Sense8 has some of the best sex scenes on television. Even though it doesn’t turn into one of the full-blown telepathic orgies, the interlocking sex scenes that unfurl in this episode dazzle and crackle with energy. Lana Wachowski has a sharp but transcendental eye as a director, and those skills come out most in scenes that require little dialogue. “Isolated Above, Connected Below” moves the story forward, both in small strokes on an individual basis for each sensate, but also in larger strokes when it comes to the central conflict between B.P.O. and the cluster. Crucially, those plot developments are backed with compelling visual storytelling that the last episode lacked. The stylized, emotional camerawork interplays with the central themes to create a fluid, sensation-heavy hour.
Capheus goes home with Zakia, who confirms that she was in love with a woman in college, adding that she falls in love with people and not genders. She doesn’t expect Capheus to understand, but he does. All connected to one another, the sensates’ genders and sexualities aren’t fixed. The telepathic orgies they have aren’t merely spectacular visual sequences, but also subversive in the way they blur the lines between each of the sensate’s desires. As Capheus and Zakia have sex, Kala finally lets herself have what she really wants, visiting Wolfgang and acting on her long-simmering attraction to him. Kala and Wolfgang have sex in many places, including in a pool, and the jumps between them and Capheus and Zakia are breathtakingly beautiful. Once you experience sensorium sex, it must be hard to go back. Will and Riley are experiencing physical touch as mere humans again now that Will’s on blockers, and it has zapped some of the passion away. The way Kala and Wolfgang are filmed together makes it clear that sex between two sensates is on a whole other level.
Of course, Wachowski doesn’t need a sex scene to imbue her direction with potent, layered feeling. Nomi and Amanita’s return to the home they were forced out of long ago is stunning, the two women spinning together, embracing, thrown in warm light. Near the end of “Isolated Above, Connected Below,” they wander toward Angelica’s cabin, conveniently located near the commune where Amanita grew up — with three dads, apparently, because it’s not just the sensates who defy conventions on this show. In search of answers, they pause in the woods, dappled in glorious sunlight, as Nomi takes a moment to thank Amanita for being so supportive and selfless in this wild journey. It’s a quiet moment, but it echoes with emotional honesty, and that’s always more captivating than plot specifics.
The other scene that really stands out is when Lito, Hernando, and Dani travel to São Paulo for the pride parade for which Lito has been asked to serve as grand marshal. Pride parades burst with a specific, almost ethereal energy, with people coming together to express joy, comfort, and celebration over who they are. Sense8 captures that same type of bright, illuminating energy. Even though “Isolated Above, Connected Below” clocks in at 67 minutes, I almost wish the pride sequence could have lasted longer. It’s a scene that makes you want to stay in it forever — all color, happiness, and glitter.
It also makes Lito’s fear all the more significant. He admits to the crowd of thousands that he’s afraid to be there, that for so long, he was afraid to be who he really is. The pride scenes also cement Miguel Ángel Silvestre as a brilliant actor, capable of great range as this complex character. Silvestre makes Lito’s speech feel genuinely ad libbed, coming out of him naturally and convincingly. Silvestre is great at portraying Lito’s over-the-top dramatic side, too: Even Lito’s reveal that the trio are going to São Paulo is packed with all the theatrics of a “we’re going to Disney!” ad. But he’s also great at the deeper, more nuanced material. While the pride scene is fun to watch, it’s also a huge character moment for Lito, who unshackles himself from all his doubts and fears, publicly identifies as gay, and declares his love for Hernando. Their kiss is deservedly drawn out and filmed like the exuberant ending of a romantic comedy. The rest of the sensates look on, feeling the buoyancy of pride. They’re all queer in a way.
Let’s take a moment to catch up on the most pertinent mythology details mentioned in this episode. The concert plan seems a little better in retrospect, because Puck more or less confirms that sensates connect instantly in each other’s physical presence — kind of like a phone automatically connecting to Wi-Fi. The only way to avoid that automatic connection is by taking beta blockers, those little black pills Will takes regularly to keep Whispers out of his head.
When we first met Puck last episode, he was also on the blockers, prohibiting Riley from realizing he’s a sensate. But here, he makes himself very known, bearing quite a bit in common with the Midsummer Night’s Dream character who shares his name: impish, meddlesome, and full of tricks. He fills in Riley with some more information, all while making crude passes at her. (Between Puck and Lila, sensorium seem to be an even hornier species than sapiens.) According to Puck, pretty much all sensates are on blockers. He also cautions Riley that it’s safe to assume any other sensate you meet is probably working for B.P.O. Given that threat, Riley’s seemingly impossible escape from B.P.O.’s grip has Puck wary of her allegiance.
Riley also seeks answers from the Scottish sensate who appeared briefly at the concert. He doesn’t initially trust Riley either, going simply by “the old man of high,” but when she lets him see where she and Will are hiding out, he lets down his guard, revealing that he lives in the highlands of Scotland. He also reveals a bit more about B.P.O.’s origins. Ruth, the founder of B.P.O., had a sensorium twin sister who was stoned to death, leading her on a crusade to better sapien-sensorium relations. Yes, B.P.O. was founded to protect sensates. An international charter was even signed giving them basic rights, so long as participating governments agreed not to deploy them as military weapons. That agreement has crumbled in the present day, with B.P.O. hunting down sensorium, who are forced to live in hiding, surviving on beta blockers.
But as the old man admits, surviving is not the same as living, so when Riley shows him “the cannibal,” he agrees to help her figure out his exact location. What follows is an elaborate, globe-spanning game of sensate telephone — or the original Google, as the old man puts it. He contacts one sensate, who contacts another, who contacts another, and so on and so forth, the sequence jumping from one hushed utterance to another, all filmed in the style of the opening credits. It reveals just how massive and broad the sensate network is — people of all ages, genders, races, nationalities, and professions, interconnected through a telepathic network that rivals any internet service on the planet. After the sensate globe trot, the old man delivers some bad news to Riley: She has to go to Chicago alone, which is exactly what Angelica did right before everything spiraled out of control.