Sense8 S02E10: If All the World’s a Stage, Identity Is Nothing But a Costume
Directors: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
Writers: J. Michael Straczynski, Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
Starring: Doona Bae, Jamie Clayton, Miguel Ángel Silvestre, Max Riemelt, Tina Desai, Toby Onwumere, Tuppence Middleton, Brian J. Smith
A review by Samantha Pearson
Sense8 S02E10, If All the World’s a Stage, Identity Is Nothing But a Costume aims to tie up loose ends going into the season two finale. It picks up shortly after where What Family Actually Means leaves off and focuses on the emotional core of each character.
If All the World’s a Stage, Identity Is Nothing But a Costume heavily features Lito and Capheus, though the episode is bookended by Riley and Will. We only see Nomi, who dominated S02E09, in scenes involving the entire cluster. This episode also dives headfirst into the preparations for Sun’s final showdown with her brother at his gala. Apparently, the gala is meant to be the focus of the season two finale.
Things kick off in this episode with Kala and Riley discussing the blockers that Kala has made, and how it would be best if the two of them could be in the same physical space to test them together. Then, they have an emotional conversation about Will and Riley’s relationship which Kala uses as a means of talking about her connection with Wolfgang.
These two relationships have paralleled each other in many ways, with distinct differences forcing them to take different paths to romance. Will and Riley connected, initially, when the cluster were reborn as sensates. Likewise, Wolfgang and Kala connected through this same rebirth. Since then, Will and Riley have fallen in love and gotten together physically. Wolfgang and Kala, on the other hand, have fallen in love but cannot find the words to say so, and have never been in each other’s physical presence.
Oftentimes, we only see Kala interact with Will and Riley insofar as making sure that Will is either 1) shooting up safely or 2) not shooting up at all. Her knowledge of chemistry has propelled Will closer to Whispers throughout Sense8 season two by helping him stay safe while also pursuing the cluster’s would-be assailant.
Until If All the World’s a Stage, Identity Is Nothing But a Costume, we have seen very little friendship development between Kala and Riley. It’s amazing to see Kala seek advice from someone else who (somewhat) understands the difficulty she faces in coming to terms with her feelings for Wolfgang.
It’s a great scene, acted well by Tuppence Middleton and Tina Desai. The conversation is soft and warmly-lit; it provides the audience with a significant amount of information about several homo sensorium while also displaying emotional vulnerability from Riley, Kala, Will, and Wolfgang. Riley is on her way home to Will; Kala is (potentially) considering leaving her secretive husband. We learn that Will has started doing drugs again in the grief over his father’s death, and that Wolfgang is still hiding from authorities — and fellow sensate Lila Facchini — in Berlin. We also get a brief glimpse of Whispers, away from whom the series seems to have shifted focus by this point in season two.
After this moving scene, If All the World’s a Stage, Identity Is Nothing But a Costume shifts focus to three characters: Lito, Capheus, and Sun. Sense8 has done a really good job of demonstrating how the overdramatic Lito and the sometimes emotionally-bereft Sun balance each other in a really remarkable way. In S02E10, this balance comes into play at integral moments for them both.
While Lito is in Hollywood meeting with a producer (played by Andy Dick, in possibly the greatest cameo this show has ever had), Sun is auditioning as an anonymous bartender to serve drinks at her brother’s upcoming gala. This audition is Lito’s one shot at reclaiming and advancing his acting career; likewise, this audition is Sun’s one shot at getting into her brother’s gala to finally face him after everything he has done.
In an interesting twist, Lito has to perform in Sun’s place, and Sun in Lito’s. His flair for the dramatic — emphasized heartily by Miguel Ángel Silvestre — is integral for Sun getting into the gala. Meanwhile, Sun’s emotional vulnerability — played beautifully by Doona Bae, as always — is necessary for Lito to get this much-coveted Hollywood role. Together, these two can take on any situation; they balance the theatrical and the authentic incredibly well.
Capheus also has to play a role, of sorts, in If All the World’s a Stage, Identity Is Nothing But a Costume. The time has finally come for his first big campaign speech. While Lito is at his first Hollywood party with Hernando and Dani schmoozing with celebrities, Capheus is preparing to present a politicized version of himself in front of a crowd of hundreds. Except, as his family and partner repeatedly remind him, his constituents are excited about his candidacy because he is just like them.
Capheus learns that he doesn’t need to be someone else; he doesn’t need to “be a politician”. He just needs to be the man that his community has come to respect and rely upon for courage in his convictions and a desire to create positive change. Toby Onwumere plays Capheus with the same heartfelt authenticity as he has all season, solidifying his place not only in the hearts of Sense8 characters, but in the hearts of fans.
The serious nature of his scenes in S02E10 are directly contrasted by the ridiculousness of Lito’s. At the party, he is stripped down to his underwear by the costume designer for his next film and then re-dressed in various odds and ends from other guests. Hernando waxes philosophical with a famous white actor set to play Lito’s lover and said actor is asked, point blank, “Do you want to fuck him?” He says that, as his character Pablo, “Absolutely.”
Lito’s reaction is all smiles, but all of the scenes at the party are just so absurd. Silvestre pulls them off with his usual aplomb, but Alfonso Herrera’s performance as Hernando humanizes everything. The focus from party-goers on Lito’s speech at the Sao Paolo Pride parade and how inspiring it was is delightful, as is their inevitable joy over Lito and Hernando’s relationship.
In an intimate scene that mirrors the emotional intensity of the episode opener, Lito and Hernando dive into the ocean, mostly naked, and Lito cries, “FROM QUEER TO ETERNITY!” It’s such an openly loving, passionate scene, punctuated by this declaration. Lito has come a very long way from where he was in the Sense8 pilot and it’s great to see this series truly celebrating a gay character. Although he has suffered, now he is able to prosper at a brand new height, because he has fully embraced who he is. It’s incredible.
However, the joy of Lito’s upward trajectory is rapidly overshadowed by Capheus’ campaign rally. It quickly becomes a violent riot when his opponent’s men pick fights with the crowd and then throw a bomb at the stage. Capheus is targeted by men who’ve gone undercover as his security guards. The ensuing knife fight is won only because Will wakes up from his drug-induced sleep to help Capheus fight back, and the danger of the moment inspires Will to put down the drugs once and for all.
His re-dedication to the cluster’s fight comes just in time. If All the World’s a Stage, Identity Is Nothing But a Costume leaves off with the sensates swearing to protect each other before Sun’s brother’s gala. Will’s skills as a cop will be much needed if Sun is to make it through the event in one piece.
Keep watching Sense8! In a surprising reversal of its earlier cancellation, Netflix has announced that Sense8 will return for a two-hour finale special in 2018. It will serve to wrap things up following an apparent cliffhanger at the end of season two. Miracles do happen! Fandom is incredible and, honestly, invincible. I will keep hoping for even more of this series beyond the upcoming special. However, even this feels like a major victory.