Freema Agyeman, Jamie Clayton (Netflix)

“W. W. N. Double D?” is a table-setting episode that lacks anything as inventive as the fight sequence in “Smart Money’s On The Skinny Bitch” or the karaoke montage in “What’s Going On?” Stuff happens—a surprising amount actually—but it’s all in service of getting the characters where they need to be emotionally, physically, or both for the final run of season one. But despite those logistical concerns this is still one of Sense8’s stronger entries because a.) it finds time to deepen its characters b.) it’s really fun and c.) it suggests the show might actually be interested in answering some of the questions it’s raising.

What impressed me most about this episode is how good Sense8 has become at balancing its eight protagonists. Because we’re familiar with these characters, their stories, and the sensate link, the show is now way more efficient at doling out story than it was in the beginning when all of those concepts had to be introduced. The Wachowskis et al. put an awful lot of faith in the idea that people would binge-watch this show despite the fact that the first few episodes aren’t super gripping. They’ve described Sense8 as a movie told across multiple episodes, but expecting an audience to stick around for a two hour movie with a slow start is very different than expecting them to stick around for a 12-episode series with a slow first half.

Which is a shame because that investment is finally starting to pay off as everyone except Will moves forward in a fairly substantial way in “W. W. N. Double D?”

The biggest focus is Nomi, who takes inspiration from Nancy Drew (the title stands for “What Would Nancy Drew Do?”) and goes sleuthing into the life of Dr. Metzger—the man who tried to lobotomize her. By the end of the episode Metzger is dead and we’ve learned that Whispers (aka Dr. Matheson aka the guy who was chasing Daryl Hannah) can somehow jump into the body of a lobotomy victim. This is the most mythology-focused the show has been since the pilot and that suspenseful final sequence proves Sense8 wants to explore its larger conspiracy in a way that doesn’t just involve Jonas speaking in riddles.

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But the character stuff is equally effective: Rowan’s mentioned before that Amanita is basically the perfect girlfriend and I think that’s very purposeful. So many trans narratives center on characters facing rejection from the outside world. And while that’s part of Nomi’s story when it comes to her family, the show also goes out of its way to give her an incredible support network. Amanita is thrilled at the opportunity to become a costumed crime fighter with her girlfriend; Amanita’s mother not only welcomes Nomi with open arms, she’s even okay with the whole sensate thing because, well, she lived through the ’60s; and Nomi’s forming hacking partner Bug is enthusiastic, if somewhat awkward, about the change his friend has gone through. Sense8 asserts you can be trans and still be loved. That message shouldn’t feel revolutionary, but it does.

Elsewhere, Kala and Riley get some nice character beats too. Riley returns to Iceland where we meet her soft-spoken, ukulele-loving father. Now that we have a little more context about her past, Riley is finally starting to feel like a real person and not just a “lost girl” stereotype. Whatever she’s running away from, it’s not her father, and there’s a great specificity in her loving relationship with him.

Specificity also helps Kala and her world snap into focus: As a child she got lost at a festival and took refuge inside a Ganesha float. The experience of literally seeing the world through Ganesha’s eyes turned her into a believer. She considers religion and science two sides of the same coin and that openness makes it easier for her to accept the experience of being a sensate. Sense8 is uniquely designed for this mix of philosophical discussion and cultural celebration, and it’s nice to see the show take advantage of that.

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The episode’s table-setting concerns are more obvious with Lito, Capheus, and Wolfgang, who are all lulled into a false sense of security only to have that happiness ripped away. Meanwhile Sun finds herself in a seemingly terrifying situation that actually work out okay. She makes friends at the women’s prison (some Orange Is The New Black cross-promotion?) because everyone there has taken vengeance on the horrible men in their lives and they assume she embezzled for the same reason. Sun’s super serious world is lightened up with some comedy for once, and I hope that trend continues.

“W. W. N. Double D?” gives each character a clear focus for the rest of the season: Will and Nomi will discover more about Whispers and his nefarious intentions; Sun will adjust to prison; Capheus will decide what to do about his dangerous employer; Wolfgang will deal with his best friend’s (probable?) death; Riley will confront her past; Lito will try to prevent his sexuality from being revealed; and Kala will finally make a choice about her wedding.

All of that is concrete, character-based, and logical in a way the show seldom was in its early episodes. It’s just too bad a lot of viewers probably aren’t still around to enjoy it.

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Stray observations

  • Intercut sensate scenes like the one that jumps between rainy Berlin and sunny Bombay were presumably shot weeks apart, but the final effect is seamless.
  • If Sense8 wants to release that ukulele cover of “Baba O’Riley” on iTunes I would totally buy it.
  • Lito and Hernando are the cutest damn thing.
  • “BFFs with Cheney? He’s got to be evil.”
  • Thanks to Rowan for letting me fill in this week!

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