Sense8 Season 1 Episode 5 Review: “Art Is Like Religion”

Sense8

There’s a lightness to “Art Is Like Religion” previous episodes have lacked; while it certainly doesn’t shy away from the more grounded, emotional moments, Sense8‘s fifth episode takes a step from the heavier plot dynamics of the season as a whole. In its place is a surprising amount of humor, from Lito’s difficult day on set to Kala’s reaction when a naked Wolfgang appears in the middle of her wedding ceremony. Is it the most nuanced, dynamic hour of Sense8? Certainly not; but it’s nonetheless an important episode for the show, and a surprisingly effective execution of a very difficult premise.

The aforementioned humor helps anchor what is also the most fragmented episode of the show since the pilot, bouncing between all eight sensates as their connections to each other become much stronger and more prominent in their lives (Nomi notes that her coffee changes taste, just as Kala begins to eat her favorite dessert). Led by Lito experiencing Sun’s menstrual cycle while on set of his latest film. This leads to terribly predictable, yet hilarious scenes of Lito losing control of his emotions, struggling with cramps, and feeling insecure and bloated, all of which are played to hilarious effect by Miguel Ángel Silvestre. As goofy and slapstick as those opening scenes are, though, they’re essential to quietly pushing forward the overarching plot of the show: as the images, visions, and sensations these eight share grow stronger and stronger, there’s a certain feeling of momentum in the undercurrents of “Art It Like Religion,” even as it pauses to flesh out things like the ridiculous film Lito’s working on, or the relationship between Kala’s parents when they started dating.

Perhaps the funniest sequence in “Art” is when Lito films his climatic action sequence, while Will goes on a “dramatic manhunt” for a child of interest who runs away from the police. I love how both of these scenes break down the assumptions of their respected genres: Lito’s gunfight, with its stunt harnesses and fake bullets, is revealed to be as much of a farce as the “chase” Will and his colleague go on: both come to anti climatic ends, moments that could’ve been played up for dramatic effect (who thought Will was going to be in a gun fight when that woman yelled “Police – run!”), instead existing as funny moments further depicting the growing connections between sensates.

“Art” doesn’t come without some dramatic contrast, however: Sun and Capheus’s difficult decisions regarding their family and their future come into alignment in this episode, and lead to the longest interaction we’ve seen between two sensates yet. Their shared scene in downtown Seoul brings a striking dynamic to the serious and lighthearted facets of this episode, Capheus sharing a story of his mother’s strength, and bringing some logic to exactly why Sun might be willing to take the fall for her father and brother, who’ve never shown her the appreciation and love she deserves. The scene is beautiful, the two speaking in their own languages before finding common ground in the memories of their mothers, conveying both the shared intelligence these eight have (being able to understand each other in their native languages) and the emotional bond that unites them, the one ‘language’ we all universally speak and understand.

Moments like those – including the episode-closing moment, when a naked, dripping Wolfgang asks Kala what the hell she’s doing marrying a man she doesn’t love – are what keeps “Art Is Like Religion” moving. Occasionally, the episode gets caught up in its own artistic ambitions, delivering awkward lines like “Impossibility is a kiss away from reality” or continuing to reduce Riley to a girl who sits in a room with headphones on and smiles (in their attempts to show she’s more “in tune” with what’s going on, never as excited or confounded as the others when strangers from other parts of the world appear in her flat).However, the deeper construction of Sense8‘s characters, world, and story help keep “Art” afloat when it begins to lose its momentum: how well “Art” is able to communicate the growing bond between characters without explicitly voicing it is impressive, like when Wolfgang is floating in the water, and Kala herself feels she’s drowning trying to navigate the uncertainty and desperation she feels during her wedding. Those scenes elevate what could feel like a perfunctory episode into something with a little more weight; and as Sense8 reaches the halfway of its first (and hopefully not only) season, “Art” is an impressive (though not flawless) example at how to balance the priorities between an episode designed to further flesh out its characters, and the larger concerns of maintaining dramatic crescendo through the season.

[Photo via Netflix]

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