Mark Watches ‘Sense8’: S02E01 – Happy Fucking New Year. – Part I

In the first half of the first episode of the second season of Sense8, HERE WE GO. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to (finally) continue watching Sense8.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of homophobia, transphobia, drug use, suicide.

Note: The show that will follow Sense8 will be the anime, Monster. There are still episodes left to claim for commission

Honestly, it took just the opening music for me to get excited about journeying through this show again. It has been ACTUAL YEARS since I finished the first season, and like a few shows, life got in the way. Well, and I watched a ton of other things in the meantime! But as promised, I am BACK, and this show made me cry ALREADY, and I’m not even done with the first episode???

So, first things first: the only thing I got “spoiled” on in the past four years was that the actor playing Capheus had been re-cast. I didn’t know who played them, just that it had happened. Secondly! Because this special and the final special are much longer than a normal Mark Watches video, they’ve been split by a lovely friend of mine. The splits are located in the Master Schedule, and it includes not only the timestamp of the split, but the dialogue/scene description prior to the split. 

Otherwise? Oh, it’s so, so good to be back. Sense8 was a slow love for me, and I admit that some of the stereotypical stories made it initially hard for me to get into it. But once I was in, OH LORD. And it’s also really cool to me that this was my introduction to J. Michael Straczynski, who I would later revisit for Mark Watches Babylon 5. So, I say all of this because I wanted to start off by saying that coming back to Sense8 was like slipping under my most comfortable blanket after being out in the cold all day. Except the blanket is super queer. LIKE, UNAPOLOGETICALLY QUEER AND WONDERFUL. Over the years, I’ve had a chance to talk at a number of festivals and conventions and workshops, and the honest truth is that when it comes to depictions of queerness, I still come back to Sense8. This show did something special, and the first half of “Happy Fucking New Year.” made me so thrilled. It’s somehow EVEN MORE QUEER. Oh my god, the birthday orgies? 

Okay, I’m jumping ahead. It’s hard not to, since that whole sequence was gorgeously choreographed and filmed. In terms of the story, this Christmas special picks up in the aftermath of the cliffhanger of season one, and I actually enjoyed how developments were conveyed to the audience. Rajan and Kala married, but this did not resolve Kala’s issues around sex; Will is now regularly dosing with heroin in order to keep Whispers out of his mind; Joaquin, as promised, released the photos of Hernando and Lito; Nomi is on the run from Agent Bendix; Sun is still trapped in prison. 

But as I noted on video, this episode is—so far!—much less about the serialized plot of Whispers and the BPO hunting the sensate cluster that Angelica birthed. (AND THEY’RE NOT THE FIRST ONE.) (AND ALL OF WHISPERS’ CLUSTER IS DEAD BUT HE STILL TALKS TO THEM???) I imagine this will probably play a larger part in the second half, but I am not bringing this up as a complaint. Because these episodes are fairly long, and because the Wachowskis and JMS allow things to breathe, there’s an organic sense of existence to this show. The characters get so much space to be themselves, and not all of that space is devoted to angst or the larger conflict. Rather, the emotional growth of these people is also a major focus of the story. Seriously, look at the ease with which they appear in one another’s lives. (I found it particularly funny when Kala showed up in Sun’s cell and Sun remarked that they all basically knew why this happened.) As each of them find a need for understanding or encouragement or love, suddenly, that sensate is provided for them. Sun helps Kala consider the importance of sex and why she shouldn’t fear it. Nomi and Lito bond further about the terrible weight of coming out and the stigma of their respective journeys. Oh god, Capheus telling Jela about his “super power” while Sun encourages him to continue!!! This shit is so damn satisfying to watch, and most other scripts would rush through these moments, but not Sense8. These story beats are important to the whole because this show is about the whole. This cluster has to feel real, living, breathing, and complicated, and we need to see moments of them all interacting with one another. 

Not everyone’s story is advanced all that far in this first half, though I know I’m limited in my perception of “Happy Fucking New Year.” because I’m missing the second half. But so far, Capheus has a new van, gifted to him by the Kabaka family. (And I do wanna note that I’m already won over by Toby Onwumere.) Wolfgang is not interested in continuing in the work that his uncle did. And Sun has a new lawyer who wants to get her out, but that looks pretty grim at this point. 

Most of the larger character stories belong to Kala, Will, and Lito, and it’s a welcome focus. As I mentioned before, Will’s plot is more attached to the larger serialized arc, since he’s the one that Whispers is most attached to. It’s obviously not sustainable that he remain on heroin to hide from Whispers, but I’m not sure I know any other solution. I am guessing that Will’s scenes with Jonas are a clue. Hiding in Whisper’s mind might provide an answer, and perhaps it’s in that medication he takes to block his abilities. Maybe??? I don’t know???

Kala’s story delves more deeply into her fears around sex, and most of it is played fairly seriously until… I can’t believe I’m about to type this: Rajan breaks his dick. Like… literally? The scene where it happens is hilarious until it’s horrifying, though I gotta say that it’s kinda all worth it for that, “Your love causes me pain,” line. Like Will’s story, I don’t know where this is going. Wolfgang seems to be having a lot of fun goading Kala, and Sun’s advice is far more tender. But how much of this is anxiety around sex, and how much is Kala’s feelings towards Wolfgang? 

Finally, one of the big things I needed to know after last season’s finale was the ramifications of Joaquin. I truly did not expect the show to reveal this to the audience in the way it did, but for something so triggering and vile and upsetting… that scene with Hernando addressing the photos was gorgeous. Oh, it broke my heart because I could see Hernando struggling to keep it together while dunking on that rude, homophobic asshole. It broke my heart because I know what it’s like to lose control of this part of yourself, to have other people steal your narrative and tell it for you. It’s why I’m so in love with the fact that we get to see Lito stand up for who he is, to throw himself to the wind as an act of freedom. And it’s why Sense8 is ultimately so compelling: because we get to see the beauty of this magical, psychic connection. Nomi and Lito share an experience both literally and metaphorically, and they provide each other an understanding that many queer people ache for. To see them give comfort and empathy… it’s a gorgeous, gorgeous thing.

The video for the first half of “Happy Fucking New Year.” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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