Have you ever had moments in which you’ve gotten unreasonably angry or sad while just going about your normal business? Or maybe you’re just sitting there working, or reading, or doing whatever, when all of the sudden you get excitedly happy for no discernable reason?
Sure, it might be manic depression. Actually, it probably is. But in the world The Wachowski’s have built, it could also mean you’re a Sensate and are literally feeling someone else’s feelings. Or, more literally, your brain is generating a feeling based on the internal responses someone else is having to something happening to them.
In our real world, that sounds a lot like empathy. Empathy is the ability to feel and understand someone else’s perception of reality. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy—or its lack—as it pertains to what has been in the news. Some people are just naturally empathic, but there are certain behaviors that encourage it. Reading, for example. Studies have suggested that those who read demonstrate more empathy toward others because they spend more time perceiving the world through the eyes of somebody else. (As an aside, what does it mean that our society, as a whole, is reading less? I think maybe that is why I’ve been made to wonder about it so much lately.)
All of this is to say that when we empathize with someone, we not only see that person’s perception of reality but feel it with them, too. It is key to a civilized society. “I am also a We,” you might say.
Empathy, obviously, was a heavy theme in this episode. Some have it in spades, others… not so much. Nomi’s mother, for example, who refuses to accept her daughter’s reality and instead insists she has a son with a mental—maybe even neurological—disorder. Her attitude is all too common, and acting in spite of that is what makes Nomi and those like her so courageous. Many simply hide their realities and try to survive the best way they can, by “looking them in the eye and lying.”
When he said that, Lito was talking about acting, but in the absence of empathy from others, I think acting is a necessary skill for us all at one point or another.
With that in mind, then, let’s review how the overall story developed during the second hour of this twelve hour movie:
Instead of picking up where we left off with a blood-stained Riley, the episode begins with Nomi talking to Amanita about her disturbing visions of Angelica. Amanita—Neetz, if you’re nasty—suggests it might be someone from Nomi’s “criminal past” as a paid hacktivist. Nomi doesn’t think so, so Neetz encourages her to write about it to try to make some sense of it.
Meanwhile, Will is in the hospital sitting next to the bed of the kid he saved from the last episode. The two share stories about their fathers being shot when the kid remarks how when “cops get shot, you hear about it on the news all day, but when we get shot we don’t mean nothing to nobody.”
No lies there.
Nomi starts writing about regret and fear. We’re given flashes of Sun in Seoul and Capheus in Nairobi—the only time either makes an appearance this episode. Nomi writes how she was taught by her parents that there is something wrong and offensive with her. She writes about the deadly sins, and how pride is seen as the ultimate gateway to being a full blown sin-aholic, even as hate and shame aren’t on the list.
As Will enters a bar to find his dad (who, given the conversations in the last episode, I thought was dead), Nomi concludes her writing before going to the Pride March: “Today, I’m marching for that part of me that was once too afraid to march, and for all the people who can’t march. Today I march to remember I’m not just a me, I am also a We, and We march with pride.”
During the Pride March, though, as she rides on the back of Amanita’s motorcycle, Jonas appears and locks eyes with Nomi, who recognizes him from the vision. In shock, she falls off the motorcycle and we cut to Riley walking the streets of London in a daze. She sings. We cut to a hospital, and Riley is singing to Nomi who is lying in a bed. When Nomi wakes up, Riley is gone but her mother and sister are there.
This is when we see the mother’s total lack of empathy, as she refers to Nomi using the pronoun “him.” Presumably she also introduced Nomi as Michael, because that is what the nurse calls her. When Nomi voices these concerns, the mother goes into full bigot mode and starts talking about how it “serves him right” to have almost died.
Nomi asks about Amanita, but is told only family members are allowed into critical care. Worse, the doctor has some bad news about Nomi… she has UFLS, which means her brain tissue will grow abnormally and she will hallucinate and have an “occlusion of identity” before she dies in 6 months. The only way to prevent it is surgery. Her mother says “you’re going to need your family, Michael,” and Nomi kicks them out.
Meanwhile, Will is at the police station with his partner checking surveillance footage from the abandoned church. The tapes have been erased and two hours seem to be missing, but a man can be seen walking by the church before the missing time – he may have seen whatever happened.
As this is going on, Lito is attending the premiere of his movie “Love Has No Boundaries But Death” (hmmm). His fans—mostly female—love him, but he’s there with Daniella, a woman he insists is just a good friend. After the premiere the two talk about his acting skills, and this is when Lito chalks it up to an ability to “look people in the eye, and lie.” Arriving home, Daniella invites Lito upstairs (I think maybe for sex), but he gives multiple excuses and leaves, which kind of makes him more attractive in her eyes.
We cut to two people who are not Lito and Daniella having sex. One of the people is Wolfgang, in Berlin. The woman in bed with him remarks how lucky she is to have ocked her keys in the car. (This is just one example of a pattern I’ve noticed in this show where the characters explain what has happened off-scene in a nonchalant, casual way for the benefit of the audience. It’s not bad, but once you notice how often it happens—and how often it doesn’t happen when it reasonably should—it gets kind of annoying.)
In Mumbai, Kala is at some kind of gathering in preparation for her wedding. She’s listening to her husband-to-be give a toast about her. As he recounts their first date—going to see the movie “A Match Made by God” (hmmmmmm)—you get the sense that even as Kala is not in love with him, his love for her is true. And, as they’re all eager to point out to her, her family adores him.
Back in Lito’s world, he’s made it back to his apartment and is whispering to someone in bed. A male moans… Lito, it turns out, is gay. They start talking about the premiere, and his boyfriend, Hernando, wonders when he can expect to go to premieres with Lito, killing the mood. He wants to be Lito’s armpiece, but Lito asks, “Why be jealous of the arm, when you already have my heart?”
Meanwhile, Wolfgang is at dinner with the woman he just had sex with, and she’s trying to figure out exactly what they’re doing because he’s not looking for a relationship. As they’re having this conversation, Wolfgang turns to see Kala walking through the restaurant. We cut to her in India, overlooking the reception area. She sees Wolfgang, and they lock eyes. He gets distracted, and the woman he is with asks if there is “someone else.” He tells her no.
Lito gets woken up by Daniella ringing his door bell. There is a video monitor there, and he can see she has a bottle of wine. If he doesn’t let her in, she says, she’ll just fall asleep on the doorstep. Lito looks toward Hernando, who says he can’t say no to bubbles. When Daniella comes up to the apartment she’s looking sexy with the bottle of champagne, and some sensual bass licks play in the background. When she starts undressing him. Lito tries to de-escalate and says he needs space. She makes it clear that she is okay with simply having sex with no strings attached, so Lito, not knowing what else to do, repeats his old standby line: “my heart belongs to another.” Daniella brushes it off and starts going upstairs to the bedroom, shouting about how she doesn’t understand what the problem is.
“The problem,” Hernando replies just before she enters the bedroom, “is that you don’t have a cock.”
The bottle of champagne pops. Lito laughs everyone off and pretends it’s a joke (look them in the eye and lie), but Daniella insinuates she can help deflect the rumors. She can be his beard, as they say. As they ask what she’s going to get out of the arrangement, she just tells them it’s a dream come true.
That’s the last we see of them this episode, so we’ll have to wait and see what she means.
In London, Riley is back in her apartment. As she starts her shower and looks in the mirror, she sees Will shaving. Will sees her. They both shake it off.
Back in Nomi’s hospital room, the nurse comes in to give Nomi medicine. When Nomi tells the nurse she is ready to go, the nurse tells her she doesn’t have a say in the matter because her family signed the papers to keep her there.
At the police station, Will and his partner Diego (whom I will refer to hereafter as Doubting Diego because that seems to be his only purpose) are talking about psychic phenomenon as the police chief introduces an Agent Stiles from Homeland Security. Agent Stiles shows a slide of Jonas, who is wanted for murder. Will thinks he might know the guy, but isn’t sure how.
Later, Nomi is looking forlornly out of the window of the hospital room when Jonas appears. Jonas says the operation her doctor was talking about is designed to lobotomize her. Nomi thinks she is hallucinating, but Jonas tells her he knows she knows the truth.
“We all know when people are lying to us, we just don’t want to listen,” Jonas says. “The minute the doctor entered the room, a voice inside of you told you to run. You need to listen to that voice and get out of here.” There is a knock at the door, but Jonas is gone. The knocking continues, and Nomi starts wondering just how lost her mind is when it turns out the knocking is happening in…
…London. Someone is trying to get into the apartment where Riley witnessed the shoot-out. She has since decided to return, and has taken the bag full of drugs and money for herself. She gets out of the apartment before the guy knocking makes his way in.
Meanwhile, Will goes back in the bar to see his father, who is hanging out with a bunch of fellow cops. His father—and the cops—are upset that he saved a punk who might go on to kill somebody else. Trying to brush it off, Will tells his dad he is beginning to wonder if he’s losing his mind. He brings up someone named Sara Petrell, who the two clearly have a history with (why can’t this be one of those overly-expository moments?). Will’s father tells him to drop it and let her go, because otherwise they’ll drag him into a psych eval and run him off of the force.
At the hospital, the phone rings in Nomi’s room. She thinks it is another hallucination, but answers it just the same. Neetz is on the line, “I finally found you.” She had been calling every room on her floor. Security is tight, but she knows about Doctor Metzger’s plan.
“Something is going on.” Amanita tells her. “I don’t know what it is, but I will burn this building down before I let anyone touch that beautiful brain.”
Nomi brings up the vision of Jonas and wonders about her sanity. But Neetz has Nomi’s cell phone, and cameras don’t hallucinate… just before she fell, Nomi had taken a picture of the crowd, and caught Jonas staring right at her.
While that is happening, Will decides get some sleeping pills from the store. After a dodgy talk with the shifty store clerk, he decides on Ibuprofen instead. Before he makes it to the cashier he decides to peruse the magazine aisle and picks up an issue of “Psychic Phenomenon,” and as if on cue Jonas appears.
“Hello,” he says. “My name is Jonas.”
Will knows who he is, of course, thanks to his briefing earlier. As the two verbally spar, Jonas decides to drop some clues: Angelica “gave birth” to Will just before she took her life. He says that we all experience many births and deaths during a life… but few know what it means to be reborn a Sensate.
He talks about Will having a headache. “You’ve had it since you saw her,” he says. “You’ll start to feel strange things. You’ll feel anger, joy, pain, pleasure, without any reason. You’ll feel snow in the summer, and rain when there are no clouds.” (Remember Kala looking for that umbrella last time?)
Jonas tells him about a girl who needs his help—Nomi—just like Sara Petrell. Jonas goes to leave, but Will won’t let him. The two get into a fight, and Jonas kind of kicks his ass and takes off. As Will gives chase, the clerk asks if he needs to call the cops. The ambiguity of what really happened—did the clerk see Jonas, or is he talking only to Will, who would have appeared to throw himself into the shelves?—is great.
But it seems Jonas really was there, at least in some physical sense, because a car chase follows. As Will catches up with Jonas, they start appearing in each other’s passenger seats. Will admits to Jonas that he’s losing his mind, but Jonas says the line from the series’ trailer: “No, it’s just expanding.”
Just then, Will flashes back to his own car, and the two collide as the episode ends.
I’m left to wonder why Jonas couldn’t have just explained everything clearly in the drug store. “Look, Will, here’s what’s going on. Don’t tase me, bro.” Why be shifty and always on the run?
I’m also wondering just how invested in the characters I truly am. I find that, two episodes in, I care about what happens, but I can’t figure out if it’s because I actually care or if I just feel like I do because I pay excruciatingly close attention to detail for these recaps.
In other words, if I wasn’t taking notes, would I be as… empathetic… toward them as I am?
What do you think? Do you like these characters so far?
Either way, I’m eager to see what’s going on with Sun and Capheus, who have been sorely neglected so far. I imagine we won’t have to wait long, because if I had to wager on who we’ll be focusing on in chapter three, smart money would be on the skinny bitch.
See you then.