“I take everything I’m feeling, everything that matters to me. I push all of it into my fist. And I fight for it.”

What does Sun mean to Sense8? Her story may be the least complete of any of the eight (save Riley), a family drama painted with the broadest of strokes. But she’s a mixed martial arts champ, and given the premise of Sense8, that means Sun is called upon to apply her ass-kicking more than anyone else. And in Sense8: “Just Turn The Wheel And The Future Changes” Sun is called upon for her biggest action sequence yet, as Capheus is forced to break free from a dozen gang members.

Sun barely breaks a sweat, kicking, punching, dodging, and slashing with a machete as she easily dispatches them all. It’s a fantastic action scene, when Doona Bae looking like a casually coiled snake, ready to strike at her earliest convenience. She’s utterly fantastic as the action hero, starring in a marvelously kinetic brawl.

The question I kept having, though: what is the point of this? Capheus’ story is one of the more complex from an ethical standpoint. What does he need to sacrifice to save his mother? How much of his soul can he sell by working for Kabaka? At what point does sacrificing one’s self for the life of another become the right thing to do? But because Capheus has a direct line to Sun, who seems to be literally a superhero, he—and Sense8—never have to resolve this question. They can fight their way out of trouble, and ethical questions are tossed in a garbage can and lit on fire. How is Capheus killing half a dozen gang members better than killing Kabaka, a man who chopped off another’s hands right in front of him?

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Sense8 simply doesn’t seem interested in discussing those questions. Of the eight main characters, five have been succeeding primarily through effective use of violence (Wolfgang, Capheus, Will, Nomi, Lito). Sun has been the purveyor of much of that violence, though her story hasn’t required it, she did get the catharsis this episode of beating up her brother. Riley’s taken advantage of it for survival. Only Kala’s story hasn’t hinged on it, and even she had a moment where she used Will’s aggressive cop poise in this episode.

At a certain level, this is great for Sense8. The Wachowskis are among the most gifted action filmmakers ever, with The Matrix having a strong claim on most important action flick of all time. For Sense8 not to include this sensibility would likely be downright disastrous, especially as several of its best scenes have been its fight sequences.

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On the other hand, it’s hard to argue that violence is what Sense8 is about. What makes this series special at the macro level is how it ties its human connection to a concept of universal experience. The “What’s Up?” sequence, the orgy, and the birthing scene were both attempts to get at that. And while violence certainly has its place in human experience, the Sun/Will combination of melee combat and firearms expertise ends up making the sensates seem less like they’re happening to engage in violence and more like they’re controlling its power for their own purposes. The other part of the creative team, J. Michael Straczynski, also typically writes stories where violence is a last resort or self-defense.

There’s an obvious theoretical compromise here: that the sensates fight in situations of self-defense and avoid it in other circumstances. These complaints wouldn’t exist if all it was was Nomi fleeing from the cops or Wolfgang knowing Steiner would betray him. And yet the Wachowskis have gone out of their to show the sensates as violent aggressors, with Wolfgang apparently attacking his uncle’s estate and Capheus putting himself directly in harm’s way. They story they want to tell seems to include its hot young actors kicking loads of ass, regardless of anything else.

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Again, this isn’t unambiguously negative—these scenes are superb entertainment—but it is a strange tension for a show so theoretically joyful about human connection. In that same speech, Sun spells out what could easily be the show’s overt theme: “To stop feeling emotions, to stop wanting to feel them, is to feel…death.” Sense8 seems to want to be the story of eight people learning about and connecting with one another, but far too much of it seems to be eight people solving each other’s complicated problems with the simplicity of Sun’s fist.

Stray observations

  • “How difficult it must have been to hold this all inside.” Okay, so Rajan, Hernando, and Amanita walk into a bar. The bartender says “get out, we don’t allow perfect partners in here!”
  • “No touching!” Wouldn’t be prison on TV without it.
  • Where’s Lito? Strange to have him not included at all.
  • “What name should I use?” “Conan.”
  • Tina Desai is the reigning champion of Sad Puppy eyes on television, taking the crown from David Boreanaz. Congrats Tina!

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