marshall at Sao Paulo’s Pride parade. Post-“e-death”, Nomi and Amanita return home.
Meanwhile, Capheus asks out the pansexual journalist who questioned his hero worship of Van Damme in S02E02. In the same scene sequence, Kala and Wolfgang finally have sex. The sequence is really sensual, and calls to mind the infamous cluster orgies from season one and the Christmas special. Lamb’s “Wise Enough” provides the soundtrack.
The Wolfgang and Kala scene is intercut with Capheus and Zakia. Both relationships deal with the concern that the participants live in completely different worlds, which creates a nice parallel. Dialogue in the Capheus and Zakia scene narrates the overall arc of the Kala and Wolfgang relationship. Once again, the audience is reminded that the cluster is connected all the time, even when we don’t see it.
The lighting in this scene is really cool. We see Kala and Wolfgang in both moonlight and sunlight, cool tones and warm tones. The lighting changes remind the audience that although Kala and Wolfgang are together, they’re still not in each others’ physical presence. They also underscore the emotional state of the moment. Kala choosing to give into her feelings for Wolfgang is a decision that is both positive and negative, for both parties.
Kala choosing to sleep with Wolfgang comes after significant emotional turmoil. It seems impossible for them to have a future together because of her marriage, his violence, their physical distance, and their backgrounds. In this moment, she chooses to forget all of that. The water imagery of the scene suggests that this decision is a sort of rebirth for her.
While Capheus doesn’t experience a rebirth in his love scene with Zakia, he is forced to confront the fact that she has more privilege. Zakia wants to inspire Capheus to use his influence to get into politics, which he’s hesitant to do because of his family history. He also doesn’t seem to believe he has the power to invoke real change, an assumption Zakia is keen to correct.
Dropping these love scenes so soon into Isolated Above, Connected Below seems to serve a few purposes. It shines light on the issue of “being from different worlds” that plagues the main cluster, especially as they start to interact with other homo sensorium. It also builds on the idea of risk-taking that the cluster agreed to in Fear Never Fixed Anything. Lastly, it establishes major character growth for Kala and Capheus, as well as Wolfgang. This growth will surely have a larger impact on the story moving forward.
Thus far, only Wolfgang has interacted with a member from another cluster in any meaningful way. Lila Facchini is a typical “Bad Girl”. It’s fairly clear that her intentions aren’t good, especially because she all but admits to Wolfgang that she works with BPO for her own safety. Riley’s interactions with other homo sensorium are significantly different. She knows one of them, for starters, which is awkward. He tells her to assume that every sensate she meets is a BPO collaborator, which is what the audience has come to expect based on Lila. Even Angelica, the cluster’s mother, worked with Whispers. Avoiding this corporation seems impossible unless a sensate is willing to lock themselves in a tiny box that’s separate from the outside world.
For the main cluster, that seems… improbable. Hiding in a box forever is no way to live. Each of them has been, in someway, trapped. Existing like that forever to avoid execution is horrible. This whole concept serves as an interesting social commentary on the lives of people who are persecuted for being in any way different from the norm. Consider racial and religious minorities, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and more. Sense8 is pretty good at representation — including discussing the very real plights of its characters, literally and metaphorically.
Isolated Above, Connected Below dives into the dichotomy between living and surviving. Lito’s speech at the Sao Paolo Pride parade — the joy of which brought tears to my eyes — explains it in broad strokes. Miguel Ángel Silvestre is, as always, a revelation in this scene. It’s a moment of incredible celebration and light in the middle of all this danger and heartbreak.
Following the scene at Pride, Nomi and Amanita find the cabin where Angelica lived before she went to work for the BPO. Wolfgang witnesses Lila commit a murder. Will jumps into Whispers’ head. Riley visits with the old man from her DJ set, Mr. Hoy, and discovers he lives in Scotland.
Mr. Hoy — you guessed it — keeps away from BPO by staying in a tiny box most of the time. But he helped draft the original mission statement for BPO, which intended to research homo sensorium. Since then, the corporation seems to have dived into wanting to control and/or eliminate them, rather than understand them. His information is vital for Riley and her cluster.
He also reveals the meaning behind the episode title, Isolated Above, Connected Below. There is a network of homo sensorium who help each other globally by communicating in secret. It helps them stay off of Whispers’ radar and help each other stay safe. Someone in this network is inside BPO, essentially working undercover to dismantle it.
In order for Riley to learn more, she has to go to Chicago. The city is Will’s hometown, but it’s also where Whispers and his colleagues perform much of their “research”. It’s a dangerous mission, but to make things worse, she has to go alone. As in, on blockers, without her cluster.
Isolated Above, Connected Below doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, per se, but the final moments are super tense. We learn that Angelica also went to Chicago before everything went downhill. Now that Riley has to follow in her footsteps…
Netflix confirmed on June 1 that it cancelled Sense8 (WHY???), but if you are watching (which you should be!), you can ask them to renew it for season three at this link. Watch Sense8! Request a third season! Don’t let this incredibly important show die an untimely death.