The Sense8 series finale, a two-and-a-half-hour goodbye to one of Netflix’s most unique and eclectic originals, is a fun, passionate summation of the show’s story and, more importantly, its most prevalent themes. The show was unceremoniously canceled after its second season, and then given a small but meaningful lifeline, after an outpouring of fan support led to the streaming service greenlighting one last (very large) episode/movie, just to wrap things up in as meaningful and satisfactory way as possible. The result is a finale that delivers a concentrated (for 150 minutes, anyway) burst of energetic filmmaking that’s some of Lana Wachowski’s most entertaining and focused work in years.
That’s not to say the actual episode, ‘Amor Vincit Omnia,’ isn’t full of the sort of wild tonal shifts and digressions that have been a part of Sense8’s distinct style since the series began. It is. In fact, it’s full of them. But here they feel more of a piece with the ideas the show has been exploring since it premiered back in 2015. Similarly, the finale is still prone to lengthy monologues about love, acceptance, and connectivity, and it pumps them up to an extraordinary degree, but these elements aren’t bugs, they’re features. Such exceedingly sincere displays of empathy and emotion are as much a reason to watch Sense8 as the show’s commitment to its winding science fiction plot or arrangement of Wachowski-style action sequences.
There’s nothing more in keeping with Sense8’s heart-on-its-sleeve sensibilities than watching the show’s central cluster join together as they dance to a Depeche Mode song while traveling by train for the purpose of taking down an evil corporation with plans of turning telepathically linked people into an army of zombie-drone assassins. The amount to which you care about or even want to follow the ongoing machinations of BPO, Mr. Whispers (Terrence Mann), the Chairman, or Lila (Valeria Bilello) and her own evil cluster will undoubtedly vary, but as with the two previous seasons, the plot here is ancillary to what the show is about and what it’s ultimately trying to achieve.
That means that while ‘Amor Vincit Omnia’ spends a great deal of its exceedingly long runtime resolving the pickle that Wolfgang (Max Riemelt) found himself in, there’s still plenty of room for the finale to sneak away so that the the cast can eat, drink, and be merry (very merry, considering the finale’s parting scene), all of which so completely puts you on the series’ intended emotional wavelength that it’s not only possible, but incredibly easy to overlook some of the show’s more ludicrous plot maneuverings.
When you consider how expansive and expensive the show has been over the past two seasons, developing a finale capable of giving fans what they want (i.e., both more and, at the very least, a satisfying ending) and doing it in the amount of time given is kind of an extraordinary feat. That makes ‘Amour Vincit Omnia’ feel a bit more fan service-y than it might otherwise have been if the story, and the story of Sense8 in general, were stretched out over the course of a full season and perhaps beyond, but it is, after all, the fans who saved the show from what would have been an unfulfilling end, so going to what might seem like extremes, in order to deliver what the fan base wants, is understandable.
To her credit, Wachowski aims to use the time allotted to deliver a snappy succession of action scenes in order to keep the plot moving and engaging. There’s no shortage of Sun (Doona Bae) Will (Brian J. Smith) kicking the tar out of bad guys, either alone or through their cluster’s connection. While some of the action sequences don’t reach the highs of, say, Nomi’s (Jamie Clayton) San Francisco escape from season 1, it’s still thrilling despite what is clearly a more economical approach to the stylized action. If nothing else, it’s a clear example of how gifted the Wachowski’s are at handling crackling action set pieces that having just one of them behind the camera still results in something as exciting and interesting to watch as the night club hostage exchange or the raid on the building near the end.
With this being the series finale, there was a sense that, the show being what it is, the stakes might not be as high as they would had its fate been less predetermined. But the show makes that work, even when its plot feels particularly incompressible or that the narrative is riding entirely on rails. After all, Sense8 is a series that eschews cynicism and operates in an irony-free zone, so that even though the quick reversal of Kala’s (Tina Desai) near death experience was as much a foregone conclusion as Mr. Whispers’ fiery demise by way of Checkov’s RPG, the intended emotional response to both scenarios still rang true.
Evoking a strong emotional response has been the series’ aim from season 1, and, true to form, Sense8 saves its last 20 minutes (including the show’s end credits) to do just that. With complete sincerity, the show ends with a celebration of love, starting with Nomi’s wedding to her longtime partner Amanita (Freema Agyeman) before segueing into a more explicit depiction of said celebration. The parting shot is certainly one to remember, but it is, like the show and the show’s message, unabashedly unashamed and accepting of what it is and what it wants to be.
The full Sense8 series is streaming in its entirety on Netflix.
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