TV: Sense8 (Finale)

And so Sense8 dies as it lived: in a blaze of exuberance. Thanks to the agonized protests of a fervent fan base, Netflix allowed this unique show one last episode of sex, violence, and empathy—plus a chance at closure. On all counts it delivers, and while more than a little excessive and far from a masterpiece, it’s more or less the finale the series needed.

As it begins, our sensate cluster and their companions have gone to ground in Paris, finally together in person but hiding out from the evildoers of the Biologic Preservation Organization. The BPO has captured their cluster-mate Wolfgang (Max Riemelt) as part of their evil plot to launch a “drone program” by which they can control the bodies of sensates remotely. The cluster has their own counter-agenda: they’ve captured the nefarious Whispers (Terence Mann) and the unreadable Jonas (Naveen Andrews), from whom they’re attempting to extract information and leverage. The conflict has escalated into war, and it’s about to come to a head as the two sides negotiate a dicey exchange of hostages.

Sense8′s finale is jam-packed with all the ingredients that made its recipe so distinctively flavorful: stunning international cinematography, frantic ultraviolence, clunky expositional dialogue, telepathic sex parties, logistics-heavy plotting, and refreshing waves of empathy and inclusivity. Most of all, it has the laundry list of quirky, likable characters banding together in a sprawling created family to fight the forces of evil. The sensate heroes (Doona Bae, Jamie Clayton, Tina Desai, Tuppence Middleton, Toby Onwumere, Riemelt, Miguel Ángel Silvestre, and Brian J. Smith) are mostly a collection of types, but they’re greater than the sum of their parts, their chemistry contributing to the show’s singular appeal. There’s also plenty of welcome screen time for their close friends and allies, principally Nomi’s girlfriend Amanita (Freema Agyeman), Lito’s boyfriend Hernando (Alfonso Herrera) and girlfriend Daniela (Eréndira Ibarra), and of course, the Bug (Michael X. Sommers). The show’s tendency toward unlikely logistics, however, puts a strain on things, when it labors to drag virtually everyone who appeared in the series back onstage for one last European vacation. It pays off in the case of Kala’s husband Rajan (Purab Kohli), but starts to get out of control as figures from every remote corner of the Sense8 universe materialize at the whims of a script bending over backwards to involve them.

Then again, isn’t that part of Sense8′s charm? Too much is never enough on this show, and that goes for everything, including the hot mess of fan service that motivates many of the finale’s narrative decisions. If this results in an episode that’s all over the map, that just means every moment of groanworthy obviousness is matched by another that’s uniquely funny, exciting, intense, or moving. When you throw everything at the wall, not everything will stick. Enough does, in this case, and chief among the sticky bits is its message of empathy for the other, which is a missive the world desperately needs at the moment—and which made Sense8′s cancellation particularly painful in a world where bigotry, intolerance, and fascism are on the ascendant.

I will miss this one. If nothing else, Sense8 made me feel things, in a particular, inimitable way. It’s a show I needed to say goodbye to. The finale is imperfect, and it tries to do too much, but that just suits it to the show’s weird, distinctive, and uncommonly joyful journey.


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