Photo: Sense8 (Netflix)

One thing I’ve really been wanting from this season of Sense8 is more one-on-one scenes between individual members of the cluster. I have a strong sense of what each sensate brings to the group, but not necessarily how they relate to each other as individuals. In other words: How would a conversation between Capheus and Kala be different from one between Capheus and Nomi? What do Riley and Lito have in common? How do Sun and Kala relate to each other? In some cases the show has done a good job shading in these intra-cluster relationships. Beyond the obvious romantic pairings, I have a relatively strong sense of the dynamics between Wolfgang and Lito, Wolfgang and Will, Sun and Riley, and Nomi and Will. But considering how intimately these eight characters are connected to one another, it’s odd that so many of them still feel like distant acquaintances.

Advertisement

Thankfully, “All I Want Right Now Is One More Bullet” offers a couple lovely one-on-one moments that reaffirm Sense8 hasn’t entirely ditched its quieter sensate storytelling for big, flashy scenes. The first and most delightful tête-à-tête is between Sun and Lito, who is in full-on meltdown mode after being dropped by his agents. The two are pulled together because they each have a point of view the other needs to hear in that moment: Sun gives Lito some much-needed perspective on his current troubles. Yes, losing his career is a terrible loss, but he still has his friends and family at his side. And Lito, in turn, is there to remind Sun that it’s okay to feel sad sometimes. Through Lito, Sun’s finally able to have the good wallow that’s been a long, long time coming. Lito’s emotional crisis is a great source of comedy throughout the episode and probably one of the funniest things the show has ever done. But both his exchange with Sun and the From Here To Eternity scene ensure that Lito isn’t just the butt of the joke. Sense8 may have fun at Lito’s expense, but it also empathizes with him too.

The episode’s second one-on-one sensate scene centers on Will and Kala, two characters who really haven’t spent much time together before. And though short, their interaction is illuminating as well, particularly for Kala. Around someone as dependable as Will, she’s able to drop the poised demeanor that so often defines her. And that gives Tina Desai the chance to play more comedy than usual as Kala basically word vomits all her thoughts to Will, who turns out to be both emotionally astute and non-judgmental. Their sweet “You will be fine”/”So will you” exchange does more to establish their relationship than the past 19 episodes combined.

As I’ve mentioned before, Sense8’s disinterest in episodic storytelling makes it a tricky show to review on an episode-by-episode basis. “All I Want Right Now Is One More Bullet” opens with an info dump from Jonas, pivots to broad comedy, then shifts gears into an explosive action climax, making it feel like three episodes in one. But stuck in the middle of all that is the element of the season I finally realized isn’t fully working for me: Capheus’ story.

Advertisement

Though I’ve come to appreciate Toby Onwumere as a performer, Capheus has become a strangely passive character this season. And unlike Kala, whose passivity is basically the point of her story, Sense8 keeps trying to sell Capheus as a go-getter despite the fact that he spends most of his time standing around looking bemused while people tell him how amazing he is and/or hold him at gunpoint and tell him how amazing it is. It took three political representatives and his girlfriend to push him into politics in the first place and despite the fact that we’ve never really seen him do any campaigning, he’s somehow become a grassroots icon and a major threat to his opponent. Now don’t get me wrong, it was nice that he picked up a baby during a water riot that one time, but it feels like Sense8 is coasting on Capheus’ more active first season persona without really doing the legwork to demonstrate why he’s such a political sensation. I don’t need him to literally be an action star, but I do want to feel like he’s making his own story happen, rather than just having it unfold around him.

But enough about the episode’s character-centric moments, we’ve got a cluster vs. cluster showdown to get to! The episode’s third act kicks off with a lovely montage in which Wolfgang tries to set off alone for his meeting with Lila but can’t help but alert the rest of the cluster. It’s the perfect encapsulation of both who Wolfgang is and how the sensate link operates. Though he’s quick to assist the group when they need a marksman or safe-breaker, Wolfgang isn’t one to ask for help himself. Yet something deep within his psyche clearly knows he should, which is why he can’t help but give the rest of the cluster a heads-up that he’s headed into trouble. Wolfgang is by far the most emotionally closed off sensate in the group and it’s fascinating to watch him navigate the experience of being a Homo sensorium while also being a fierce individualist.

And then Nomi goes and trips over her high heels like a klutzy rom com heroine and literally knocks herself unconscious and everyone acts like that’s a totally normal and reasonable thing to have happened. Clearly Lana Wachowski & J. Michael Straczynski just wanted to mix things up with a sensate hacking scene that didn’t involve Nomi (either that or Jamie Clayton wasn’t available to film the day of the fight), but it’s the goofiest of set ups to get us there. And though the moment Amanita speaks to Riley for the first time is sweet, I’m not sure it’s enough to justify the heel debacle.

Advertisement

Really the whole restaurant scene straddles the line between cheesy and compelling even more so than the show usually does. The fight is bloody and brutal but also full of silly things like Kala somehow making a wine bottle explode after declaring “Bring it, bitch” as her own version of The Matrix hand wave. There’s a lot of visceral pleasure to be had in the cluster vs. cluster fight, in which Wolfgang and Lila both channel the full abilities of their respective cohorts. But each time I’ve watched the moment where the clusters rise up behind Wolfgang and Lila, I’ve had to stifle the urge to laugh. Sense8 has created a gorgeous cinematic language for its sensate connection, but the restaurant fight shifts into something much more theatrical. And moments like the cluster taking a hit in unison only serve to remind me that these are actors in a room playing pretend. It’s not entirely ineffective, but it’s not Sense8 at its most effortless either.

Perhaps the best thing about the restaurant scene is that it moves Lila out of the boring morally grey femme fatale act she’s been stuck in and into full-on villain territory. She and her cluster want to refashion Berlin as a sort of oasis for Homo sensorium with Wolfgang as its king. But it turns out Wolfgang feels far more loyalty to his city than he does to his species. Now that he’s on the run from the Berlin cops, here’s hoping the city feels the same way about him.

Stray observations

  • Jonas is still alive! He’s now a pawn in the power struggles between Whispers and the Chairman. Also for some reason he has no visible scar despite having a bone saw slice into his forehead. Don’t worry, all the sensates are confused too.
  • Last episode Sense8 condemned mass shootings. This episode Sense8 glorifies gun violence. Okay.
  • Though I don’t love everything about Capheus’ storyline, I do very much enjoy Lwanda Jawar as the Superpower gang leader, so I’m glad he’s back.
  • Considering Kala is on the verge of telling Rajan about the cluster, it’s truly insane that Lito hasn’t told Hernando yet.
  • I’m not sure what’s better: Lito eating Ben & Jerry’s in a onesie or Lito flair bartending while on the verge of tears.
  • Though I assume he’s talking about Mexican cinema, Lito’s point about the lack of openly gay action stars definitely applies to American cinema as well. The only one I can think of is Zachary Quinto in Star Trek and I’m not sure I would really consider Quinto a full-on action star.

Advertisement