What’s Going On?
Written by The Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by Tom Tykwer
Wolfgang (Max Riemelt) and Felix (Max Mauff) are at the Holocaust Museum waiting for someone. Felix is talking about obedience and revolution, and how they—Wolfgang and he—are having their own revolution by making this big score. Wolfgang is unimpressed: there won’t be much of a revolution if they can’t self these hot rocks they ripped off. The person they are waiting for arrives: an older Jewish gentleman. He understands that they have something that “coincidentally” came into their possession. He wants to see them, but at another location: one does not speak of money at a memorial to the dead.
The wedding planers are sitting down with Kala’s (Tina Desai) and Rajan’s families, laying down the final preparations for the coming wedding. They mention that there has been a change to the ceremony: Rajan wants to exchange rings, something that doesn’t happen in a Hindu wedding. He says he wants to show that he is committed to Kala, and that this is a new symbol of India in the 21st Century. Of course, this means the ceremony will go on for about six hours, but there are ways around that—with the proper expenditure of money. Rajan’s dad is about to blow the whole damn thing off, but this is something Rajan want so he can show he’s bound to Kala. For her part, Kala looks as if she wishes she was bound for somewhere on the other side of the world—
It’s morning and Sun (Doona Bae) is getting ready. Checking her image in the mirror it’s impossible not to notice the heavy bruising around her right eye and the left corner of her mouth. But, as Cosima Niehaus once famously said, thank God for concealer.
At a library the diamond merchant looks over Wolfgang’s and Felix’s score. The diamonds are fantastic, but there’s the problem: the guy is certain that they rocks are part of a shipment out of Mumbai, and he knows who’s coming looking for them—as, it would seem, does Wolfgang. He can’t move them unless . . . he could always recut them. That’s going to make them worth less. Wolfgang is once more unimpressed, but the merchant tells them while this option may not be easy, it’s not impossible. They sit for the deal: he’ll buy a third and see what he can do. Wolfgang is for half or nothing—and he knows the guy would take the deal because he did listen to all the guys stories, and knows that he would do it because his mother would.
Capheus’ (Aml Ameen) mother is ironing his shirt: she doesn’t want him going out looking like a slob. She’s upset that he spends his money on her medicine, and he doesn’t want to hear it: he’s there because he wants to be there. He kisses her and smiles: he feels that today is going to be a good day. And damned if he isn’t right: there’s a large crowd looking to ride the “Van Damn” today, mostly because they heard it’s the safest bus “in and out of Ni-robbery!” The woman who was with him when he took down The Superpower shows off the ring they retrieved.
Wolfgang and Felix are walking through the city and as they begin to cross a street Felix looks down as his shoes. This leads to the story of Katrina Unger, who was Felix’s first sexual conquest at the age of fourteen. He bought her lots of presents and stuff, but once he got laid, he felt it was all worth it. They are in Felix’s locksmith store and head to the back as he continues with the story, he had to go out and buy a new pair of shoes because, for him, everything had changed and he couldn’t walk in the old ones any longer. Felix dumps out a bag full of Euros and thinks they need new shoes.
The “Van Damn” is headed into the city, making good time, with Jela (Paul Ogola) hanging outside the bus having a great time. The happiness departs as they encounter a police road block and they alone are motioned to pull off the highway. Jela’s not worried—papers are in order—but the cops aren’t there for the papers: they want Capheus. Four officers, two with assault rifles and escort him into the trees. One passenger is certain that’s the last they’ll see of him, but Jela says: Van Damme always comes back.
Time to eat, and Hernando (Alfonso Herrera) is fixing something while Daniela (Eréndira Ibarra) joins Lito (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) at a table on their balcony/workout area. Lito is still freaking about Joaquin coming to the set, but Daniela is chill about the matter—until Lito says he showed him how to cut a man’s throat, which is something Daniela knows he’d probably do. Hernando comes over with ceviche for Lito to try, but the later is so worked up he just kinda blows off Hernando, which you can see is something he’s not used to:
Who says only women are into shoes? Felix and Wolfgang are all over this, though really, it’s all Felix: Wolfgang isn’t all that interested in fancy shoes, he’s got something plain and simple—one of his own. Felix is trying to interest him in something different, but Wolfgang is once again not impressed. He put it back on but there’s something wrong: he has black toes sticking out of his socks when he removes the shoe. But only for a moment—
Capheus walks slowly down a path through the woods. He looks grim: he knows how these deals go down. He’s led to a Escalade and where he see a man in the back seat, one dressed in an immaculate suit. Time for the unease to ramp up.
Kala shows up at the temple of Lord Ganesha and, surprise! There are pictures of her Rajan and his father all over the entrance. There are men there informing those that these two men are using their money to buy politicians who’ll eventually strip away all the old Hindu traditions, one of which is praying to the various gods at their temples. She says that’s not true, but as she walks away the look of unease on her face says something else.
Time for Capheus to get in the back of the Caddie. The man is Silas Kabaka, and Capheus knows this man. Silas knows “Van Damn” as well. He wants to thank Capheus, for The Superpower gang was working for him, but they were getting it in their heads they no longer needed him. After the ass beating Caspheus laid on them, they’re street rep is total shit, and that means Silas doesn’t have to worry about killing them. (Though this is not said, you get the feeling that’s what was going to happen.) He likes Capheus, wonders if he may be of service to him. Capheus says he’s okay: Silas knows his mother isn’t. He pushes the med card hard, says you can never tell if what you—
Sun is sitting in her father’s dark office alone, smoking, when Daddy shows up. He wonders why she’s there and pretty much gives little shits about her presence—though he really doesn’t like her smoking and tells her to stop. She takes a long, last drag and blows the smoke at him, getting in that last little dig at chauvinistic Daddy. She tells him why she’s there: auditors have been over the books, and they’ve figured out someone’s embezzling money from the company. Which means someone’s going to jail. Someone who isn’t there with them.
RT: This is where I started to panic for Sun. So much foreshadowing about daddy issues before this. 🙁
CF: Yeah, there isn’t any doubt that things are about to go sideways fast.
Wolfgang and Felix are at a fancy restaurant, and Felix wants the most expensive bottle of wine on the list. He wants to live it up like he’s a billionaire if only for one night, and this finally brings a smile to Wolfgang’s face—until he realizes his wrists are strapped to the chair— Felix asks him if he’s all right, and when he looks down again his wrists are fine. So let’s party!
Doctor Brain Butchering Asshole is speaking with Nomi (Jamie Clayton), showing her scans of how her brain is totally going to shit. Naturally she’s strapped to the bed because it’s probably for he own safety and not because she’s run like a 100 meter sprinter winning the gold at the fucking Olympics. He says he has a feeling she knows who started the fire, and she gets pissed, telling him she doesn’t. He says they aren’t helping her, and Nomi call him on his bullshit, because helping isn’t cuffing people to beds and chopping up their brains. Mama Cuntface deadnames her again trying to get her to calm down, and Doc Asshole decides he isn’t waiting until tonight to operate: he’ll do it as soon as possible.
Sun’s driver pulls to a stop somewhere in the city and she gets out. The bouncer at the door stops her: private club, no women allowed. She knows it’s a sex club and she’s there to get her brother. He ain’t letting her in. She goes to walk around him; he lays a hand on her; she kicks his ass with a couple of moves and goes inside.
Will (Brian J. Smith) is escorted into what looks like a maximum security Cook Country lockup.
As he walks thought the building Sun walks through hers, and they seem to switch places here and there during their walk. A guard puts a gun to Sun’s head, Will kicks his ass and puts him down. The cop in Chicago asks Will if he’s okay and sets him down, while—
Sun hits all the rooms until she finds this little douchebag partying it up with the ladies and a few of his buddies. She gets everyone’s attention, and Brother Dearest begins acting like an asshole and demeaning her. She wants him to see Father; he says he’ll see him tomorrow. Fuck that: Sun says he’ll see him now.
Lt. Duncan comes out to see Will, who then greats him speaking Korean. Duncan speaks it back, and he learned to swear in the language from his hapkido sensei. After some small talk Will gets to the point: he wants to see Jonas. Duncan can’t do that: it’s a federal issue. Will tries calling in a favor, but the lieutenant won’t hear of it and sends him on his way.
Little Brother is back in Dad’s office, having a drink and still acting like an arrogant douche to Sun. Dad finally tells him to shut the hell up, he’s had enough. Little Bro is confronted on the embezzling, and he’s not happy, ‘cause this is gonna turn into a huge scandal and they could lose the company. When Little Douche Bro hears the word “arrest” he starts losing his shit and starts pointing fingers—It’s Not My Fault! Sun so wants to roll her eyes but doesn’t. The father admits that he failed in raising the kid right: fortunately his late wife did raise one with some brains and guts. Sun tells her plan: since no one seems to know she exists at the company—getting in a nice dig at Daddy—she says she’ll take the fall for the embezzling. That way the company can likely weather the bad PR and not go under. Baby Bro now needs his big sister to help him out and I really wanted her to kick his ass out a window right then—
RT: I seriously wanted to murder the brother!
CF: He is such a cringe-worthy little asshole. But, you know this is what happen in their patriarchal societies where Daddy think the boys can’t do wrong. Except their ripping the joint off while the daughters are keeping everything afloat. Given the chance Sun will kick his ass into the ocean.
Will back in his squad SUV, but he doesn’t take leave. Instead, he tries making contact with Jones—and does. He learns he has to let visiting happen, and he’s back in the cell Jonas tells him that while he can “visit” with others, he can also “share” within his cluster, where he can access language, knowledge, skills— Will wants to know about this cluster, but all Jonas says is that there’s seven other parts to him, though it’s about to become six: Nomi Marks is going to be destroyed. He has to save her, and in doing so, same himself. Guards show up with Jonas and Will finds himself back in the SUV.
RT: I actually squealed at this point! I just wanted Will to save her 😀
CF: And you know by this point I’m sitting there saying, “Do it, Will: save Nomi.” I was getting all worked up at this point.
It’s time. They come for Nomi and prep her for surgery. She’s being held down as they administer the anesthesia, and she’s shackled to the bed. Nomi says they’re murdering her, and she screams for help—
Which Will hears. He concentrates, for he needs to share—
He sees her on the bed; she sees him in the hallway.
In the SUV, she begs Will to help her—
As she’s wheeled down to the operating theater.
Sun is in her apartment, looking out over the city as she smokes. She’s remembering her mother’s death, how she cried. How her father tried to comfort her and did a shitty job. She remembers in the darkness—
Riley (Tuppence Middleton) is on her mobile listening to a message her father left her.
The party continues as Wolfgang and Felix are down to some serious club partying. Just a suggestion: it’s usually not a good idea to throw around a lot of money if you’re trying to be low keyed.
Kala is trying to sleep, but someone is making noise. Oh, no problem: it’s just the couple in the next room having sex. What? It’s really Riley being there with Shugs and Bambi going at it, but Kala is the one mortified by the whole ordeal. London:
Riley, however, is the one who’s not putting up with this bullshit, and decides to fuck on off out of there.
Now that they’re drunk enough, it’s time for Wolfgang to get up and do a little karaoke! He gets up in front of everyone and remembers his father laughing at him at the recital, and screams out a couple of fuck yous to get the crowd in a good mood.
Sun goes at the heavy bag pretty hard, like she wants to murder it. Her brother texts and wants to talk like they used to. She drops the mobile and goes back to the bag, beating it and screaming.
Riley’s at her favorite spot to sit. She finds a song on her iPod: What’s Up? by 4 Non Blondes. With the headphones on she listens as the song starts. . .
Wolfgang is given the same song to sing. He doesn’t look impressed.
Lito, Hernando, and Daniela are in bed together, with Lito up and looking worried while his foot moves to the beat.
Capheus drives with a smile and mimics the drums before the singing starts.
Wolfgang is having trouble trying to sing: he’s frozen.
Sun is in her shower, swaying to the music.
Wolfgang finally sings.
Will joins him.
Kala is on the roof, singing as well.
Lito joins in.
Will is looking up Nomi as she is in the final stages before they bring her in. He’s singing, and so is she. Everyone is singing as we go from city to city, hearing them, watching them: Capheus with a smile, Sun dancing in the shower, Lito looking at the love of his life. All of them go into the chorus, What’s Going On? (The title shout out).
RT: I can’t say it often enough, it’s these moments that give me the goosebumps.
CF: The first time through I was grinning so hard.
Wolfgang is fooling around when he turns and find Kala standing next to the stage, confused.
Kala see Wolfgang on the roof with her, and she approaches slowly, singing the “woos” as well.
Wolfgang is staring at her, but all anyone sees is him. He sees her, though, and he begins singing to Kala.
She faces him and sings, too. Then they are back in her room, both singing together.
RT: You’re absolutely right, it seemed like the first time Kala actually smiled, like right down to her toes happy. She needs more happy in her life 😀
CF: Recapping these episodes I’ve gone over them two or three times each, and Kala has always been right on the downside of looking unhappy without quite getting there. And when she does smile it’s forced as hell. This was the first time there was real joy in her smile.
She’s interrupted when her roommate opens the curtains and wants to know what going on: after all, Kala was up singing in English, and there was this smile on her face. And she’s never smiled like that . . .
Will is asleep on his sofa, and as the camera pans down there’s an IV stuck in his arm.
He finds himself cuffed to the hospital gurney.
And Nomi leaves the room, slightly out of it from being doped up.
RT: And it was at this moment when I fully became addicted to this TV series. I watched the remained of the episodes in two sittings.
CF: I’m really forcing myself not to binge out, but it’s so hard not to finish these tomorrow. I don’t want to get more than a couple ahead, but yet, I want to know what happens to these people.
Will wakes up and realizes what he’s done.
Nomi is sneaking and peeking, trying to get out of the hospital. She makes a run for it through an door once a guard opens it. She makes her way past a station but she’s getting questioned by the nurse there. It looks like she’s not going to make it when—Hello, Nurse! It’s Amanita (Freema Agyeman) with a wheelchair, letting Ms. Keene know she’s not to walk outside on her own. They make it down to the lobby and it looks dire, but a taxi pulls up at that moment. Amanita makes a break for it, she nabs the taxi, and away they go! Nomi is safe! (Personal note: And during the first viewing of this I was on the edge of my seat for the most part. I even cheered at the end.)
Riley vapes and listens to the song as the sun rises. She looks to her right and Nomi is there singing with her.
Nomi tells Neets she’s had this song stuck in her head all day. Amanita says 4 Non Blondes is the perfect soundtrack for a lobotomy. They both start singing the song—
As Riley and Nomi sing the chorus in the beautiful sunrise—
While in the cab Nomi cries and whispers, “What’s going on?”
What’s going on?
The cluster is coming together.
Personal Note: I am a sucker for cold openings, long tracking shots, and ending musical montages. This was, by far, the best I’ve seen, and it’s stuck with me for a week since first seeing it. This is the perfect example of “show don’t tell” that we as writers are told to do within our prose. In these moments you see the cluster becoming aware of its parts, and this connection will change them in good, strange, and frightening way.
Kudos to The Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski for creating this moment, and to Tom Tykwer for translating those wonderful words into beautiful images.
And that’s Episode 4. I’ll return next week to get us to the half-way point of the season with Episodes 5 and 6. As always, tell us what you think in the comments below.
Tuppence Middleton — Riley Blue (née Gunnarsdóttir), London
Brian J. Smith — Will Gorski, Chicago
Doona Bae — Sun Bak, Seoul
Aml Ameen — Capheus, Nairobi
Max Riemelt — Wolfgang Bogdanow, Berlin
Tina Desai — Kala Dandekar, Mumbai
Miguel Ángel Silvestre — Lito Rodriguez, Mexico DF
Jamie Clayton — Nomi Marks, San Francisco
Freema Agyeman — Amanita, Nomi’s girlfriend
Alfonso Herrera — Hernando
Eréndira Ibarra — Daniela
Max Mauff — Felix
Paul Ogola — Jela