Sense8 Season 1, Episode 1
Posted by Shannon Leigh
Hi friends! Welcome to your friendly neighborhood recaps of the Netflix series Sense8!
I’ll be honest, I have seen the whole season…twice. BUT I will be recapping as if I have NOT (to the best of my ability), which is to say there will be no spoilers for upcoming episodes, and if anyone actually comments on these, I ask that they refrain from spoilers as well.
Finally, THANK YOU to Kim and Sage for giving me an outlet while I wait for everyone else to finish watching it, because I literally spent two hours talking about it to someone who had never even heard of it the other day.
Here we go with episode one! It’s dense, especially at the beginning, so try to stay with me and keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle.
We open in an abandoned, ruined church. It was probably beautiful once but now it’s home to a lot of trash, and also a gross mattress with Daryl Hannah lying on it. She…has looked better, which is not a comment on her age, but on the fact that she seems to be in agony as she wakes up. She has a gun nearby and a tin that looks like it used to be full of drugs, but is now just empty silver wrappers. I’m not exactly up on what the kids are taking these days though.
Suddenly someone appears to take her hand, and it’s Sayid! From LOST, in case you were Amish or something back in the ‘00s. Daryl Hannah calls him Jonas but lbr I’m gonna call him Sayid. She says it hurts and he knows, and also tellingly calls her “my love.” In alternating camera shots, Sayid is both visible and not, in order to establish that only Daryl can see him.
Sayid says it’s time for something, even though Daryl protests that she’s not strong enough and that she doesn’t want anyone else to die because of her. Whatever it’s time for though, it’s happening, because Daryl writhes in agony and then suddenly sits up to breathe “I see them.” And now it’s time to meet your eight new children!
A handsome Latino man draws a gun in a beautiful chapel, dripping blood. On a rooftop in London, a young woman with bleached and dyed hair lights a cigarette. In Seoul, a Korean woman does what looks like tai chi? But what do I know. In a nightclub in Berlin, a sweaty shirtless man seems to spot something through the crowd of writhing bodies. Yum.
A car that reads CHICAGO POLICE stops before Daryl, who is sitting in the middle of the road. But! In Mumbai, a beautiful Indian woman walking down the steps of an office building sees Daryl there, too! Daryl is also in Nairobi, where she’s spotted on the side of the road by a man driving a van. The Latino man in the chapel sees Daryl at the altar, and then she’s seen in the mirror by a woman injecting herself with a syringe in her bathroom, where Martha Jones is dozing off in the bathtub.
Basically everyone we’ve just seen spots Daryl Hannah right in front of them and seems to realize there’s something odd about her sudden appearance. A cop emerges from the car in Chicago and approaches her, which is when we all return to the chapel where she really is.
Sayid is all proud of Daryl, who tells him to “protect them.” There’s a sinister “they’re here” moment from Sayid, which is immediately topped when Daryl whispers “so is he” and Terrence Mann just pops out from behind her like a creepy creeper who creeps. She can’t fight him now that she’s out of the drugs she was using to hide from him. Daryl can apparently see both Mann and Sayid but they can’t see each other, though Mann wants Daryl to pass on the message that he’s looking forward to meeting Sayid.
There are declarations of love and Sayid gives Daryl a name: Angelica. He disappears at her request, though, at which point she produces the gun we saw earlier. Even though Mann tells her she won’t do it, she’s “one of us” and there’s work to be done, just as he actually physically walks into the church with a team of muscle (as opposed to appearing behind her), she puts the gun in her mouth and pulls the trigger. Dark!
Two minute credits! The music is good and appropriately tense, and the visuals do a nice job of establishing a global setting, but come on, Netflix. You know most of us are gonna watch this all in a day, maybe two. Ease up a little.
A ghostly little girl begs for help from a boy named Will, who is chasing her through the woods to a creepy looking building, which looks like every abandoned and haunted mental hospital from every horror movie or television show. As he moves through the hallways at her direction, the little boy becomes the cop we saw before, and he approaches Angelica on the filthy mattress where she died. As she shoots herself in the mouth again, the cop wakes up in his apartment in Chicago with a start, and grabs his gun off the bedside table to aim it at nothing.
This is Will Gorski, and let me tell you, I had a serious problem with this because I am from Chicago where people named Gorski are thick on the ground, and Bill Gorski was the name of my least favorite high school teacher. I will try to work past it for the sake of Officer Will Gorski, precious ray of sunshine. Also, he’s shirtless, which is good.
Will shirtlessly touches his head like it’s aching terribly, and I’m sure the way the position shows off his biceps is totally coincidental. Club music starts up as he shirtlessly splashes water on his face, and he goes to the apartment next door (sadly, putting on a shirt) to ask them to turn it down. When no one answers, even after he calls out that it’s the police, Will forces open the door to find it vacant and silent. Nice apartment, though. Hardwood floors. Exposed brick.
That music is actually playing at a nightclub in London, where our woman with bleached and dyed hair is DJing on a stage. This is Riley Blue (Blue seems to be the name she uses in England, possibly her DJ name, rather than her given last name, FYI), and lights swirl around her lovingly as she does her work. Up on a balcony, a man remarks to another that she can spin “for a girl” and receives the reply that she can spin period, and I like him for like a minute.
Of course, then we immediately discover that he’s a drug dealer called Nyx as if that’s a name, and the guy who put gender-based qualifications on Riley’s skills is her boyfriend Jacks, and it’s pretty clear that Riley is surrounded by people who are not quite up to snuff. I’d have a migraine around them, too. Jacks and his hanger-on want to get fucked up on Nyx’s supply, but Nyx is more interested in hearing about this vision Riley had of Angelica. She chalks it up to too many drugs, but she’s clearly still thinking about it.
DRAMATIC music plays as we revisit the Latino man in the chapel. He washes blood off his hands (pretty ineffectually) and approaches the altar again in slooooow motion with his gun. There’s a nun who throws herself at him (like, sexually) but he shoves her off before coming up behind a priest in prayer. “Have you come to confess your sins, my son?”
“No, Padre. I’ve come to blow your fucking brains out.”
This, apparently, was the wrong thing to say, because a cut is called. We’re actually on a film set in Mexico City and this is Lito Rodriguez, an actor who’s having some trouble remembering his lines after having visions of “suicidal angels” yesterday. Lito’s not feeling himself but they’ll go again because show business waits for no man.
There’s also some other kind of business that waits for no man in Seoul, and it’s not clear exactly what it is but it’s obviously a BFD. Sun Bak, the Korean woman we saw earlier, is meeting with some bigwig because her brother is running late, and even though she’s the VP and CFO of her company, the dude just manages to insult the hell out of her for being a woman before her brother cruises in like an asshole, just in time to stop Sun from throwing the fist she was starting to make. She also sees herself in the church where Angelica died, watching her rise up from the mattress before her brother grossly demands that she go get them some coffees.
In London, they’re still talking about Riley’s vision and Jacks’ friend is telling a story about how his nieces apparently psychically knew when their mother was in medical trouble miles away, and Nyx the drug dealer gets to deliver the episode title: “Limbic resonance.” Basically it’s a telepathic connection that — surprise! — has a connection to the drugs he just so HAPPENS to sell.
We can hear thunder and rain in Mumbai, and Kala Dandekar, the Indian woman from the office building, is asking her father where she can find an umbrella. She doesn’t need one, though, because it’s sunny and bright, even though she insists she heard the storm. There’s a little discussion of how she’s going to work because she has a degree and clearly cares about her career, even though she’s so close to getting married. The thunder rolls again.
This weather that we’ve heard is actually taking place in Berlin, where a collection of umbrellas shield mourners at a funeral. The rain lets up as the service concludes, and we see Wolfgang Bognadow, the shirtless nightclub dancer, all spiffed up in a suit as he walks behind the casket and reports to his friend Felix that he has a migraine.
Suddenly a skull tattoo swings into view and fills the screen as its owner walks up behind the two. Hilariously, I tried to pause the episode to see exactly what it was, but the picture was a little too dark, so I tracked down an amazing article I had read the other day called “Pissing on the cross is now entertainment” because I remembered them having a screencap of the tattoo so they could have visuals while they got all butthurt about the religious imagery of it. Unsurprisingly it took me no more than two clicks from that article to find a bunch of anti-vax stuff on the website, which should literally tell you all you need to know about the people running it. Vaccinate your fucking kids.
But I digress.
Anyway, the skull tattoo belongs to Steiner, who establishes (by referring to the deceased in the coffin as “Grandpa Hassan”) that he and Wolfgang are cousins. Really he’s just there to be a dick and brag about some big heist he’s about to pull off, because he’s not a petty thief like Wolfgang and Felix apparently are. After Steiner flips them off and saunters away, though, Felix and Wolfgang seem remarkably unperturbed.
In any case, now we hop over to Nairobi (which is the capital of Kenya, in case you didn’t know), where a man is bent over his clearly sick mother’s bedside. This is Capheus, and I have scoured the internet and been unable to find a last name for him. Sometimes he’s referred to as Capheus Van Damme, the reason for which will be clear momentarily, but other than that I’m tapped.
Now, I know the whole thing with calling a character a “cinnamon roll” has been popular lately and it’s already starting to get a little too played out. But I’m gonna be honest with you…Capheus is a cinnamon roll if there ever was one. His mother is asking why she’s so good to him but he just tells her how he loves her, gives her some medicine and leaves, declaring he’s going to have a really good day. He walks a ways, then stops with a big grin on his face and quotes, “When the streets are a jungle, there can only be one king,” which is the tagline to Lionheart, starring, you guessed it…Jean-Claude Van Damme. Capheus is grinning at his matatu, a small private commuter bus, with the words “VAN DAMN” on the side.
Next we’re in San Francisco, where Martha Jones is putting it to her girlfriend good. I’m not kidding. Amanita, played by Doctor Who’s Freema Agyeman, is fucking her girlfriend with a strap-on. When they’re…ahem…done, it transpires this was in service of eliminating yet another headache. This particular headache belongs to Nomi Marks, the blonde woman we saw injecting herself in her bathroom. We’re given the opportunity to see that the strap-on is rainbow striped as it SPLASHES onto the ground, no joke, and the couple wish each other a Happy Pride. In case you were worried this show wouldn’t be gay enough for you.
Just a quick side note: the injection we saw Nomi giving herself earlier was a hormone shot, because Nomi is transgender. It’ll come up overtly later in the episode and it’s not all that relevant to her character at the moment, but I’m noting it because Nomi is played by Jamie Clayton, who is an actual transgender actress. Now that I’ve set aside a whole paragraph for that news it seems like something that shouldn’t have to have attention drawn to it, but this is the same year that Emma Stone played an Asian and Hawaiian woman, so let’s at least give a little head nod to the Sense8 creators, one of whom is, of course, also a trans woman.
We’re back to Lito in his trailer, who’s trying to regain his focus and psych himself up by talking to himself in the mirror. It comes off as a little weird, yes, but I’m an actress and I can tell you there are people who are way weirder about their process, tbh. He talks to his headshot and…squirms a little bit, at which point it becomes apparent that he has an ill-timed boner. He deals with this by barking for a Diet Coke and rubbing up against various surfaces in his trailer until he’s interrupted by the actress playing the nun from his earlier scene, still in full habit, which means that’s what she’s wearing when she spots his tent and makes a move.
(Btw, this was another thing that “Pissing on the cross” article took issue with and now I’m laughing again.)
Lito puts her off as smoothly as he can with her hand in his pants and sounds genuinely regretful when he tells her his heart belongs to another, and we get our first clue that Lito might be a decent actor after all.
In Berlin, the rain has cleared up as our mourners go down the receiving line. Wolfgang greets his aunt and then his uncle, the latter of whom embraces Wolfgang with particular vigor and says all Hassan talked about before he died was Wolfgang’s late father. The aunt and uncle encourage Wolfgang to go and pay his respects to said father, so Wolfgang nods, approaches his father’s grave…and then unzips his pants to piss on it while staring into the eyes of his father’s picture. Healthy!
Nairobi: Capheus’s friend and business partner Jela is trying to drum up some customers for the Van Damn, but everyone seems to be gathered around the Bat Van, whose owner, it should be said, is a dick. Finally they have to leave to get their few customers into the city on time. Capheus is distressed about their lack of business and thinks Jean-Claude’s time might be over but Jela gives an adorable pep talk about how great Jean-Claude is, which cheers Capheus up. They get one more last-minute customer who has no money, and so pays with a chicken. In Jela’s arms, the chicken flaps its wings…
…and careens across Sun’s desk in Seoul before disappearing. She shrieks in surprise but recovers pretty damn quickly when her assistant tells her there’s a phone call from the bank, which Sun dodges, staring at a red folder on her desk. And that’s all for Sun right now!
London: Riley sees Angelica’s silhouette again on her way out of the club. She sees the three men she was talking to earlier on the street and tries to duck away but is spotted by Jacks, who chases her down to convince her to come to Nyx’s with them. She tries to beg off, citing her headache, but Jacks relentlessly insists that Nyx’s drugs are exactly what she needs.
Suddenly Riley finds herself in San Francisco, sitting across from Amanita while a couple of large men dressed as fairies dance around them throwing flower petals. Riley stares around but Amanita doesn’t seem to notice anything out of the ordinary, and when the camera pans back around it’s Nomi sitting there. They wave to the fairies and do some slightly clumsy “remember when” dialogue to flash back to Nomi’s first special brownie at their first Pride together. We see some extremely stoned making out before we flash forward to the present and they decide to buy a brownie from the fairies.
Nomi sets up another flashback with “do you know what I remember best about that day?” which brings us to a crowded grassy knoll, where past!Amanita and Nomi are running up to a group of women on a blanket. One of them immediately recognizes Nomi as “the tranny who blogs about politics” and wastes zero time starting an argument with her before dismissing her as “another colonizing male trying to take up any space left to women.” Given this lady’s super-aggressive attitude, I don’t really blame Amanita for also wasting zero time threatening to punch her in the face, but Nomi walks away. When Amanita catches up Nomi is crying, but not because of what the asshole lady said; she’s crying because Amanita’s the first person to ever defend her like that.
Back in the present, Nomi declares that moment as when she knew she’d always love Amanita, and they share a sweet kiss.
Mumbai: We’re back with Kala. She’s brought an offering of food to the temple of the Hindu deity Ganesha and kneels down to pray, which is to say, deliver a little exposition about herself. Kala hates to trouble Ganesha with her worries, see, but she’s engaged to Rajan, who is the son of the owner of the pharmaceutical company where she works and is therefore pretty rich and important. Rajan is excited for this. Kala’s parents are excited for this. Kala…is not excited for this, because even though Rajan is great, she doesn’t love him.
Berlin: In a locksmith’s shop, Felix is cutting a key on a machine and telling Wolfgang how Steiner was shooting his mouth off about Wolfgang’s father, who was the best safecracker in the world except that he was an idiot for getting obsessed with cracking an uncrackable safe. Wolfgang doesn’t have much to say about that, besides that he’ll see Felix tomorrow.
San Francisco: Amanita is dressed up in an insane red dress that looks like the Queen of Hearts became a burlesque dancer and she’s collecting charitable donations at the opening of their friend’s new dance piece. The friend tells Nomi he’s nervous because the piece is a downer, which no one wants at Pride, but some older members of the community remember when Pride was a funeral march in the ‘80s, during the heyday of AIDS, which is what Nomi and Amanita’s friend (I’m sorry, I didn’t catch his name and it doesn’t seem important enough) wants to honor, and my god, there’s still like half an hour left in this pilot, I did not realize what I was getting myself into.
The dance piece is performed by four men wearing street clothes, to the sounds of a solemn string piece and a recording of a man talking about someone he knew who withered away of AIDS. It’s touching and sad, and I’d’ve watched more if I had the choice, but soon the lights come down and a tearful Nomi sees Angelica sitting on the stage for a moment before realizing she’s not really there.
Chicago: Will is telling his partner, Diego, about the intensity of his vision of Angelica the night before as they arrive at their precinct. Diego just calls him “Officer Strange” (as in Dr. Strange), which gives me some feelings and gets Will to tell him to fuck off. (Also Diego refers to astral projection, and the closed-captioning that I keep on because the volume levels are less than ideal reads “astro projection” and I think that’s grounds to sue.)
Back in their patrol car, the partners drive through the South Side and drop a little bit of exposition about the tension between cops and gangbangers in the area, which feels a little clunky to me but that could just be because I grew up aware of that dynamic. Diego mentions “what they did to [Will’s] old man,” but then they respond to a radio call about shots fired, and not in the internet sense.
Berlin: the key Felix was making earlier gets him and Wolfgang into the lobby of a building, and some kind of spy gadget they attach to the security system panel gets them upstairs, where there’s a prominently displayed safe. I thought you were supposed to at least try to hide those things, but maybe the owner is overconfident because we can clearly see it’s an S&D safe — the very same “uncrackable” safe that defeated Wolfgang’s dad.
From here, the events in Chicago and Berlin play out simultaneously. Will and Diego’s siren is blaring as they tear towards the scene of the gunshots and Wolfgang yanks his stethoscope out of his ears when he hears it thousands of miles away. Felix didn’t hear anything, though, and he also casually mentions that he brought a drill because there’s no shame in drilling as opposed to cracking. Wolfgang gets cracking though, figuratively and literally.
(In London, Riley can also hear the sounds of the cracking safe, as well as the sirens. She looks out her window but sees nothing.)
People are fleeing as Will and Diego roll up to the scene, requesting back-up on their radio as they enter a burned-out and graffitied structure. Will soon finds the gunshot victim, who’s only a kid, really. I can’t find the age of the actor but I feel like he can’t possibly be older than thirteen. He’s bleeding from his stomach, which doesn’t stop him from pulling a gun as soon as Will’s gun starts to lower, but the kid can’t keep the gun up and asks for help.
Will wants to call an ambulance but Diego says they won’t send one to “Chiraq,” at least not fast enough, so Will’s solution is to have the kid, Deshawn, apply pressure while Will carries him back to the patrol car — over Diego’s protests that the kid would let them die were the situation reversed.
Wolfgang is still working on his safe in Berlin, and according to Felix’s watch he has fifty-eight minutes left. Poor Wolfie needs a break, so he wanders over to the couch and turns on some talent competition show, to Felix’s dismay, because what if Steiner shows up early?
Diego’s driving like a madman through Chicago with the sirens blaring while Will sits with Deshawn in the backseat — not that this is his first time in the backseat, he tells Deshawn, having grown up with a cop for a dad and a rebellious streak.
Wolfgang is being adorable about the woman competing on his show. “She sings like a musical instrument. She uses the language of pure emotion.” Felix agrees that she’s good but says she’s not pretty enough to win, which sends Wolfgang into a flashback to his childhood, where he’s meant to be singing with an orchestra in a small auditorium, but chokes up. His teacher (presumably) tries to prompt him, and everyone waits silently except one man: Wolfgang’s father, who stands in the back, lit from below like an actual demon, and laughs meanly at his son’s stage fright. Starting to become clear why Wolfgang pissed on his grave before.
And sure enough, when we return to the present, the woman on the show is being eliminated with a big thumbs-down icon. Wolfgang ruefully gets back to work.
Diego is apparently taking this opportunity to practice his stunt driving, as he skids all over the place pulling up to the emergency room. When Will runs in with Deshawn in his arms, though, a nurse says it’s against policy to treat gunshot wounds at that hospital because they were losing so many resources to them. Deshawn won’t make it to another hospital, though, and the giant bloodstain on his white shirt combined with Will’s puppy dog eyes seem to soften her resolve.
Felix’s watch beeps, indicating that Wolfgang is out of time, and soon Steiner’s arriving outside with some thugs. Wolfgang only needs another few seconds, though, and when he hears what he’s been listening for, he pushes a button and the safe swings open to reveal an array of diamonds. He and Felix revel in their victory for just a little longer than I think is strictly necessary, considering Steiner the Shithead is on their heels, but they manage to empty the safe, close it, and grab their little spy gadget in the absolute nick of time, getting clear just as Steiner and his thugs start working on breaking in.
Deshawn is gonna make it thanks to his timely surgery, but the nurse who admitted him wants to know how Will is going to feel if Deshawn lives and then kills someone — maybe a cop. Will doesn’t have an answer and this is one of the moments that feels a little heavy-handed, maybe, but disregard for black lives in this area and across the nation (even by other PoC, like the nurse) is a big enough problem that I’m willing to allow for some clumsiness in order to see it seriously addressed.
We’re back to Riley in London. She’s changed clothes since we saw her hear Wolfgang’s safecracking and Will’s sirens earlier, which is what makes me think maybe she was at her own apartment briefly earlier? It’s a little sloppy in terms of timeline, but only if you think too hard about it, which is one of my favorite hobbies. Anyway, now she’s at Nyx’s and watching drugs get passed around while cutting herself off from the group via her sweet headphones, which is another hobby of mine.
Jacks and his mate seem to be FUBAR, which Nyx takes as his cue to go sit way too close to Riley and take off her headphones. He’s allegedly concerned for Riley, enough to check her pulse, which seems more like an excuse for him to touch her wrist. Her wrist that carries some very tell-tale vertical scars. He tells her how beautiful she is, to which Riley has a very subtle and fucking hilarious facial reaction that every girl will recognize as “oh god not this.” But Nyx doesn’t mean she’s beautiful on the outside, no, he sees her beauty deeper than that, and will someone please push this guy out the window.
Unfortunately, Nyx is the insightful kind of creep, and what he’s saying to Riley starts to strike a bit of a chord. He manages to make her feel out-of-place and lonely enough that she’s willing to try this supposed miracle cure that he says worked for his problems, which is…drumroll please…DRUGS! Specifically, the drugs Nyx is selling right the fuck now. How coincidental. Poor lonely Riley takes a hit from his glass pipe and the effect is immediate.
Ethereal music (Sigur Rós, if you’re familiar, and I’m 75% sure the main motivation in making Riley Icelandic was the ready-made excuse to heavily utilize this band, which you’ll notice I did not say I had a problem with) plays as Riley’s mind travels to Chicago, where she seems to be observing Will and also seeing through his eyes. He catches a quick glimpse of her too, but then Riley’s mind is off into the past, as a young version of her walks down a beach in Iceland.
Will starts freaking out and tells Diego to stop the car, but not because of Riley: he recognizes the wrecked church where Angelica killed herself as they’re driving by it. When he looks out the window it’s Riley we see whispering “this is where it happened,” and then we’re back to Will in the next shot. This is a method the show will make good use of over the rest of the season and I feel like I need to come up with a name for it but I have nothing yet.
Inside the church, Diego is being kind of an asshole about Will’s vision, but in a good-natured enough way. Will knows there are drugs in a hidden tin, but Diego maintains that without hard evidence of a crime, like blood or the gun Will claims was here, the subject is closed as far as he’s concerned and he goes to wait in the car.
And after Diego is gone, Riley is there, but more solidly this time. She and Will see each other as if they are both standing in the church and even manage to have a conversation, or rather they seem to jump into the middle of a conversation about seeing Angelica die here, even though they didn’t know her. Riley tells Will that she lives in London and has no idea what she’s doing here; when she learns that “here” is Chicago, she lights up and says “I’ve never been to America” with an adorable little laugh. Will visibly falls for her a little, but then she turns to the empty air beside her in horror and says “Oh no, what are you doing?”
Back in London, things have escalated VERY quickly and people pointing guns at each other quickly becomes people shooting each other as Jacks tries to get Nyx to open his safe at gunpoint. Will sees what’s going on just long enough to breathe “Stop!” and then he’s back in the church, alone.
When Riley demands an explanation, it’s revealed that this has all been Jacks’ plan to rob Nyx of a new shipment he has; Riley is merely there because Nyx requested her presence. She tries to bail after Jacks pistol-whips Nyx down to the ground, but Jacks catches her with the words you never want to hear from an idiot like him: “You’re part of this.”
Jacks’ buddy is stuffing drugs and money into a bag while Jacks tries to woo Riley with promises of a fresh start in America, but then he gets a shotgun blast to the leg from Nyx’s muscle just as Nyx plunges a hidden knife into the accomplice. More shots ring out until all four men in the room are strewn around the room with holes in them and Riley, splattered with blood, is left standing in the middle of the mess. And, CREDITS!
If you got this far, I commend you. I wrote it, and I barely made it. I’ll be back with “I Am Also a We,” unless Kim and Sage stop being my friends over this, for which I would not blame them. Shannon Leigh OUT.