This is the fourth post in a series exploring my connection to the eight sensates (and maybe even going beyond just the main characters – let’s see how far I’ll get) to bridge the time until June 8, when the special will be available on Netflix. The first one was about Lito, the second one about Kala, #3 about Capheus. Beware of possible spoilers and personal information about me!
Riley (played by Tuppence Middleton) to me is like the opposite of Capheus in a way, the most vulnerable and sad of all sensates, which is why she represents me in my darker times.
In my last post I may have made it seem as if I was a wholly optimistic person who is bursting with enthusiasm at all times, embracing life to the fullest. But that’s not the whole story, I’ve also gone through times in which I have felt sad, alone, maybe even a little depressed. In the past few months, since the break-up with my boyfriend of 11 years, I’ve had these occasional bouts of sadness with no clear and definite cause. Plus, for my whole adult life I’ve had to cope with frequent headaches and migraines, something that can really make you feel blue, especially in those periods when you wake up with a headache almost every day. It wears you down.
This, of course, is by no means comparable with the pain of Riley’s loss! Luckily, I’ve never experienced such shattering tragedy and I’ve also never felt like I wanted to die. But learning about Riley’s background story has made me understand a little better why she tries to find escape in drugs – something that I really didn’t like that much about her character at first. Well, after knowing why she feels the need, I still don’t condone it but wish she could find other ways to deal with bereavement instead. But I don’t hold it against her either.
Even though I’ve never resorted to recreational drugs or alcohol to dull the pain (I did sometimes fear I might become dependent on painkillers) or to „broaden my horizons/get loose/celebrate/whatever‟, I’m not wholly immune to the dangers of addiction. So, yes, I don’t drink when I’m blue but I might treat myself to a little more „soul food‟ than necessary when I’m stressed or sad. And let’s not forget my escapist addiction to watching series and movies, hell, even my theater trips to London have become my „drug‟. You should see how „high‟ I am after seeing a brilliant play and having met one (or some) of my favorite actors at the stage door! You might say that this is not a dangerous drug, but I do find it increasingly difficult to come back to „my real life‟ after such trips to London (or after attending a fan convention). But I think even writing about that shows that I am aware of the inherent risk of addiction in this behavior.
This all sounds as if Riley is a character that has nothing positive to offer. But that’s not true. First of all, even if she denies it, she is a musician. So, we sort of have this connection. Music has always played a big part in my life, my older brother was a DJ for a number of years (not a famous one, just in local discos or clubs, as you would say nowadays), my younger brother actually is a singer-songwriter (not that he makes a ton of money with that) still waiting for his big breakthrough, so I can very much relate to this aspect.
Being the most vulnerable of the eight sensates also gives her the ability to show a lot of empathy towards the feelings of the others. I love how dedicated she is to helping Will when he is in his most vulnerable state, in constant fear of being found by Whispers, and especially when his father was dying. Riley is strong when caring for others, and one of the most moving scenes for me is when she visits Will’s dying father in Will’s place and the connection between Will and her is so strong that Will’s father can actually see Will in Riley.
I like to think that, in some respect, I’m like that too. I may have my weaknesses and fears and downs, but I can put these aside when somebody else needs my help. I guess it’s a good character trait when you work as a teacher… Years ago (in 2003/2004), when I worked at the school I mentioned in the post about Capheus, there were three (ex-)students of mine – all young men – that I became close with and that all had varying degrees of depressive streaks. One of them had openly voiced suicidal thoughts (he’s the one I became closest with), another displayed self-harming behavior. This was in the same year when my marriage started to crumble (and extended beyond the separation), so I was quite vulnerable myself. Still, I tried to be there for these students, listening to them, chatting with them, trying my best to keep their will to live alive. I’m not writing this to boast that I am one of these teacher-saints they sometimes show on TV or in the movies. I have never experienced such a close and vital connection to a student since then, at least not when it comes to seriously troubled students. They trusted me because I myself could show my vulnerability to them and there was a mutual level of trust that I will cherish forever. (Over the past few years I’ve lost contact with them, very sadly.) So, even in one of my darkest periods (professionally and personally) I was able to be there for others – just as Riley.
To me, Riley is the heart of the cluster. She doesn’t seem to have any special skills (does having contact to drug dealers count?), yet, she’s just as essential to the cluster as everyone else. Letting herself fall in love again with all her heart and soul is a big accomplishment if you think about her past. So, Riley is about hope, even in the darkest of times: Some endings become beginnings! Never to give up hope, that’s what I strive for in my life too. And I think I’m on the right track!