I will not hate watch a show. I don’t even recognize the term. In this, the Entertainment Age, there is no reason to watch something for the express purpose of belittling it. I also believe in the concept of viewing karma. No matter how amateurish the acting or hackneyed the plot, a movie or television show is someone’s creative project and may well be their zenith. What does it say about me if I choose, instead of seeking out compelling, uplifting, or challenging entertainment, choose instead to lob slings and arrows at the nearest convenient target?
Dispatch #2 Episodes Three and Four
The second and third episode of Sense8 can be summed up in to two scenes. In the first, little seen Sun, a Korean executive, reveals that she has an unexpected talent. This comes at a critical time for Capheus, the Kenyan bus driver, who is in desperate need of just this skill set. It is imperative not to spoil the narrative content of the scene, which gives the Wachowski flashiness a depth that, I am not ashamed to say, drew forth a legitimate cheer as I watched it. So much prestige television is dark tones layered upon darker ones; it is refreshing to see an entertainment that is made with a light touch. In spite of some violence in the situation, there is a very basic notion of the underdog triumphing that fully resonated with me.
In addition, the construction of the scene showed an inventiveness that has been absent in the Wachowskis’ recent work. While the themes of Cloud Atlas were admirable and the visuals of Jupiter Ascending and Speed Racer were arresting, none of the Wachowskis recent work approaches the pure sense of exploration and enticement in the original Matrix. The impact of that film has been lessened by the passage of time and its many imitators, but it came out of nowhere and blew moviegoers out of their seats. This scene, about five minutes of a hundred and fifty, was worth the entire time investment for Sense8. At this point, the plot, theme, or creator baggage does not matter; the show simply soars on the strength of this scene.
This leads directly to the second noteworthy sequence in these two episodes. The fourth episode ends with a full recital of 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Up.” Full disclosure, I did not care for this song when it was popular in 1992 and was more than a little surprised to hear it in a television show in 2015. The choice seemed a little bit on the nose, a little too Lilith Fair, and the opposite of epic and mysterious. A further annoyance was that at the beginning of the scene, a millennial in a German karaoke bar proclaims her love for the song. Far be it for me to say that 4 Non Blondes have not retained allegiance, but it felt as if Sense8 was trying to manipulate a moment rather than earning it.
What followed, as I stewed about the lazy choice of song, was the entire cast singing the song, a la Magnolia, while having soulful and cathartic moments. Though this is entirely to do with my feelings about the scene, the actors seemed entirely uncomfortable acting while delivering song lyrics. This is capped by Nomi, who finishes the scene by asking “What’s going on?” with enough hammy portent to win a Shatner award. To be fair, delivering this line is a thankless task. The entire enterprise was laughable, but in the weakest and most forced way possible, and landed with an epic thud. It was the kind of scene that can grind viewing of a show to an immediate halt.
The problem is that awesome scene in the previous episode that engendered my good will to Sense8 forever. It doesn’t seem fair, however bad a scene, to give up on a show. Furthermore, there were probably viewers who stuck it out through the third episode and were brought to their feet by the song. Sense8 is shaping up to be the kind of show where viewers have to make a decision to stick with even through some rough spots.
There are going to be other moments that redeem them, but this also puts an unfair amount of pressure for the series to pay off in the final episode. Given that Netflix’s programming model is inscrutable, there may or may not be another season of Sense8. Everything could be building to the season’s final episode; how satisfying that is depends on the resolution, but also on the individual moments that led to it. These two episodes indicate that there will some good, some insufferable, but the whole will be hard to predict. That, and the Van Damn bus, is enough to keep me moving on to Episode 5.