After two exposition-heavy episodes, Sense8 is finally ramping up for its finale. The last two episodes involved a lot of contemplation, with each of the sensates mulling over the tough choices they have ahead of them and grappling with all the potential consequences. Those episodes felt a little stagnant, as if there wasn’t enough story to sustain 12 episodes. Thankfully, Sense8 is back on track with “What Is Human?,” an episode that finds that balance between over-the-top genre show and insightful character drama.
Part of the reason that “What Is Human?” is so successful is that it’s largely focused on the show’s best story line. The genre film and relationship drama that is Lito’s life is the liveliest plot within this show, the one that embodies just about everything the show has to offer, boasting fun action sequences and a whole lot of heart.
I’ve mentioned a lot that Sense8 clearly has the qualities of a genre TV show. That means that it knows it’s occasionally ludicrous and ridiculous and cheesy; that’s all part of the fun. What’s interesting is the way in which the show makes an argument for the value of genre TV and film. Genre films or television are sometimes seen as “lesser” art, as reducing the human experience to a bunch of clichés. Sense8 argues that there’s still tremendous value in those clichés, that they get at something universal.
Take, for instance, the prominent role Jean-Claude Van Damme films play in the show, and how Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan The Barbarian is the film that shaped Wolfgang and Felix. Both of these films play a role in the lives of some of the sensates, giving Capheus and Wolfgang courage. What Sense8 is saying is that there’s value in genre films, b-movies, and all the art that’s considered of lesser value than something “serious.”
It’s a message that runs through much of the Wachowskis work, and this episode, directed by the sibling team, is perhaps the purest distillation of their aesthetic and thematic sensibilities yet. There are rocket launchers and slo-mo shots and cheesy dialogue about destiny, but it’s presented with love, not any sort of irony or distance.
That focus on genre tropes makes for some of the most thrilling scenes Sense8 has crafted so far, both of which involve Lito and Wolfgang helping each other out. First, Wolfgang is meeting with Steiner in order to return the diamonds to him. He just wants Felix to be safe so he agrees to give the diamonds back in exchange for a free pass.
When he hands over the diamonds though, Steiner begins to beat him. Wolfgang has thought ahead and strapped a gun underneath his car, anticipating that Steiner would get him on the ground. He’s not close enough to grab it though and Steiner is moments from killing him. He wants to know how Wolfgang got in the safe and he doesn’t accept that he cracked it. He wants Wolfgang to tell him what really happened; otherwise he’ll shoot him in the head.
NEXT: Lying is what I do best